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8 Awkward Things About Natural Hair I Have to Explain to My White Boyfriend

Avatar • May 17, 2015

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By Ashley Reese of TheGloss

Wow, I…didn’t know your hair was that long.”

These were the first words out of my boyfriend’s mouth when he saw me with my waist-length box braids, a big transition from the gravity defying afro I’ve rocked since our first OK Cupid date. My middle school and high school days of bone straight, pressed hair are long gone. For about five years now, I’ve let my naturally curly hair do its thing, so it was a big deal when I decided to put my hair into braids for a few months last year, a move I hadn’t made since I was a little kid. It was fun while it lasted, but more than anything it prompted a lot of wonky conversations with my boyfriend about my hair.

So I stared at him for a moment, assuming he was being sarcastic before realizing that he was being completely sincere.

Oh, um,” I started, trying (and failing) to hold back my laughter. “It’s…it’s not my real hair. They’re extensions.”

Oh!” he said, looking slightly embarrassed. Before anyone characterizes this incredibly intelligent dude as an idiot, I want to set the record straight: He’s not dense, he’s just really white.

I’m not trying to treat him like a special white unicorn or fetishize our differences; tons of white people, whether I’m making out with them on a regular basis or not, are beyond clueless about my hair. Thanks to magazines, cheesy Pinterest tutorials, and just being near a whole lot of white people, I definitely know my fair share about non-Afro hair. The fact that whiteness is our society’s default helps, I guess. But vice versa? Nope. People don’t know anything about black hair beyond the existence of weaves.

That said, since I’m in an actual relationship with someone who doesn’t know how a very important part of my identity functions, there’s no point in just laughing off the cluelessness. Nope, it’s time for his crash course in shrinkage and coconut oil. Here are eight things that I have to tell my white boyfriend about black hair. Sit back and make sure your baby hairs are laid.

1. My hair shrinks.

So, shrinkage. Shrinkage is a phenomenon with black hair in which our hair appears shorter than it really is. This is thanks to curl pattern and a lack of manipulation. For example, if I braid my hair or put it up into bantu knots over night, my hair appears longer and fuller due to the stretching involved with those styles. If I don’t do that and just, I don’t know, get out of bed, throw in some leave-in conditioner and call it a day, my curls don’t have a chance to stretch or loosen up. That’s why my hair can appear several inches shorter from one day to another, which leads to several (white) people asking me if I got a haircut (no). My boyfriend has asked the same question, leading me to give the quick and dirty explanation: “Nah, my hair just looks shorter than it really is sometimes. It’s complicated.”

2. Fuck shampoo, but I’m gonna take all of your conditioner, thanks.

I use shampoo, like, once a month. Most are full of sulfates that strip my hair of its natural oils, making it dry and harder to deal with. So I explained to my boyfriend that I perform a co-wash instead, meaning that I use conditioner to wash my hair. So I quickly depleted whatever bit of conditioner he had left in his shower. I’m almost sorry about that.

3. No, my hair doesn’t look “fine.”

Never trust a white dude to tell you that your hair is suitable to be seen in public when you know it looks a damn mess. My hair might be naturally wild–I like it that way–but that doesn’t mean that it can’t look like it’s been done. He might not see the difference between my bed head hair and last night’s (rare) twist out, but every black person on the subway will. I can’t let these strangers think that I wasn’t raised right, I can’t. Plus, I have to stay on point in case I run into any fellow fly black girls with dope hair.

Read the rest here.

For those of you in interracial relationships, what are some hair-related things you’ve had to explain to your significant other?

Ashley Reese is a writer for TheGloss. Read more articles from her Accidental Virgin series here.

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OXxo
Guest
OXxo

I’ve got ignorant comments from Black man about my hair.

On the other hand some men regardless of ethnicity are slightly scary as they know too much about Black women’s hair.….

dmalikat
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dmalikat

I think this article is very silly. I’m married to a very “white” man and he could care less about my hair and what I do with my products. He doesn’t/nor has to ask questions like an elusive non-ethnic individual clunking about stupidly with awkward questions, “…um…why does your hair feel that way? Dumby dumb dumb…” I think these type is articles continue to seperate Black women from men of other ethnicities, as if this is some catastrophic barrier that requires a “tutorial”. Honestly, I have family and friends who wear extensions who could care less about me giving them… Read more »

Frugivore Clarissa
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Frugivore Clarissa

Woman, WHAT?! This article was meant to be funny and light hearted not some ground breaking documentary on interracial dating. ‑_- I’m sure there’s more to her relationship than explaining why her hair does what 90 times a day to her boyfriend, and I should think that no one reading this article took it as such.

Ashley Reese
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Ashley Reese

I appreciate the fact that you understood my tone!

3caramel7
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3caramel7

There is nothing worse and I talk as a Brit now, when an article is meant to be tongue in cheek or has used dry humour or sarcasm to emphasize a couple of points. Next minute now we are going down the racism route and sometimes even down the slavery route when all we were talking about was a tin of beans!

FreeTea
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FreeTea

Agreed. My very White husband is the same way about wash day, and he understands that I need to wrap my hair every night–sometimes he finds my scarf for me. He helps me take down extensions and knows that part of our monthly budget will be devoted to coconut oil for my hair.

Ashley Reese
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Ashley Reese

The piece wasn’t meant to be v. v. serious. It was largely tongue in cheek.

AfroCapricornette
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AfroCapricornette

I thought it was obvious that this was meant to be humorous? At least, it was to me. Not everything should be taken too seriously.

