My Natural Hair Journey, Chapter 12: Must I Have His Permission?

“Should I ask his permission?”   

This was a great discussion on one of the hair boards recently, with some surprising opinions.   Of course, I had way more to say than I had time or room to type at that moment, but the topic intrigued me enough to post about it later as my own natural hair entry.   I think that a number of women find themselves at this place when making any major physical change, but I’ll try and focus.

Permission:  1) approval to do something. 2) the act of giving formal authorization.   

I think any woman who considers herself an adult–a “grown” woman, as my mother would have said–struggles with the idea of having to ask a husband for his approval.   Permission is one of those words like submission, which the Bible speaks to in Ephesians 5:22-24.   We equate these words with being a child, with being less than, with being the low man, err, woman, on the totem pole.     Yet, as distasteful as the thought might be for some, leaving our permed tresses and embracing our curly, kinky, and even sometimes nappy locks does create a major change to our physical appearance.    It also becomes a potential statement regarding our sense of self and our defiance of an imposed standard of beauty.    If only for these reasons, it is a decision worth discussing before you make it, and worth having some support before you proceed.

I was blessed in that my husband was very supportive of the decision to leave perms behind.    As I’ve shared before, after 2 years of deliberation, the movie “Good Hair” gave me the final motivation that I needed to get off the proverbial dime.    My husband has shared on more than one occasion that watching what sodium hydroxide, the primary chemical in perms, did to a metal soda can over time was a strong enough visual for him to be fully on board with me stopping the bi-monthly trips to the salon.  

Years ago, I wrote a post about homeschooling when your husband does not agree, and I talked about the spiritual and natural value of alignment.   The parallels between homeschooling and transitioning to natural hair are  amazingly alike: both are deviations from the norm, although this article points out that as many as 36% of African-American women are now saying that they use no chemicals to relax or straighten their hair.  However, I think similar thoughts on how you might “bring him over to your side” might apply. 

1) Don’t just throw out information; have a discussion.   Of course, explaining to him why you want to go natural implies that you know yourself.   Why do you want to go natural?    Is it just the latest trend that you want to follow?    Will he have to listen to you complain daily 3 months from now when it takes you hours to get a comb through your wet hair?  (smile)   Personally, the transition of my hair followed a number of transitions in my health, from the changes in foods to the changes in exercise habits.   With that in mind, I walked into the transition, with all its associated trials and triumphs, never looking back.    I said that to say that if you don’t have a compelling reason to change your hair this drastically, the decision might not be worth the costs to your relationship.

2) Understand the nature of his true concern.   Why is he averse to your proposed change?    Could it be as simple as a difference of vision?   I talk about this in discussing differences in homeschooling readiness, and how at times, we have to listen to hear what’s behind the word “no.”   Perhaps in transitioning, you see yourself looking like this:

or this:

courtesy of

But perhaps he’s thinking he’ll have to hold hands with this: 

courtesy of

Don’t get me wrong.   I love jazz artist Esparanza Spalding (featured in the last picture), and I applaud  her obvious self-confidence and high self esteem.   But, she is a child–only three years older than my oldest daughter.  With youth on her side and an occupation that applauds uniqueness and individuality, she can wear her hair any way she wants.   Most of us don’t have those options when we are deciding upon natural hairstyles.
The point is, once you truly understand his concerns, perhaps you can speak to that concern with wisdom and empathy.   You can also incorporate his vision into your plans.   As one example, I know several men, including my own husband, who enjoy long hair.  As a friend of ours told his wife, “Long hair is what you got me with; long hair is what it will take to keep me.”   Length is an issue worth a whole post on its own, especially in our community, so I’ll won’t speak about it just now.   I am happy to report, however, that our friend did later cut off her hair, with her husband’s consent; as far as I can see, they are still very happy together.   Length, and my husband’s concern about length, is one of several reasons that I chose a slow transition over a big chop at an earlier point of new hair growth.
Here’s an additional, albeit disturbing reality: men measure other men, in part, by the woman on their arms.   I’m convinced that’s why we see men with celebrity status and celebrity money date and marry women who, even to the most untrained eye, look like golddiggers.   Think about it.   When someone asks us to introduce ourselves, we generally begin to talk about family–husband, children, home, etc., those things that give us as women a sense of value and importance.   A man in the same situation will begin to discuss the things that make him feel important: his job, his home, his family.   As hard a pill as this might be to swallow, we want to be on the right side of his picture of success.   If you disagree, try reading Willard Farley’s His Needs, Her Needs.   We really do have two totally separate sets of needs to make us feel good about being in a relationship. 
3) Style shop together.   There are so many women making this change now until images of the possibilities of natural hair are everywhere.   You cannot watch television commercials without seeing a sister who has said no to a few perms; the internet is so chock full of images until the real question becomes how might you flaunt every style you enjoy into something that might work for your face and lifestyle.   I often ask my husband, and even our son (to help him appreciate natural hair–a post for another time), “What do you think of her hair?”   In that way, the new Belinda becomes a team project, and everyone’s happy.
4) Pray and use wisdom.   My experience with praying for my husband’s mind on a certain subject is that God changes perspective–mine.    If your husband has drawn his proverbial line in the sand, it might be the conversation that you don’t have with him, but instead have with the Lord, that brings him around.   And for sure, there are valid reasons to become chemical-free.   Short-term and long-term health, self-love, and avoiding salon expense are just a few of the reasons that can help a family, even if your husband doesn’t see those factors yet.   But, natural hair isn’t for everyone.   Dependent upon how you transition, the expense of a salon can easily be replaced or expanded by the expense of weaves, wigs, etc.    It takes time and research.   It takes patience.   And some sort of support, be it spousal or otherwise, can be a tremendous asset.
Whether you refer to it as permission, submission, discussion, or a joint decision, yes, you owe it to the man you stood before God and promised to love through better and worse to try and ellicit support in your decision.   He owes it to you to discuss his desire to grow a beard, or dye his gray, or shave his head.   Why?   Because before the Bible launches into a woman’s need to submit, Ephesians 5: 21 says that we are to ‘submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. ‘  We represent the kingdom when we operate as a family in this way.   We honor who God is in our marriage, and He, in turn, honors our obedience.
Before you step out alone, be sure that you really want to step at all.   And if he’s not on board, it’s worth it to have the right prayer cover and discussion–with self and otherwise–to bring him on board.   Who knows what other lines of communication the afore-mentioned steps can open up?   May God bless you.

5 thoughts on “My Natural Hair Journey, Chapter 12: Must I Have His Permission?

  1. I found this blog through your contact information on the Great Homeschooling Conference. I am very inspired and encouraged to see you and other ladies take on natural hair. I think your type of hair is beautiful, and beautiful hair is natural. I don’t have lovely ebony or chocolate tinted skin, nor are my roots somewhere in Africa, but I think African American women who let their hair be natural are just gorgeous! Of course if they choose not to, they are still beautifully made, just like other women like me who chose to dye and perm their own hair. And I am so glad your husband concurs. Most husbands love their wives to be natural, just as God made them!


  2. Okay…this is strange. Just today, I began researching “healthy ways to straighten black hair”. Why? Because my hubby, after much probing, confessed that he prefers my hair straight. He wasn’t very convincing, but he said it nonetheless. He’s really not into this natural hair craze that exists today. Yes, he’s fully brainwashed by our western culture and definition of beauty.

    Personally, I’m still not sure what route I want to take. If i remain curly, I know I want to cut it into a short professional style. I’m just afraid it will look too “butch”. If I go straight, I’ll be using heat – NOT perm. I haven’t decided on a style yet…at least not until it gets much longer.

    We need to talk. 🙂


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