The only skin you need to fit is your own.

Recently we were leaving a shopping center, and I noticed a well-dressed woman getting into her car. She caught my attention because it’s becoming increasingly rare to see a woman -at Target no less!- exhibiting such combination of femininity and style. Her long blonde hair was also pretty and well styled.

When she turned around, however, I noticed that she was not white as her light blonde hair suggested, but Asian. I didn’t think much of it, but as we got into the car, my youngest child said matter of factly, “That lady would have looked prettier if her hair wasn’t dyed like that.” Rather than verbalize an opinion ( I agreed), I asked my daughter why she assumed her hair was dyed. Again very matter of factly, as children tend to be, she answered, “Asian women don’t usually have such bright hair.”

In that moment I was reminded of an exchange I had with a relative who made the assertion that black women who change their natural hair are engaging in a display of self-hatred. I wondered if anyone had ever accused this woman of hating herself because she chose not to embrace the dark, straight hair that she was likely born with. Or if the Hispanic women who take both blonde dye and flat irons to their characteristically dark, wavy hair are accused of harboring self-hatred. Maybe those women encounter these things, but I doubt it. Our older daughters have a plurality of Hispanic friends and have since high school, and we’ve never heard of it.

Before I go any further, this is not about a defense of weaves, wigs, or relaxers. No one in our house wears any of those things, including me. It has been over a year since my hair has been straight, and my husband’s reaction, contrasted with what we have witnessed from the husbands of friends and relatives, is partly what inspired this post.

Despite the fact that my husband had only ever seen long, straightened hair on me, he has been great about the fact that my hair (not straightened) looks fairly short. Part of the reason is that he is fully on board with the mission to live healthier and also encourage our youngest girls to embrace themselves and who they are as God made them, partly because he is just cool like that, but he also knows if he ever expressed a desire for me to go straight again, I would comply without hesitation.

A couple of other husbands we know, however, have not been as accepting of their wives’ decision to “go natural”. They don’t like the texture (even though it matches their own), they don’t like the perceived length, even though they know if their wives took some heat to their hair and straightened it, it is quite long. Apparently, my husband is a distinct minority:

Men may insist that they prefer natural hair, but many still gawk over women flaunting Pocahontas weaves. Why? Because many men, like some women, have grown accustomed to the standard.

There isn’t a woman I’ve spoken to who didn’t receive a bit of push back from her husband or boyfriend when deciding to take the plunge. I do understand. It’s a drastic change in look for most of us. It’s a change that comes with political implications and antiquated assumptions; a change that challenges perceptions of beauty.

I could run quote after quote detailing the responses of black men to women whose hair is exactly like theirs, but I’ll stop at one for the sake of time and space:

“No not like that, but if they have it slicked down, that’s better. I just don’t like the messiness of the afro or how rough it looks. She can wear her real hair, but just not in an afro or like out sticking up. It has to be permed and laying down on her head.”

You get my point. So is it self-hatred motivating black women to straighten their hair, or just a healthy sense of what they need to do to get the male attention they seek?

The other thing that inspired this post was the reaction of the young white men who work with my daughter as she recently began to wear her natural hair out. They thought it was pretty, that she looked cute, complimented her,  and one of them (whose girlfriend is also black) expressed the desire that his girlfriend would shun the wigs she likes because he thinks she looks “much better” wearing her natural hair.

The only thing I can make of all this is that men who are comfortable in their own skin tend to find women who are comfortable in their own skin more attractive. This assumes all the other markers of attractiveness are present: healthy weight, nice smile, pleasant personality, etc.

Where does this leave our daughters, in a culture where everyone is encouraged to be discontented with themselves and everything in their lives, and additionally as a member of a race which is being trained to view itself as inferior? It leaves them with a decision to make about whose voice they are going to listen to as it relates to what they need to do be acceptable, beautiful, and at home with who they are.

None of us decided to go natural because we thought that relaxing our hair was a symbol of self-hatred. But isn’t it funny that on the one hand, relaxing is deemed a symbol of self-hatred while on the other, not relaxing supposedly reduces attractiveness among the men who possess the masculine side of our feminine ancestry? The self-same men then get pretty annoyed when they see a black woman married to a man of another race.

No one is harder on us than we are on ourselves, yet we are constantly told that others are out to get us. They don’t need to be out to get us. We do a pretty good job of beating up on each other over petty things. I’m sure this is a reality for people of other backgrounds as well, but this is about the things I wish I knew sooner so that I can pass them on to those coming behind me.

