2014 was a tough year in general, and an even tougher year to be in an interracial relationship. With the social unrest, scrutiny, and judgment at an all time high, even jokes from friends felt like sharp jabs. But I digress… let me start from the beginning.
The natural hair movement is a constant source of new knowledge. There is always some innovation waiting around the corner to be discovered. As a naturalista for nearly three years I believed I had a pretty good grasp on the basics of natural hair care. Or so I thought.
It wasn’t until I entered an interracial relationship 1.5 years ago that I realized there were so many things that became second nature, and common knowledge to me, that were foreign and peculiar not only to men, but men that were not familiar with the culture of hair care at all. For example my brothers, though they may not know the ins and outs of natural or relaxed hair care, they are familiar with the basics in our hair care regimen that we may overlook as different. They are no strangers to hair ties to bed; cornrows, doobie wraps, and hogging the bathroom during 12 hour wash days!
My significant other on the other hand was completely in the dark when I started bringing up protective styles, synthetic vs human hair, and his all time biggest surprise co-washing. The concept of not needing shampoo to cleanse my hair was baffling to him. He did however seem to already be familiar with the importance of satin pillow cases to my nighttime regimen.
It was in my attempts at teaching him about the natural hair community that made me realize and learn four valuable lessons myself:
- Teaching about natural hair is hard… but oh so necessary. I was rambling and saying things that completely went over his head. But once I took the time to teach him about what was happening on this head of mine, he took the time and effort to actually listen and learn about what I was saying. It added a sense of pure validity to our conversations.
- Teaching him about my hair helped me overcome several barriers, struggles, insecurities, and frustrations I still had with my own natural hair. Explaining hairstyles, ideas, issues, and choices in full detail helped me come to terms with a lot of things I was trying to hide about my natural hair to the public. But when you have someone learning up close and personal you have to be okay, or learn to be okay with sharing the vulnerable sides of how your hair makes you feel.
- You’re going to get looks. People are going to stare. You have hair that is not accepted as “the norm” and the person standing next to you doesn’t “match”. There’s just no getting around that. No matter where you live, or where you’re from (and we’re from NY) there’s always going to be someone you offend whether it be for the interracial aspect, the natural hair aspect, or quite possibly both. There’s really no stopping that, or changing stranger’s minds about what they perceive to be offensive. As time progresses in the relationship, you either learn to deal/ignore it or you stay inside forever. Having discussions about something that can be minute and grand as hair, has helped us discuss large & small topics at hand. It created a gateway of comfort.
- It is fun! I am an avid believer that a relationship needs to be fun no matter the races involved. Being able to laugh, and joke while actually learning a few things here and there during our natural hair “lessons” has been and still is important to me.
So has it been different? Yes, absolutely. But removing the confusion from the equation just made space for other life factors to take precedence. I don’t have to worry about what he is thinking or how he feels about my hair, as no woman should, because it is a forum of open discussion, knowledge, and a genuine fun time. Having natural hair in an interracial relationship hasn’t made it harder, it has helped open up lines of communication for whatever pops into this afro’d head of mine.