Black Hair and Faking it Til You Make It

Black woman's hair

In the first few pages of the bestselling book “Not Your Mother’s Rules: The New Secrets for Dating (The Rules),” authors Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider lay out their blueprint for snagging quality men. The first and most important rule? Grow your hair long. Long and healthy hair, the authors say, is one of the most important components to getting a man’s attention. Men are visual, the book argues, and long hair is one of the best ways to show that you are feminine and take care of your body. The authors encourage women to take steps to get their hair as straight as possible. But what if your hair won’t grow long easily? Or what if straightening the hair is expensive or time-consuming?

As a black woman with naturally curly, thick and sometimes unruly hair, I found the book’s hair rule a bit perplexing (though I loved the book). I don’t doubt the Rules writers for one second–I’ve always understood self-consciously that men everywhere are attracted to long luscious hair. I can certainly feel the difference in the number of men who approach me when I’m wearing a long wig, as opposed to the few men who approach me with I’m wearing my natural hair out. Apparently, there’s an evolutionary rationale for the attraction to long healthy hair: Healthy women have lustrous, shiny hair, whereas the hair of sickly people loses its luster. Furthermore, shoulder-length hair reveals several years of a woman’s health status.

Black hair, particularly course black hair, is not naturally shiny or lustrous, or even long, unless the hair is manipulated, braided or straightened. Naturally course hair is prone to dryness because the natural oils produced by the scalp to lubricate the hair cannot travel all the way down the hair shaft because of the various twists and turns of each curl (black hair, generally has more curls, coils and bends than other hair types). Dry hair is more prone to breakage, so black hair must be handled gently. It is possible to straighten black hair, but it’s a headache in that it can be time-consuming and expensive.

Beyonce wears very natural-looking wigs and weaves.
Beyonce wears very natural-looking wigs and weaves.

So what do women do with hair that naturally grows up toward the sky instead of down? As we talk about being ladies on this blog, we also focus on being desirable and feminine women. A big part of being feminine (within Western culture) is playing the part of the most desired woman even if that means wearing well-fitted clothes, high heels or makeup. In this case, that means sporting hair that fits the cultural desirability mold. I personally have natural black hair, but I wear wigs because I understand that men (of all types) desire women with long, shiny hair. I want to cast my net as wide as possible in the dating market, and I do not want my hair to be an excuse not to connect with a quality man. When it comes to attraction, you have to act within the cultural framework, and that might mean doing what you need to do to get the man you want.

If you have natural black hair, meaning that you do not relax your hair with synthetic lye treatments, you have a few options:

  1. Begin relaxing your hair. If you want the straight look, this is the way to go. During a chemical relaxing procedure of a hydroxide relaxer a process called lanthionization occurs, which is the breaking of disulfide bonds to alter the curl pattern of the hair. The cortex is thus elongated, stretching the original curl pattern. This is an option, but relaxing the hair can be expensive, time-consuming, and painful, depending on the experience-level of your hairdresser (scalp legions and burns are common). There’s also the health risks with applying relaxers as the synthetic ingredients can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin. I stopped relaxing my hair after I realized how much I was spending in time and money sitting in a chair paying someone to chemically change my hair structure. Getting a perm felt phony, expensive and dangerous, so I stopped doing it.
  2. Flat iron or press the hair. When I was in college, I decided to stop relaxing my hair, and start strengthening it with a pressing comb. One hairdresser told me that if I straighten my hair enough, I could “train” my hair to grow straight! Well, it took me a while to realize that the “straightening” of the hair was actually heat damage to my hair follicles. The process was expensive, time-consuming and painful (this time, no chemical burns, but heat burns instead). I eventually began to straighten my hair myself after my favorite hairstylist starting losing her vision, which affected her straightening precision. Sure, I was not using a perm to straighten my hair, but at least perms were sort of permanent–pressing my hair didn’t last long at all. One stormy rain shower or humid summer day and my hair was ruined. It was all such a ridiculous process, and I did not realize the insanity of it all until I started dating a non-black man who told me that he wanted to see my natural hair instead. After he said that, I grew out my natural hair for the first time in my life. I have not straightened my hair since then.
  3. Wear wigs. Egyptians wore wigs to shield their shaved, hairless heads from the sun. I just started wearing wigs in the last year, so I’m a relative newbie to the game. And wigs are very popular (just ask Beyonce). Lacefront wigs are relatively easy to apply–simply cornrow your hair down, apply a wig cap and pop that hair hat on top. There are setbacks to wearing wigs–the first being the cost. Then there’s the activities you cannot do with a wig on, such as biking and swimming. I would not wear a wig to the gym for example, but I see other women doing that all the time. Some men are disgusted by the idea of women wearing extensions or wigs. It seems many want their women to have long flowy hair, but they are repulsed by the faker cheats women take to get long hair. I also experience the “ick” factor when I wear wigs from time to time, especially when I pass by someone who is of the same ethnicity as the person who grew the hair I’m wearing. It’s a bit disturbing. There is also the ethical dilemma I face while wearing wigs: It’s not your hair, although there is the benefit of knowing that you are contributing money to women (or men, who knows) desperate enough to sell their hair for money. I justify the wig-wearing by recognizing that most men readily accept other forms of fakery just as easily, such as false eyelashes, high heels and breast implants.
  4. Try extensions and weaves. Hair extensions are the same as wigs, except these hair tools can be sewn in or clipped on. The extensions blend into the hair, so the look is more natural.
  5. Wear braids. Braids are in the same vein as extensions, with weave hair braided into the hair.

I left off dreadlocks from the options list because I do not know much about how men respond to women with dreadlocks. If you have dreadlocks, tell us about your dating experiences below!

Read next: Easy Makeup Strategies for Lazy Women

Author: Lilac Blue

Lilac Blue is writes about femininity, love and family in a world that has been drastically altered by industrialization, secularism, misandry and misogyny.

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