Thursday, 1 May 2014

Dating and Natural Hair

image courtesy of

Last night I bumped into someone I hadn't seen for years and the first words out of her mouth were 'OMG! What have you done to your hair?!'. And not in a 'Wow, you look awesome' kind of way, more like a 'Somebody call 911' kind of way. It was one of those situations where you think of a witty retort in the middle of the night but at the time I just mumbled something lame about the new natural me. Cringe.

I can understand her reaction though, because I was the last person I would have expected to go natural. Yes, I thought naturalistas was artsy and quirky and cool but ... not for me. I'm vanilla. Tasty, but safe. Vanilla rarely offends the sensibilities. Unlike like breast milk icecream. That's human breastmilk, incase you missed my incredulous, slightly nauseous tone. Anyway, I digress.
One of the reasons I never considered going natural was because I didn't know how to date with natural hair. I thought the only men who liked natural hair were artsy, quirky, cool types. The kind with a bull ring through the nose who's idea of a first date is attending a march to save the habitat of the longhorn beetle, who eats hummus for breakfast and has an ironic tattoo in Sanskrit that should read 'God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh' but actually reads 'Dog is a comedy play; laugh'.

So I dated wearing my hair straight, got married in a weave and honeymooned in braids, but once my husband was lulled into a sense of blissful predictability, kablam! I went natural. Ok, it wasn't exactly kablam. It was more like that sneeze that builds up in the back of your nose for ages only to come out as a loud fart, surprising everyone, including the sneezer. And boy, weren't we all surprised. 'You?? Of all people??', they exclaimed. 'Yup, me', I replied, shaking my head, equally bemused. 'Now what?', I thought. Then the questions and comments came rolling in. 'Well, you can go natural, you're married afterall',  from a near and dear. 'How did you get that man with THAT hair??!', from a prostitute at a night club in Diani. 'If your husband wants straight hair, you should give it to him', from a family friend. 'You look like Mungiki, your husband will leave you', from Bibi. 'Ohhhh, your husband is white! Oh, that explains it!' from a friend of a friend at a coffee shop. 

Mungiki members taking an oath
image courtesy of KurlyKichana

Yeah, really.

But then I started meeting men who like natural hair. Straight laced, clean cut, vanilla men (not a reference to race). Imagine my surprise. And I don't mean one or two; whole hoardes of them. Recently, a friend's Facebook status surprised me when he talked about how chuffed he was to attend a wedding in Uganda to find they all had natural hair. 

It made me wonder whether we had conditioned these men to see straight hair, long straight hair, not only as the norm but as the standard of beauty to be upheld, and whether they were actually railing against it on the inside, dying a small death every time we smiled coyly at them from under our Indian bangs or saucily flicked our Brazilians over our shoulder, because we're worth it. Truth be told, unlike some of my friends, I never had a boyfriend who asked me to go natural, who turned his head when he saw a fro'd up sister walk past, who's gaze lingered a second too long on a head of tight kinks in the yoghurt aisle. Infact, they all seemed to come from the school of the lighter, the brighter, the better. The trouble is, as women, we reinforce the standards imposed on us. We run ourselves ragged bleaching our skin and frying our hair only to turn around and point accusing fingers at how shallow men are for not accepting us for who we really are.

So what does my hair in its natural state say about me and the men I would date if I were single? Not a damn thing. 

I'm not some kind of natural-hair warrior, blazing a trail for women to break free from the shackles of weavepression. I like weaves, they can be really cute (some of them anyway). I have lots of family and friends who wear them, natural and otherwise and they're all intelligent, successful, well educated women. I'm just a girl who, against all odds, has grown to love her kinky hair. What I have done is allowed myself to be free from my own mental constraints, allowed myself to see that a man who would only date me if I wore my hair a certain way is someone who would only ever see me as a one-dimensional shadow of myself. 

Not to say that men who like natural hair are all wonderful because hey, a douche by any other name.., but it is to say that we are not our hair. If a man won't date you because you have natural hair, consider it a bullet dodged. If you're scared to take the plunge and go natural because you're afraid you'll slip and fall in the bathroom and nobody will find your body before your cat has eaten your eyelids all because your hair made you undateable, take a long hard look at the type of energy you're putting out there, because that's the type of energy you'll be bringing home to meet your parents. Men should not want to date your hair, they should want to date you, warts and all. If not, my husband, who'd only every known me with straightened hair or weaves, would have run for the hills the second I opted for my kinky, natural hair. And would have had to forfeit his cows.

Happy Labour day everyone.


  1. awesome post! "The trouble is, as women, we reinforce the standards imposed on us. We run ourselves ragged bleaching our skin and frying our hair only to turn around and point accusing fingers at how shallow men are for not accepting us for who we really are." I couldn't agree more! It's time we accepted ourselves for who we really are, kinks and all

  2. Wow Nina... great article. Can't get enough

  3. Awesome piece. Loving "Weavepression" #NewLingo has a movement ring to it!

  4. Wachu Wanjaria2 May 2014 at 20:12

    Great post!!! :-)

  5. Fantastic article. "You look like Mungiki" hahahaha. Love it!