Does a black woman with short natural hair have a chance at dating men?
March 31, 2017 1:41 PM   Subscribe

I'm a single black woman, 34 years old with natural black hair. I'm going on a trip soon and wanted to get a style that would be easy to maintain during the week. The stylist suggested cutting it along the sides and leaving the top part longer, in a tapered look. He showed me pictures from Google and I liked what I saw. I didn't have much of a shape to my hair before, so I was excited to give it a try.

The problem is I don't think it looks good on me. I think my hair looks too short on the sides now. I miss my longer curls. Sure, there's a shape to my hair, but I worry that it's too short and that I look too much like a man. I don't know if any man will date me now. I'm interested in white men also, and I worry that no white man will want me either. I had dating profile pictures taken last year with my longer curls and now I can't use them because I don't look like that any more.

I'm kicking myself for deciding to go with the haircut on impulse. I should have told him only to cut a small amount off first so that I can see if I like it and THEN go back later to get more cut off. But I didn't do it, and I'm stuck with this look now. :(

I know hair grows out, but it will probably take at least 2 years to get the length I had. By that time I'll be 36! I can't afford to waste that time if I want to meet a man, marry, and have kids.

I'm not really sure what to do. What do you think the chances are for a black woman with super short natural hair to date, especially interracially? How can I improve my chances?
posted by starpoint to Human Relations (39 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Speaking as a white man who has dated black women (and indeed is married to one (hi, sweetie!)) your hairstyle sounds fine to me. But what do I know?
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:44 PM on March 31, 2017 [8 favorites]

I don't have any specific answers to your questions. But, you might find it comforting to think of your new haircut as a litmus test for worthwhile men. Any man who isn't interested in dating you because of something as transient and superficial as a hair cut is not worth dating (and certainly not marrying and having children with). So, if you do get fewer dates, I bet they'll be of a higher quality.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 1:47 PM on March 31, 2017 [61 favorites]

Yes. Anecdata, but my former hairstylist was black, had short natural hair and was happily married.

If you find that having shorter hair really bothers you, you can always get extensions until your hair grows out.
posted by lovelygirl at 1:48 PM on March 31, 2017 [5 favorites]

Straight white woman here, so what do I know, but super short natural hair often looks stylish and feminine on black women to me. It depends on if the cut suits you specifically, but if it does, I wouldn't worry about it closing off your options.
posted by LizardBreath at 1:51 PM on March 31, 2017

Giant caveat that I'm not a man, but I have lots of friends with short, natural hair and the vast majority have been or are married. FWIW, I think short, natural hairstyles are really beautiful and really striking. And I agree that if a man is not going to marry you because of a hairstyle, he's not a man that is worth marrying. What will he do when you grow older and your body inevitably changes?
posted by goggie at 1:54 PM on March 31, 2017 [4 favorites]

You can improve your chances by doing the asking, which is something that people of both genders are loathe to do. If you date online, message first, especially on platforms that don't require it. Tell the people that you are interested in exactly what you are looking for without apology, since you don't need to explain or justify your preferences. "I'm into white guys, and I think you're cute." You may get ignored, you might open yourself up to criticism, but your chances of success will skyrocket. Good luck, and have fun!
posted by Mr. Fig at 1:54 PM on March 31, 2017 [3 favorites]

I also just want to point out that like 98% of the time when people I know have cut their hair short they have hated it right afterwards, and for a week or two, until a) it grew that tiny bit that softens up a new cut a bit, b) they washed and styled it themselves a few times, and c) most importantly, they got used to the big change and the reflection in the mirror looking different. And after that, almost all of those people loved their new hair. Give it a little while to get used to it, and chances are you will get comfortable in how awesome you definitely look right now.
posted by brainmouse at 2:02 PM on March 31, 2017 [61 favorites]

I am white but had a pixie cut for a long time, and I usually wore statement earrings and bold makeup to balance the potential perceived androgyny. I also tried to wear skirts/tights/dresses/scarves and other things that were coded as more feminine. Maybe that would help you?

When I had short hair I felt the same way you did, especially since I was single and also very tall, and worried that it would prevent people from approaching me or prevent me from finding love. There's nothing wrong with feeling this way (it's how you feel!), but it never did*, and now that I'm older I tend to agree more with the others, that it is a good litmus test for partners and whether they can see the real you or just the external package.

