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Dear Demetria:

I did a big chop yesterday. I sent a picture to my live-in fiance, who is the father to my 2-year-old daughter. He responded that I looked crazy and that he doesn’t like short hair. When I got home, he asked me if I was going for the lesbian look. I asked him if I needed to ask him for permission to cut my hair. Now what? —Anonymous

Oh, dear.

Hopefully this can be fixed. And by “this” I mean the discord in your relationship, not your hair. For clarity, there’s nothing wrong with wearing your hair natural, and your hair doesn’t need fixing. There’s also nothing wrong with short hair.

Despite your mate’s ignorant comment, it’s not an outward sign to sensible people that you’re a lesbian, although it does seem to be a popular point of view somehow. I’ve been natural on and off since I was 16 and have done five big chops. I’ve heard commentary about being a lesbian each time. It’s profoundly ignorant. Don’t people know there are lesbians with long hair? Or better, don’t they realize how basic it is to intertwine hair and sexuality?

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Anyway, it seems you’ve made a big mistake here, not in cutting off your perm, but in not discussing your decision with your mate. You didn’t have to get “permission” for your decision, but you should have had a discussion with him before drastically altering your appearance. He needed a heads-up, just as, if he had locks or facial hair, you probably would want to know before he cut them or shaved, since he would come home (or out of the bathroom) looking very different from the last time you saw him.

There should have been a chat that went something like, “Hey, babe. I’m thinking about getting rid of my perm and cutting my hair short. What do you think about that?” He could have filled you in on his thoughts. Even if he didn’t like the idea, you would have known what you were walking into beforehand, and both of you would have been better equipped to deal with it when you cut your hair short.

Perhaps you could have waited and grown your natural hair out a little longer before you did the big chop. Or you could have cut your hair in stages so that a short haircut wouldn’t have been so jarring to him. But that conversation didn’t happen, and you were both blindsided—him by your decision, and you by his reaction.

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He’s not out of line to be shocked by a drastic change, but I’m concerned about how he handled his dismay. If he doesn’t like your hair, so be it. He’s entitled to have his own opinion. But insulting your appearance by saying you looked “crazy” and questioning your sexuality were way out of line. Does he frequently speak to you this way when he’s upset? That’s the real issue here, not your hair.

But back to what you asked: “Now what?” Explain to him why you cut your hair. Maybe it was for the health of your hair, maybe you were over the expense (and pain) of perming. Maybe you’re over buying into mainstream culture’s beauty standards. Or maybe you just think natural is on trend. Whatever the reason, offer it up. Perhaps understanding your rationale will help him come to terms with your choice. (I’m hoping if he’s your live-in fiance and father of your child, he’s a rationale man, even if in this instance he hasn’t demonstrated it thus far.)

After that, add that you understand he’s not onboard (perhaps yet?) with your hair, but it’s absolutely not OK to insult you or your hair, no matter how much he disapproves. He certainly wouldn’t be OK with you insulting his appearance, especially when he would probably be feeling vulnerable after a big change.

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Depending on how much you value his attraction to you, you do have options for your natural hair. You can experiment with hair products and colors. You can grow your hair out. You can also wear protective styles such as wigs or weaves or braids. Or if your intent is “just” to wear your hair as it is currently, you can continue to maintain it as is, and he will have to get over it.

That said, if he continues to insult you or threatens to leave, consider letting him go. I’m sure some will balk at that suggestion. “Are you saying she should leave the father of her child rather than change or perm her hair?” some will wonder.

Absolutely not! I’m pointing out that the type of man who acts up and/or talks about leaving over hair will act up over that and a whole lot more. He’s not going to be a good marriage partner or stick around for the long haul anyway if he feels it’s OK to criticize you when he’s unhappy, or allows something so trivial to change how he feels about you and the relationship. If he’s that type of guy, even if you perm your hair and grow it down your back, the next time you do something he doesn’t like, he will behave the same way. Natural hair and/or its length aren’t the real problem here—his behavior is.

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Demetria Lucas D’Oyley is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love as well as A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at askdemetria@theroot.com.

Previously in Ask Demetria: “Going Celibate to Date a Minister? Better Be Sure It’s the Right Move for You”