While standards of propriety and good taste never go out of style, you don’t have to deny who you are or shun God’s original work in order to fit into an increasingly shallow and arbitrary culture. It’s cliche but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true:

You will only be appreciated to the extent that you accept yourself.

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10 thoughts on “The only skin you need to fit is your own.

  1. My hair, for context:

    There’s a lot and not technically even “short”, just tightly curly the way God made it.

    I could straighten it (without chemicals) and have long hair for a few days, then wash it, and it will revert to what is pictured.

    In other words, this is more versatile anyway.

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  2. I have been natural since the early nineties, long before it became so popular that entire aisles in Target were dedicated to natural black hair care products. The response to my hair has been overwhelmingly positive.

    Women with long fake hair tend to do a lot of other things to attract male attention. Makeup, nails, sexier clothing ect. For some reason a lot of black women go natural and also decide that makeup and flattering clothes are also unnecessary because they are fine as they naturally are. LOL. I agree that relaxers are not a litimus test for self hatred.

    I recall hearing a lot of hispanics accuse Shakira of self hatred because of her blonde hair. I’ve only heard of Asians being accused of self hatred after eyelid surgery.

    As far as other people being out to get us goes- I don’t give anti-black racists a pass because some black man somewhere likes it better when black women straighten their hair. I have noticed an unhealthy obsession with black people amoung a lot of white conservatives.

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  3. I agree that a lot of people who actually identify themselves as “anti-conservatives” or “alt. right” have an unhealthy obsession with the things that have gone wrong in the black community and black people in general. They generally dislike conservatives. Not the same people.

    They say all kinds of nonsense that makes no sense but mainly they have decided that the behavior associated with the most ghetto and out of control blacks is indicative of us all.

    I don’t “give them a pass” either. They are ignorant. I just don’t think they represent the overall view of rank and file conservatives. More than that, I just happen to believe that too often WE give a pass to people to whom we shouldn’t because they look like us.

    You don’t strike me as that type on the main despite our differences but let’s not pretend we aren’t a very small minority.

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  4. Also, the response to my hair has been overwhelmingly positive. IItis a pretty specific thing we are witnessing between black women and their significant others that I referenced here. The only two men I know of who didn’t offer any resistance are my hubs and his brother.

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  5. I like it, but I didn’t know (until you mentioned it, writing some time back) that straightened hair was easier to deal with. Chemical messing about with *my* hair makes it less easy to deal with, more prone to breakage, and involves a lot of fuss and bother your crunchy correspondent can’t be bothered with. So, I thought it was the same for everyone – chemicals = bad. You taught me something! One might extrapolate that other white people might not know these things either. Ignorance can result in unintentional insult.

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  6. It is easier to deal with so long as you take proper care of it, which means salon visits every 8 weeks. Otherwise the breakage and whatnot is to be expected.

    I spent a lot of money to keep mine healthy and looking nice. A lot of women -to save money- use OTC do it themselves alternatives or weaves and braids which pull at the scalp, leading to the very wrong assumption that we naturally have short hair.

    Nope. That’s either a misperception of how long the curly hair actually is or the result if years of abusing the hair and scalp.

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  7. Women with long fake hair tend to do a lot of other things to attract male attention. Makeup, nails, sexier clothing ect. For some reason a lot of black women go natural and also decide that makeup and flattering clothes are also unnecessary because they are fine as they naturally are. LOL.

    Holy crap, you’re right about that. Had a chance to notice it recently. Either 1) the only time the women put into their appearance to begin with was their hair and then that changed, or 2) They went all “crunchy” when they went natural.

    I don’t really do crunchy, and when I contemplated it, the man shot it down so perhaps that’s the difference. I (and our girls) take time to wear nice clothes, makeup, etc.

    Huh. Wonder why women do that…

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  8. I am talking about mainstream conservatives, not the alt-right wack jobs. A strange and unhealthy obsession with black people. The alt-right has taken that obsession to a crazier extreme where they talk about race wars and rounding folks up for some kind Negro reservation LOL, but even a lot regular conservatives ( most of whom don’t even have a black friend) have this weird fixation.

    Yes, crunchy naturals! I have a friend who stopped wearing makeup, lotion and perfume and stopped shaving her legs and armpits when she went natural. She also never styled her hair, just kind of let it do whatever. Then she tried to tell me that men don’t like natural hair and that they like me because my hair texture is looser than hers. LOL. Men don’t like women walking around looking homeless and smelling like old coconut oil. She didn’t talk to me for a month after I told her, but when we met up again she had a twist out, and some lipgloss. There are very few women who can pull off the crunchy look and they tend to be very young and very pretty. Even still they’d look better if they groomed.