*I actually did better with dating when I had short hair--men seemed to think it indicated that I was fun and unconventional, while when I had long hair I felt like I had to try harder to stand out from everyone else with long hair. YMMV but I think a lot of it is in the attitude!
posted by stellaluna at 2:07 PM on March 31, 2017 [21 favorites]

So, the only reason why this haircut might be a problem is if you don't feel confident about it. If you're feeling self conscious about presenting more masculine than you might prefer, use some more feminine presenting makeup or other accessories (barrette, hairband, etc.).

In general, from growing up in a black neighborhood and having a fair number of friends in interracial relationships, white dudes who date black girls are more likely to be more open to girls that play with gender roles. Coming across a bit more butch isn't that big a deal, because most of the guys who would be shook by that are already filtered out.

The anxiety about not having enough time to let your hair grow out to meet your schedule for a family, etc. is more likely to make 'em skittish than the hair. Channel your inner Grace Jones and get out there, and maybe some of that anxiety will diminish too.
posted by klangklangston at 2:11 PM on March 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure exactly what the hairstyle you're describing is, but I think that Dominique Tipper looks fantastic, sexy, and feminine on the Expanse with medium length natural hair on the top and the sides cut extremely short.

I'm a hetero-leaning white dude, and I think that short to extremely short hair looks good on women in general, and can look especially good on women with dark kinky hair. I also think that even if it IS a bad haircut for you, most dudes (worth having) can and will look past if you have other good stuff going on.

The only way that a haircut like this is really going to hurt your chances is if it makes me think that you are actively trying to signal a disinterest in men, which some particular short hairstyles sometimes do. But that kind of signalling usually goes along with a whole bunch of other signals you probably aren't sending. And, of course, if you're willing to make the first move, it's all moot anyhow.
posted by 256 at 2:12 PM on March 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

Short hair is incredibly sexy. Add earrings and you won't look unfeminine. Be inspired by Jada Pinkett Smith's short-hair looks.
posted by Dragonness at 2:13 PM on March 31, 2017 [3 favorites]

Issa Rae also often has hairstyles similar to what you are describing. I don't know how she fairs on the dating front, but she looks very attractive, feminine and approachable to me. (proviso, I am a mostly het white woman but hey!)
posted by supermedusa at 2:41 PM on March 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

I feel pretty gross jumping on the "I'm not Black, but..." bandwagon, but my closest Black friend cropped and went natural. She met a white guy, and they just got married! If you're having a hard time with the transition, headbands!
posted by DarlingBri at 2:51 PM on March 31, 2017

Some representative pictures might help, although just because a haircut works/doesn't work on someone else doesn't say anything about whether or not it will work for you. A short hairstyle can look as feminine as you want it to look.

You can absolutely use the old pictures you took. Add in a couple of new ones if it makes you feel better. People change their hairstyles all the time and guys grow beards and shave them off. I don't think anyone would feel that you are trying to con them if your cute pictures don't show you with your current hairstyle. Gain/lose 100 lbs or get a full face tattoo and you might want to show some recent pics, but other than that it's a non-issue.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 3:00 PM on March 31, 2017 [5 favorites]

I don't know about flattering or not, though I second how great that cut looks on Naomi in The Expanse, but some of the black women of my acquaintance use weave to fill in when they have had a not-great short haircut. You don't have to wait two years to grow your hair out even if it is unflattering.
posted by corb at 3:05 PM on March 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

As a heterosexual dude, I have no problem with women with short hair and am personally a bit mystified by the idea that hair length defines the woman. It seems to me like if someone were to judge a woman based on that then who knows what other unpredictably specific standards they would judge one on.
posted by mr. digits at 3:17 PM on March 31, 2017 [4 favorites]

If a bad haircut was enough to destroy someone's chances of ever marrying and having a family, humanity would have died out in the 1980s.

OK but seriously, you will be fine. Racial politics of hair even aside, someone who wouldn't want to date you with this haircut, I promise, would not want to date you for some other reason if you didn't have this haircut. And what would you want with a dude who couldn't bear a single less-than-amazing hairdo over a lifetime?

Keep all your profile pictures. Sure, maybe add one or two of the most recent ones into the mix. If you just can't manage to fake that pure "yes, this is my best ever hair" confidence, don't try! Don't get me wrong -- you absolutely should not *apologize* for your hair or assure the dude that it is temporary or anything. But feel completely free to note that you're still getting used to it, learned the hard way about trusting Google Images, or whatever. Dudes are humans, just like us. They get bad haircuts, too! And a good dude will appreciate someone who can be real and human, but show that she can roll with life's little foibles and insecurities.

