How to respond when their words seem offensive.
I have had numerous conversations with men regarding natural hair, and I must say I find it humorous. Do they say things that are terribly offensive? Sometimes. Are they aware of it? Not at all. You're probably wondering why I find it funny, and there are two main reasons. My number one rule is that I don't want anyone who doesn't want me. Secondly, everyone has room to mature, and if you choose to, great. If not, that's fine too. When people ask me what my "type" is, my response is always, "attractive is attractive." Whether or not someone meets your initial standards of physical beauty should't matter if you are attracted to them...but I digress.
They say kids say the darndest things, but I think sometimes men say the darndest things. Men and women seem to always communicate on two different frequencies. I remember a comedian commented that his girlfriend said "baby I haven't seen you in two weeks" to which he responded, "I just saw you two weeks ago!" Same words, different message. You have to at least make an effort to identify the root of what men are trying to say in regards to their opinion about hair (if they even have one). Although what they meant to say may be equally as offensive as what they actually said, trying to identify what they are really saying gives more room for understanding; mind you I said understanding and not agreement. Below are a few familiar comments I hear men share in conversation all the time.
"You got that good hair"
I know you are thinking the writer must have 3a hair that hangs effortlessly down her back. Well, no. I have coarse 3c/4a/4b hair. Do men know that? No, because I wear stretched styles 99% of the time, preferably flat-twist outs. Am I ashamed of my coils? Not at all. I wish I could wear wash 'n' gos more often, but my hair is a sucker for those single strand knots. Some men's understanding of "good hair" is anything that lays down. When I tell them my hair can stand up with the best of them, they're always left dumbfounded. I could go into depth about what a twist-out is, but I always politely correct them as they try to compliment one natural by putting down another.
"I don't like natural hair"
I have 3 responses to that statement:
- "But you have natural hair...."
- "Do you not like natural hair or do you not like short hair?" When asked this question, men say short hair nine times out of ten. Their understanding of natural hair might be a fade. You have to think of it like this: Men are use to seeing their mothers and sisters come home with their hair laying down whether it was naturally straight, relaxed, dyed or laid to the side. They don't all know how it happened, they don't care, but they do know that's how women come home from the salon. In their eyes, women are randomly cutting their hair off at an alarming rate and they immediately identify it with going natural. Because there are a lot of women who big chop instead of long-term transitioning, this is what they see, no questions asked. Am I supporting their identification with short hair as less desirable? Not at all. Preference is preference.
- "Do you not like natural hair or a certain type of natural hair?" I always ask.
Me: "Do you like Christina Milian and Mya's hair?"
Me: "But they have natural hair...."
Male: *Insert side smirk and brisk head shakes of denial* "Naw, naw, naw!!!"
Me: "But they're natural. You must not like a certain type of natural hair? Like yours?" This is me being facetious.
That statement is only an effort to help them correctly identify what they dislike. Is it okay to overlook someone's essence for a texture preference? Well, it's not my place to tell someone what they should or should not find attractive.
"I don't like the tennis ball look"
This statement ties in with the big chop. I explain to them that some women retain length better with their hair in its natural state versus relaxed state. After reading numerous blogs and forums, it's fair to say that a lot of natural curlies want to retain length. Although transitioning is an option, I never like explaining that, so I just tell them that some women have to big chop in order to have long hair.
Although a lot of men might say things that seem offensive out of a lack of understanding, all you can do is answer questions when opportunities present themselves and throw in a little challenge if necessary. Remaining pleasant presents them with the opportunity to see past the "tennis ball look." As much as I read about militant naturals, I'm glad I never met one and encourage you to be aware of subconsciously becoming one. Think about it — it's hard for others to bask in your liberating beauty if you're always so aggressive.
Is this familiar to you? What strange things have you heard from people who don't seem to understand your curls, coils or waves?