    I think it is because natural hair is not just hair for a lot of black women. It is some kind of movement and dramatic change in lifestyle and way of thinking. Like a religious cult almost, where folks sit around navel gazing about whether or not they can call themselves natural if they use conditioner or hair dye and do women who use curl defining creams love themselves. LOL. For me it is just hair.

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  9. I am talking about mainstream conservatives, not the alt-right wack jobs. A strange and unhealthy obsession with black people. The alt-right has taken that obsession to a crazier extreme where they talk about race wars and rounding folks up for some kind Negro reservation LOL, but even a lot regular conservatives ( most of whom don’t even have a black friend) have this weird fixation.

    I suspect I have been spoiled by the circle of families we have around us in real life. It is the exact opposite of what many of the race “realists” claim is supposed to happen when diverse people get together, and not in that superficial polite way either. Of course, we are a people who actually believe that what the Bible says is possible between different groups of believers is possible, so…

    You might find this interesting. I actually bothered to listen to this video someone invited me to look at. I think it was supposed to be a convincing argument for black reservations and mass deportation for the purpose of a new white ethno-state here on American soil. You could drive a bus through the holes in Richard Spencer’s logic so I knew responding to the guy was pointless.

    It’s not that I give racists a pass as much as I am very disheartened by the lack of logic, self-preservation, and morality reflected in the political positions of most black Americans. I am less tolerant of these things from black Christians because my heart’s desire is to see us elevate Christ and HIs word above our material, temporal wants. And I don’t get offended if a white person points out that we have an OOW birthrate of 72 % or a crime problem among young black men simply because a white person said it. Black people need to do better and clinging desperately to the Democrat party as the key to the promised land (and ignoring their hate for Christian principles) is just as stupid as pro-lifers thinking the GOP is going to usher in the promise of no more abortions in America.

    I think it is because natural hair is not just hair for a lot of black women. It is some kind of movement and dramatic change in lifestyle and way of thinking. Like a religious cult almost, where folks sit around navel gazing about whether or not they can call themselves natural if they use conditioner or hair dye and do women who use curl defining creams love themselves. LOL. For me it is just hair.

    I just figured it was kind of dumb to be working out like a fiend, eating healthier than I ever have and then keep slathering lye on my scalp every other month. Then I figured it might be healthy for our little girls if Mama’s hair looked like theirs.

    I have never figured out why black hair has to be political.

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  10. Richard Spencer is a loon. A friend of mine remembers him from UVA and she says that he has always been a weirdo and that she is surprised that he’s not a school shooter.

    I don’t get offended by white people pointing out some issue with black people like OOW births or crime rates. (Both decreasing, BTW) I am annoyed when they pretend that these issues occurred in a vacuum, ignore history and context and then conclude that the problems in some miserable inner city are the fault of all black people and are the result of black inferiority. White conservatives the ones who do this most often. Ignoring the context means that no solutions are offered, because of course there is no real solution to “black people are stupid savages.” The altright aren’t the only people who have holes in their logic that you can drive a truck through.

    And yes, it is incredibly stupid that so many of them think that an abortion free America is possible and will blindly follow whatever Republican promises it to them while completely ignoring other issues that actually impact their lives. Hey, they are starting unnecessary wars and robbing you and your children blind, but vote for them anyway because if you do best case scenario, some pregnant woman might have to take a bus to another state for her abortion. Stupid.

    Black people, even black evangelicals, vote for the Democrats in part because many conservatives refuse to address the blatant racism on their side and often appeal to that racism in order to win elections. There is a reason that hate groups and hateful individuals got so worked up after Trump’s election and it wasn’t because they were imaging things. But of course to hear conservatives tell it, lazy black people just want free stuff from the government.
    And they have been calling black people lazy ever since we stopped working for free. LOL.

    Now I don’t think it necessarily makes sense to base your vote on who is or isn’t a racist. Most politicians only do what their constituents pressure them to do. LBJ would call you a nigger to your face but he signed the civil rights act. Black people (and White Evangelicals for that matter) would be able to more effectively apply pressure if they didn’t all vote for the same party no matter what. If abortion and gay marriage were effectively outlawed then there would be little to convince evangelicals to vote for the GOP no matter what. More people would notice that those relatively minor issues are the only real difference between the two parties and that on things that actually impact the lives of the average American, they are exactly the same. And that is one of the main reasons that there will always be legal abortion in this country. They’ve got to keep the gullible people voting to end it.

    This is such a long comment. Thanks for indulging me!

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