Shit, a friend of mine straight up *stole my guy* one night when she showed up at the bar crying over her bad haircut. (Like you, she cut it very short and geometric the term? on a whim and had immediate regrets.) Not only did he love the haircut, but apparently her willingness to gamble and lose made her much more intriguing than boring old me. ;)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 3:39 PM on March 31, 2017 [7 favorites]

Speaking from the point-of-view of my 25+-year-ago single self: Style (and indeed presence / total lack of) hair is no big thing. Confidence, however, is attractive. Any hair style is fine as long as you own it. The only thing you need to do about your hair is quit worrying about it.

Also echoing comments upthread to the effect of: If your haircut is a deal-killer, the guy is shallow and a waste of your time anyway.
posted by sourcequench at 3:43 PM on March 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

Another straight white guy here. Absolutely not a problem. On the contrary, I suspect you might get even more attention, albeit some of it from the creepy direction. But yeah, there are a lot of dudes who are into that look. You really shouldn't worry. I'm sure you look great.
posted by kevinbelt at 4:08 PM on March 31, 2017 [2 favorites]

Hey, I'm a black woman who sometimes dates men and I have rocked a wide variety of hairstyles over the years, including down to 1/8" recently (but shaped nicely -- this one got a LOT of love). Some men care, most of them don't, some of them liked it a LOT, particularly the combination of a very fresh cut + an otherwise very feminine look.

It sounds like this is a big change for you -- give it some time, it can be jarring to see yourself without hair if you aren't used to it! If you still don't like it in a few weeks, try getting it styled slightly differently -- a short cut can look really different when even very minor changes are made. If you're really committed to long hair, you have protective styling options.

Either way -- breathe. You look beautiful regardless of your hair length and you are not romantically doomed. ♥
posted by sea change at 4:19 PM on March 31, 2017 [16 favorites]

Headbands or flowers if you want to feel more feminine! I love that look. I have long mermaid hair and I guy I had the biggest crush on ever once rejected me because he preferred pixies on girls. Lots of guys love it.

Seriously too, maybe this was an insecurity and the haircut is just a catylist for bringing them to the forefront.. I've had those moments and it sounds like something to work on separate from your hair. Relationships are about so much more than one tiny aspect of your appearance.
posted by cakebatter at 4:21 PM on March 31, 2017

Just one data point, but: I'm a white man who has dated a black woman with short hair before (and I thought it looked great). In fact, I generally love short hair on women.

I obviously don't know how your haircut looks on you, but this is in no way a categorical problem.
posted by cmoj at 4:28 PM on March 31, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you feel you have to change your appearance to date someone - don't date them. Appearances change over time. Dudes lose their hair, teeth fall out, backs get hair.

I'm a white woman, however I have tattoos and (mostly buzzed at some points) short hair. People STILL ask what my husband thinks of my short hair - like my hair is for him? It's not, it's for me. He loves it to be honest and said at points he'd want to see it all buzzed. He is a white dude who had dated women of color.
posted by Crystalinne at 4:35 PM on March 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

I disagree with anyone saying some deeper insecurity is necessarily at the bottom of this. Bad hair days bum people out. A *year or two* of bad hair days is a trial, to be sure. I'm growing out a short cut, and I wish I could say various phases haven't bothered me at all, but there was a long Justin Bieber moment that got the better of me (with racial stuff not even a factor for me).

With dating (also job-seeking), I think you have to feel comfortable with how you're coming across. If you don't feel like "you", you're starting out off-kilter already. So I think the thing to do is either prepare yourself to invest a bit of time into experimenting with different styles (for every half inch gained, too :/) or invest in extensions of some kind. (I'm cheap, so it's come down to a lot of bobby pins. And a couple of haircuts that set me back.) It sucks, it takes more time than it should, I hate that it takes up any mental real estate at all, but there is no way I was feeling great with that Bieber, and actions had to be taken. Then I could forget about it and move on.

As far as the odds - I can appreciate the anxiety and don't want to dismiss it, but I don't think it's helpful to concern yourself on that score, no point. Focus on what you can control. Which, for what you want, in order to feel confident about putting yourself out there, involves feeling comfortable with what *you're* seeing in the mirror. So play around a bit, and do whatever you have to do.
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:40 PM on March 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don't know what you look like with your haircut but I do know how uncomfortable it is to feel like your hair got cut too short and making you present unfemininely. Brighter makeup (lips especially,) bigger earrings, dresses instead of pants and more feminine shoes helped a lot. Dangly earrings look awesome with very short hair. Lots of eye makeup looks good too.

