(The Root) —
"I took a break from dating, which inspired me to go natural. My head full of big kinky hair gave me confidence again! But now that I want to date again, nothing's happening. My cousin says it's because black men may be 'intimidated by an Afro.' Any truth to that?" —E.C.
I won't pretend for the sake of being PC that there aren't men who won't be into your natural hair. There is a healthy chunk of black guys who prefer (for various, complicated and lengthy reasons that require a separate response) for a black woman's hair to be straight. "Some men fall subject to the brainwashing that the media does and have this notion that 'good hair' is flat, long and straight," said a man I asked to offer a guy's perspective on hair. "It's the lack of appreciation of the natural hair of our forefathers, parents and themselves."
Additionally, some of those men will equate your hair texture and style with being, as one friend put it, "militant, competitive, feminist or argumentative," all traits that can be a turnoff when it comes to dating. But that's not who you're looking for. There are enough hurdles to work out when it comes to pairing off, and trying to convince someone to accept the hair on your head just isn't a battle worth fighting. You want someone who appreciates what you're bringing — in your heart and via your follicles — and thankfully, many men do.
You don't have to take my word for that, though. I asked the Male Mind Squad — my go-to group of 50 guys who meet my standard of "good dude" and have allowed me to pick their brains over the years on topics such as women's very personal grooming, why a woman carrying condoms in her purse is a turnoff and what men mean when they talk about a woman "submitting." These guys are raw, candid and incredibly insightful, and except for one, they all agreed that a woman rocking natural hair is of very little concern and not remotely intimidating, at least not to a man who appreciates a confident woman.
In an effort to unload the politics of black hair, I don't think hair texture should be interpreted as sending messages. But if it must, you'll be happy to know that many men interpret your natural hair as a sign of self-love. "It shows that the black woman is no longer buying into what society has deemed 'beautiful' and owning who she is, what she is and what she looks like," said one guy. Another thought that natural hair showed a sign of "fearlessness." He added, "Often, I feel as though women hide behind their weaves and lace fronts."
Notably, the guys mentioned that the two primary concerns men have at first glance is whether a woman has a cute face, as mentioned above, and a shape he finds attractive — and not in that order. The only real concern about a woman's hair appeared after the pair began dating, and it had nothing to do with hair texture. Several men mentioned that they hate it when a woman leaves it all over the bathroom after a visit.
It was pretty hasty for your cousin to zero in on your newly natural hair as the problem, especially when there's a much more plausible explanation for why "nothing's happening" in your dating life. You mentioned that you've been out of the dating game for a while, and it's more likely that your break is the source of your drought.
Even if you were good at dating before, it may take a while to get back into the so-called swing of things. The popular expression used for easily picking up where you left off is, "It's like riding a bike." But as someone who just relearned to ride one, it's not as easy to jump back on and go as people say it is. It still takes a little practice to keep steady. I'd encourage you to keep trying to date — awkward moments and all — until it feels more comfortable.
I also challenge you to be more proactive about meeting men. Many women think that showing up and looking pretty is enough, and for a few lucky ladies it is. The rest of us need to put forth a little more effort. The next time you see a man you might be interested in getting to know — whether you're at the club or the drugstore or picking up lunch — smile, say hello, offer him a compliment or ask a question.
That's it. You're letting him know that you are friendly, approachable and confident. If he is remotely interested and not incredibly socially awkward, he will respond favorably. That's not guaranteed to get you a date, of course, but that approach will help you meet more men, tip the dating odds in your favor and, in time, improve your social skills.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor to 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. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.