Love him or deride him, comedian, relationship expert and talk show host Steve Harvey nailed his advice to a newlywed black couple who recently appeared on his show for the segment “I Love My Man, But …”
The wife, whose name is Love, recently decided to change her hair from the long, straight weave she’d worn “since I had my first tooth” to a well-coiffed Afro puff. Her husband, McClea, hated it. How much did he hate it? He ran out of the house in horror at the sight of his wife’s actual hair, and when he returned, he asked whether she was wearing a wig and, if so, would she take it off. Love has stopped wearing her natural hair “often” because her husband “prefers” her weaves.
Not surprisingly, the husband’s reaction didn’t go over well with Harvey or viewers of the video that’s been making the rounds on social media. Harvey clowned the husband about as bad as actor Samuel L. Jackson did to an entertainment reporter who mistook him for Laurence Fishburne. After the husband repeatedly disparaged his wife’s hair—much to the audience’s chagrin—Harvey quipped to him, “You about to get your skull opened up.” Then Harvey got serious, pointing out the obvious to McClea: “You can’t be any more wrong with your approach … You got to find another way to express yourself.” And the kicker: “It ain’t your damn head.”
It was hilarious and honest.
Being uncomfortable doesn’t entitle a partner to be unsupportive. Rejecting his wife to the point that she takes the “blame” and feels at “fault” for being born with hair that looks more like her husband’s texture than the Brazilian weaves she used to wear is a huge problem, and it’s unacceptable. I cringed hearing the husband talk about his wife’s hair in such a horrible way and knowing that the wife’s acceptance of her natural hair was made that much harder by her husband’s reaction. That is not OK. I would have loved his reaction to her natural hair if it had been, “I love it because I love you,” or even if he’d offered an indifferent, “Just do you.”
Still, I’m inclined to cut him just a smidgen of slack, which most viewers of the video don’t. There’s a reason Love continuously covered her hair with weaves for as long as she could remember, including during the nine years she dated her husband. Even now that she’s had natural hair for “two to three years,” she confessed that she’s still “uncomfortable” with it.
That’s not surprising. We often talk about the way black women are bombarded with “ideal” images of what’s attractive and how black faces and traits aren’t represented. There’s a lot of conversation about how black women internalize those images and what a process it can be for some to accept themselves. We don’t often speak of how those ideas affect black men and their perceptions of black women’s beauty. We should talk about the issue, if for no other reason than the many black men who, like McClea, believe the hype.
Women who have worn weaves and used relaxers for as long as they can remember and have decided to go natural sometimes are jarred the first time they see their own real, usually fuzzy, hair. It’s new and unique, and yes they look different—not necessarily bad or good, just not as they looked before. That difference is noticeable to other people looking at them, including their boyfriends and husbands.
Just as it takes some time for the woman to adjust to a new look, it may, evidently, take some time for a partner to adjust as well. McClea said it was “shocking” when his wife removed her weave. That’s a normal reaction. McClea, and men like him, shouldn’t be thrown under the bus for it. They, too, should be allotted the patience we offer women going through the process.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life and the upcoming Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love. Follow her on Twitter.