If your haircut lets you rock a bright fabric headband, that is a super cute and very feminine look.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:54 PM on March 31, 2017 [3 favorites]

Ok first of all you should memail me a photo so I can squeal about how much I love it. I think short hair is vastly superior to long hair in every way. I think because my mom had short hair when I was growing up, and then cut mine short too I had to learn to love it. My mom was always complaining about hair being in people's faces, as her like, mom quirk, but now I too cannot stand when women have a bunch of damn hair in their face. I think short hair is tidy, chic, stylish, bold, and unique. I think long hair can be used as a crutch, and I honestly think most people look better with short hair. I also agree that any man who thinks your hair is a deal breaker is automatically disqualified from the running. You did yourself a favor, girl!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 7:04 PM on March 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

when i got my hair cut very short, i put together a pinterest board of short cuts i liked. initially it was to find an ideal (ish) haircut, but i found that i felt more confident by intentionally exposing myself to lots of pics of short-hair beauty rather than just the typical long feminine hairstyles you see more often. so many women, all sorts of women, look badass with short hair. i'm sure you do too. but it definitely takes some getting used to when you've just made such a big change.
posted by JBD at 8:21 PM on March 31, 2017

Hi there starpoint: Five years ago, as an African-American woman, I asked the same questions that you're asking. I had lost my hair due to an autoimmune disease, alopecia areata, and one of my closest male friends had just told me, "Geez, you don't give a damn what men think, eh? Most women grow their hair out when they start to date to attract men, but you don't care what men think!" I was immediately depressed, and wondered about that.

See, you cut your hair on purpose. I lost ALL of mine, and was completely bald, and it was not by choice. I thought, wait, so this is sh*t: I get alopecia, and now I am not attractive enough for a man, any man, to look at me, because I am perceived as being too independent? So unfair!

Fast forward, and within a year, I had no longer decided that was bull*hit, and I had a life coach that helped me along my self-love and my confidence journey. She told me not to date at all until I had spent some time learning to be present and being in service to others (getting out of my head).

Fast forward another year, and I met my husband. A year after that, we were married. And I was as bald as the day is long. Still am. Did I tell you that my husband is Swedish, white, was living in Sweden at the time we met, and moved here to Arizona when we fell in love? He thought I was so beautiful, he couldn't keep his eyes off me, and still can't. And then moved across the world so that we could be together.

So, what am I saying? The idea that women need to "look" or "show up" in a certain way in order to be considered sexy, desirable or beautiful is complete bull sh*t. Don't believe society's stereotypes about women. If you're lucky, you can become more aware of all the ways that society, your parents, your friends, strangers, the media tell you how you do or do not fit into the "ideal" picture of a woman. First comes awareness, and then comes freedom - because to feel free to be yourself is true freedom. Good luck.
posted by Hersheyswt at 9:22 PM on March 31, 2017 [37 favorites]

Your problem is why extensions and wigs were invented
posted by Kwadeng at 10:00 PM on March 31, 2017

My experience is that any kind of cool looking / hip/ modern/ unusual hairstyle DRAMATICALLY increases male interest. Shave you entire head and you'll get asked out 10 times that week (but don't really). I have super curly hair too and usually wear it long because it's easier but anytime I've cut it into a more dramatic or short or geometric style I've had tons of male interest. And immediate regret similar to yours, haha. Short curly hair is a pita.

btw, you can always get extensions if you really, really hate it. I know, I know they damage your hair and cost $1B but my friend with super kinky hair had them for two years after a deeply unfortunate clown haircut and they did the job and her natural hair is undamaged.
posted by fshgrl at 10:35 PM on March 31, 2017

"Shave you entire head and you'll get asked out 10 times that week"

Can confirm, I shaved my head when I was 19 and thought (somewhat positively, because I was 19) that it would put an immediate stop to male interest in me. Backfired utterly.
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 2:09 AM on April 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

White lady with a pixie cut that is sometimes cute and sometimes severe. I was nervous when I first had it done; hated it immediately after; wore a lot of makeup and skirts for the first year and was trying to grow it out.

But the number of random idiots hitting on me dropped to nearly zero, while the number of interesting guys who wanted to date me stayed about the same. It was great! Short hair acts like a filter for dudes who insist on traditional gender roles or who are insecure about their masculinity. Guys who prefer long hair but don't have hang ups about it will be able to look past it to see how lovely you are.

