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I Left My Husband & My Hair In 2017

Her Voice

"So you just gon' leave your hair and your husband in 2017?!"


I couldn't help but to burst out laughing as I looked back at my big sister's face on my phone screen. It showed a hilarious mixture of shock and amusement as we had an impromptu FaceTime sesh' that December day. I had just posted a not-so mysterious Snap on my Facebook page. All you could see in the photo frame was a pile of freshly cut hair in a sink and bold words that read, "So, I did a thing…"

Two months after choosing to separate from my husband, I had decided to chop my hair off.

And yes, the cut was most certainly symbolic.

At this point, only my close friends and family knew what was going on and no one took me seriously. The hair I was carrying on my head sprouted at the same time our relationship blossomed. It carried the memories of our love when it was unassuming and new. But it also carried the pain I began to feel as our relationship aged, and it kept getting heavier and heavier until that day in December when I decided to let it all go. When I chose to let go of my hair, I was also letting go of my marriage, which I realized had stopped serving me a long time ago.

The early years of our relationship were the sweetest, even without much romance. We were sharing our college experience and falling in love to a backdrop of weed, fast food, and normal young adult nonsense. I noticed that he showed very few signs of being ready for a real relationship but I figured that would change over time. We were having fun together and that was all I needed at the time. When he didn't even bat an eye after I chopped my hair into a Pixie cut and then transitioned to natural hair all in our first year dating, I was convinced he was the one!

In hindsight, I placed way too much value on how he handled my first big chop and didn't pay enough attention to signs that things may not have been as sweet as I thought they were.

As we approached our one year mark of dating, he took a few involuntary vacations, we had blown through tons of my money with no real plan and the romance was non-existent. But he still complimented me on my twist-outs, praised my natural beauty and wasn't a complete ass-hole, so in my mind that was good enough. It was so good in fact, that I decided to marry him despite the glaring red flags that maybe we weren't even close to ready.

My coping mechanisms for life's bullshit are to smile bigger, find the rainbows and sunshine, and suppress like crazy.

This got me through many trying times, but it also made it easier for me to deal with much more than I should have in my marriage. Not even a year after exchanging vows my with husband, I wrote this passage in an old journal:

"I mean, I feel like I'm the only one bustin' my butt tryna make us get to a happy place, but all he's concerned about is hoopin' & eatin...All I want to see is that he cares for & loves me more than he loves himself but all I've got to show for our love is this notebook!"

The frivolity of our relationship was revealing itself early on and I can recall numerous talks we had over the years about what he wasn't providing or changes I felt we needed to make as a unit. Unfortunately though, all of those pleas fell on deaf ears, even after having our two children in the 2nd and 4th year of our marriage. And despite this, I kept on smiling and being foolishly optimistic with no real evidence of things changing.

In 2016, the resentment and unhappiness I had suppressed for so long began to surface. I tried to ignore it but as I poured all the love I had into my two children, and my husband, I started to feel how much I was missing within myself.

One morning in October, I had finally woken up to how bad things were in our life together. As I drove him to work, I made a comment to him about his attitude and treatment of the women in his life and he immediately dismissed it. I looked at him and saw the irritation etched into his face and for a split second, I believed that I was wrong. That thought faded quickly though. I had to stop and ask myself how could someone I had given nothing but unconditional love to be so aloof to my feelings and the battles I was so obviously fighting?

A few days later, I finally worked up the courage to tell him we needed to separate.

My mind was made up and now his pleas were falling on deaf ears. I was done ignoring the early red flags simply because at least he loved my natural hair. I no longer believed that I could teach him how to give me the romance I was craving, or that I could make him really believe in my vision once I started making real money from my hustles. I knew that the only thing we could do at this point was to separate and he was not going to convince me otherwise.

It was one of the hardest decisions I have made yet, but one that I am proudest of.

I finally found the courage to stand up for myself and act on the feeling in my gut telling me I deserved better.

Fast forward to December. During our separation, I was forced to really think about my hair and how much I hid behind it in both the literal and physical sense. The confidence that I felt in my natural hair journey was superficial because it developed from my husband's approval. It felt forced and I felt like a fraud.

So on that December night, I placed my hair in six twists and cut them off one by one at the roots without a second thought. I remember the fear I felt in my heart as I was twisting my hair just melting away as I looked in the mirror and saw a shell of the woman I thought I would become. I knew that once I cut my hair I would really be cutting off any connection to the lies I had been telling myself over the years. I would finally begin the real process of healing. As I cut off each twist, I felt lighter and lighter and knew this was just what I needed.

I left my husband and my hair in 2017.

While I never saw it coming, it wasn't because the signs weren't there. For years, I practically begged for romance, for him to take the lead in our lives, for him to push me and be as supportive of my dreams as I was of his, but to no avail. We rarely had the really hard conversations and when we did, there was a lack of change afterward. He took me for granted and gave me a surface level love that was just enough to make me content.

So with my choice to cut my hair and make a bold move to serve myself, I also made the courageous choice to leave behind complacency in my love life. I chose to do what I needed in order to fall in love with my damn self so that I could honor the woman I once was and who I was striving to be.

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissons@xonecole.com

Featured image by Getty Images

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When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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