Yolanda
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Yolanda

I had my fiance (boyfriend at the time) watch Good Hair. I was in the middle of transitioning for the 3rd (and second to last time). He was actually very helpful when I decided for the last time to forego texturizers, he kept telling me to stay away from the “creamy crack”. Because he watched the movie he understood some of the dangers of relaxers and it opened a dialogue for us to both feel comfortable discussing my hair. I always allowed him to ask questions and I never took offense or felt annoyed that I had to explain “black… Read more »

Camille
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Camille

#6 with the grease spots- If you are leaving grease spots on other people’s stuff, it’s time to try a different product! I have low porosity and just use products that contain oil instead of pure oil. If that much is sitting on top of your hair then you simply don’t need it.

Ashley Reese
Guest
Ashley Reese

Good to know!

3caramel7
Guest
3caramel7

Use cola. Yep cola! Get some rub it, leave it soak for a about 5 mins and then fling it in with the rest of the washing and then ta dah, no oil/grease stain.

Twinkle
Guest
Twinkle

Nah to this whole article..I also agree that it’s silly. I think on average, regardless of race we all have to explain things about our hair to our man because quite honestly men don’t keep up with those things.

Tabatha
Guest
Tabatha

Growing up I lived in basically white and Latino areas, so I didn’t date any black boys growing up I was always dating other ethnicities. That was what was around me. The only question that I got and that was when I was OF AGE TO DO IT was when my boyfriends would ask if they could touch caress or pull my hair during sex. I knew them well so I was always like “Of Course”. Then they would ask why are we so touchy about our hair. I have never had the issues that was described above. All the… Read more »

alt-K
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alt-K

This is silly. I’ve dated several non-black men (currently seeing an Asian man), and I’ve never needed to give a complete tutorial. No one cares, okay? I may get an occasional question here and there, but for the most part they are like any other men…they just care about final results. Does it look nice or not? I spend more time explaining my hair to my white female co-workers than an intimate partner.

Miss Deveraux
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Miss Deveraux

Truth.

xxxAxxx
Guest
xxxAxxx

I’m weak!!!

kalexa1
Guest
kalexa1

Funny article, that I can relate to in many parts. More interesting to me is what the conversation(s) is/are between black men and their white partners about their own (black men’s) hair. Don’t think for a minute that they don’t get comments and questions too.

Hair Anomaly
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Hair Anomaly

It’s nice to have a light-hearted, funny topic to enjoy. Thanks for the laughs. With my vanilla boos, they always stare at my hair up close, pick one of my microscopic ringlets and twist it in their fingers, asking how my hair got so curly. On my first date outside of the U.S. with a French guy who’d never dated a black girl, the guy pounced across the dinner table like a possessed tiger to try touch my hair…I had to pull a Matrix move to get out of the way. I think it’s all just part of the fun… Read more »

amilah
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amilah

My fiance is Asian. He is very partial to sistas with afros, he thinks theyre crazy cute(and he likes big butts). Sometimes he asks me questions about how I am going to wear my hair but he’s not super uninformed(maybe cuz his last gf was black?). He likes the fact that I can style it without heat and always tells me my afro is very cute on me 🙂 Now his family is highly ignorant and seem to have the opinion that straight hair is better. But they go get perms. I know, makes no sense. I wouldn’t like to… Read more »

Indie
Guest
Indie

My husband is white and I have to explain to him all the time that black natural hair is serious upkeep. My wash days take up to 4 hrs sometimes with all the steps and hair I have. He is very time oriented and pokes fun all the time about the hours I spend on my hair and yet wants our children to have locs. I dont think he fully understand how u realistic his dream is.

Annie
Guest
Annie

Why would you do if you had an asian boyfriend?

Monimayi
Guest
Monimayi

Wouldn’t it be the same regardless of what their “non-black” ethnicity or for any person you are dating who has no knowledge or awareness of the complexity of our hair?

Antonia
Guest
Antonia

I’m not entirely sure. Most of my male Asian friends are ecstatic about natural hair. They say that it’s nothing they’ve ever seen before, and and are amazed by the “phenomenon of shrinkage”.

Dreya
Guest
Dreya

My husband is white and we already did the crash course thing. We have a very open policy concerning any questions he might have (for all we know, our possible future babies will require daddy to get them ready in the morning, braids and all). He is a respectful, evolved person, so he reads articles and books on indigenous people, etc. I told him the long-winded history lesson is great but the contemporary is valuable as well so we watched ‘Good Hair’, he ready The Science of Black Hair, and a host of my other books. He finds the social… Read more »

Cee
Guest
Cee

I’m dating a Mexican American guy right now and he loves my natural hair. He said the first thing he noticed about me was my big hair lol. I don’t really have to explain much to him about my hair because he doesn’t treat it like some interesting substance sitting on my head. He mainly likes the way it feels and looks and I don’t mind him playing in it because I know it comes from a place of love and not that weird “oh let me touch it” attitude. One of the best things that I love is when… Read more »

Andy
Guest
Andy

As a natural in an interracial same sex relationship with a white 2c woman (whose hair looks like Robert Plant’s in the 70’s,no kidding), my partner and I had some talks about my hair as it is important for me that she gets the need of my almost 3 hour washing process and my iffyness for having it constantly touched. She was fairly curious when we 1st started dating‑i was transitioning back then,and now is one of my biggest hair supporters and does the lecturing for me- whenever friends ask about my head scarves and bonnets,or how the hell shrinkage… Read more »

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