And now I'd never grow my hair out, and am happily married to a great guy. I don't know the first thing about natural black hair, but i do know that going really short is a shock you wouldn't expect and takes a while to adjust to. My guess is that it does suit you, but even if it doesn't it won't stop your love life for long.
posted by harriet vane at 4:22 AM on April 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Particulars: I'm female and multiracial but people almost always assume I'm white. I have ( currently very long ) hair that's wavy, not curly or coiled. I have dated men much more widely than I've dated women, and I have noticed, in my unscientific sample, that white men who date black women, by and large, are super into short hair on their lady. On the other hand, it's been my experience that black men who date non-black women are more into long hair. (Also my current squeeze is a white dude with hair down to his mid back and is always talking about how cute very short hair is on women, particularly black women. He doesn't want kids, though, and he's taken, but the point is, they're out there.) Despite having gallons of my own quite thick hair, I have extensions, too. They are clipped in the "kitchen" of my hair, and the bottom 12" of them are bleached and currently dyed silver and purple. I like them, I get to have fun without damaging the stuff that grows out of my scalp. Between my own and the extensions, I have crazy thick mermaid hair that men loathe. My squeeze was polite but prefers it when the extensions are out. The men at work have nothing nice to say. My best dude friend was like, "It's your head." But, y'know, fuck 'em. It IS my head, and this is yours. Do what you want. If a haircut keeps you from finding Mr. Right, he wasn't actually a good dude. If a haircut keeps you from feeling good about yourself, get a weave.
posted by letemilytryagain at 5:02 AM on April 1, 2017

Most men won't care about the length of your hair. Some may. So what? Most care will care about your facial structures, body, attitude and character.

"I know hair grows out, but it will probably take at least 2 years to get the length I had"

A lot of black women war wigs or extensions. So if it really worries you, this is an option.

"I'm not really sure what to do. What do you think the chances are for a black woman with super short natural hair to date, especially interracially? "
I would not focus on the skin color of your future mate. By the way, it is much easier to date "interracially" in Western Europe, if this is your concern.

By the way, two famous "fall in love" scenes involve women with short hair: [NSFW]
posted by yoyo_nyc at 6:13 AM on April 1, 2017

My friend (a cis black woman) has had, as long as I've known her, a totally shaved head. like 1/8" is long for her. She married a cis white man and now they have two beautiful children.

So yes, I think you have more than a chance :)
posted by ananci at 9:46 AM on April 1, 2017

If you are really worried just get a wig to throw on when you feel insecure.
posted by windykites at 9:30 PM on April 1, 2017

Check out photos of singers Kellylee Evans and Diane White, both utterly stunning women I'm acquainted with via IRL interactions. Both normally have very, very short hair, and, like I said, wowza. They are known for their singing, but whenever they show up in the paper there is always some commentary on how stylish/gorgeous they are. I've never seen either with anything but short hair, and usually when a single guy our age (pretty much always white) finds out about the acquaintance, I am besieged with requests to find a way to set him up for a meeting.

My fix for new-haircut insecurity -- and, uptick in enjoyment of awesome new haircuts -- is a new, probably rather bold, lipstick. It will really give your eyes something to focus on besides your hair, and can really feminize or dramatize a look in a hurry. (Same with fake lashes...)
posted by kmennie at 9:45 PM on April 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Getting a haircut that gives you buyer's remorse is always a bummer but if it weeds guys out of your dating pool who can't get past a hairstyle I say score one for the haircut.
posted by nanojath at 11:19 PM on April 1, 2017

Hey there - I wanted to address the 'looking like a man' bit. I hope the following helps.

If you have present feminine cues, such as makeup, feminine clothing, a voice in the female range, etc, the chances that your hair will cause people to misgender you is pretty slim. If you're wanting to feminize it a bit, I think that a ribbon tied around it and/or a hairband would help considerably. If you wear glasses, some feminine styled frames would also help. All of those cues I believe will help override the 'maleness' of the haircut.

Datapoint: I am a transguy who gets full on male clipper cuts, wears exclusively male clothing 100% of the time, doesn't wear makeup at all - and I *still* get misgendered constantly by strangers and pegged as 'female'. The reasons? My height, my still high pitched voice, and my glasses, which I can't afford to get replaced yet - but it's on my list.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:47 PM on April 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

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