From painful experience, I’ve learned to avoid giving advice on matters of the heart. I’ve lost more than one girlfriend by opening my big mouth and telling her what I really thought about her man. Through those experiences I’ve learned, sometimes people might say that they want you to be honest with them, but it can be a mistake to be TOO honest. Being too honest can rip the scab off a wound that goes deeper than you realized.

Before you know it, poof, there goes your ya ya sisterhood, and the dude in question always manages to stay in the picture.

I’ve definitely experienced this enough to have learned my lesson. But here I go again. This Ask Afrobella is about matters of the hair and heart. Read on.

Dear Bella:

I’m a 32-year-old mom-to-be who started the transition to natural hair last summer. Unlike some other Bellas, I chose to have my hair blown out into a straight, more mainstream style while I transitioned. Well, I am within about an inch or so (yay!!!) of being totally natural and I’d like to wear my hair in more more natural styles. Having had a relaxer since I was about six, I had no idea what my texture was before. Even if it were the definition of what our people call nappy, I would like to wear it in its natural state, especially now that I am expecting. Between morning sickness and figuring out what looks good on my changing body, a girl just doesn’t have time to fuss with her ‘do!

The problem is my fiance. He has a severe allergic reaction to natural hair, to the point of calling it ugly and unattractive. He and his mother have gone so far as to tell me I need to “Go get a perm.” A few months into dating, I discovered that he himself would perm his hair to achieve the wave look. I was appalled, not because it was a perm so much but because he seems to dislike his own hair texture so much. He has since grown this mess out, but he still wears wave caps to achieve the wave pattern, which looks nice, but is a bit dated. It is 2008, after all!

In any case, while shopping a few days ago, I pointed to this beautiful woman who was wearing a curly afro and commented that I loved her hair and that as my pregnancy progressed, I’d like to wear my hair in a similar style, braided or in twists perhaps. He nearly lost his mind. Long story short, Bella, is there anything you might suggest in a situation like this? I haven’t read your blog long, but I absolutely LOVE it. Your vibe and advice are so refreshing – you feel like an old friend.

Shay in Atlanta.

Hey Shay, mmm mmm mmmmm. This is a tough one.

First of all, let me just say congratulations on your new addition to the family! This should be a beautiful time in your life, so I hate to hear that you’ve got any kind of stress. A new, beautiful baby is growing inside you, and you’re poised and ready to make the ultimate commitment to your fiance. But I wouldn’t be Afrobella if I didn’t voice some concerns about your husband to be, his mama, and their feelings about natural hair.

And seeing as you’re writing to me as opposed to, I dunno, straight-bella, perma-bella, or relax-a-bella, or some other blog where chemically changing the texture of your natural crown is encouraged, you already know my thoughts. I think your hair is your hair, you should be able to wear and style it however you want to. Especially now that your body is changing, your hormones are hopping, and you’re trying to take the best care of you and the life inside you.

Just so you’re completely informed, although many bellas avoid dye and relaxer during pregnancy, according to Ask A Doctor, “there is no evidence that I am aware of to suggest that dyes, straighteners or other treatments are dangerous when used in early pregnancy. Nor is there any good evidence that use of such treatments affects becoming pregnant. Little if any of these chemicals are absorbed into the mother’s circulation, and so the pregnancy should not receive a significant exposure.”

But this is only according to an online doctor. You should ask your real doctor what they think.

Enough about the physical effects of relaxer. Let’s talk about the mental.

Of course, not everyone feels as passionately as I do about embracing your hair’s natural texture, but in this case… I hate to say it, but — to paraphrase Bob Marley — your husband-to-be and mother-in-law-to-be sound like victims of mental slavery. None but themselves can free their minds. I see naturally kinky and curly hair as beautiful and so do you, but some people are just really closed-minded and conditioned to only see straight hair as beautiful. It makes me sad, especially for people who are not born with that texture, who will therefore spend their entire lives battling what their hair naturally wants to be.

It’s your husband’s right to style his hair as he sees fit. He can go ahead and get his Terence Howard on (if you don’t know, now you know), or rock a nouveau Soul Glo like Jennifer Hudson’s new fiance… my problem is not with his own styling choices. My problem is that he’s trying to impose his own ideas of beauty on you and devaluing your self-esteem in the process.

Does he love you as a person inside and out, or is he more concerned about your physical appearance? And if you guys aren’t even married yet and already he’s tripping about how you want to style your hair, how’s he going to act when you’ve got bigger concerns to worry about? Like, um, kids? If you have a girl, will he want to relax their hair at an unreasonably early age? So many questions.

This Ask Afrobella troubled me so much, I had to call my parents. They’ve been married for a lifetime, so I knew they’d have some light to shed.

My dad weighed in : “From my experience, you never give advice on somebody’s spouse, or spouse to be. However, I find it difficult to understand in this day and age how someone could go to such lengths to alter his appearance. If he wants to alter his appearance, then that’s up to him. But what is he going to marry? Is he going to marry the lady’s hair? Did he just fall in love with her hair, or did he fall in love with a person with all kinds of different attributes? This is how she has to approach him. As simple as this issue is, they need to resolve it before they get married. They’re already starting off with a conflict, and it isn’t going to get any better. You have to resolve this issue, he has to love you for who you are before you get married. I see your mother many times and I don’t like her hairstyle… but would I leave her for that, or make her life miserable? No. It is what she wants to do with her hair, and how she wants to present herself. I love her regardless.”

Cue frosty silence from Mama Bella on the other line. Don’t get yourself in trouble, Dad!

My mom also offered advice. “It’s better she’s independent now and says this is MY body, and MY hair, and don’t let his self esteem issues transfer on to you. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, not in the beheld. He should love you as you are. Punto finale.”

So that’s what I think, and what my parents think. But the REAL question is what you think is best for you and your baby. This man will be a part of your lives, and you love him, right? So you’ve got to consider the kind of family life you want, need, and deserve to have. Let’s consider your options with respect to your potentially transitioning into natural hairstyles.

Option 1 — You could take a stand and tell your husband and his mama, “love me, love my hair.” You have a sitdown and explain to him, honeybunny, I love you and I see a bright future for us… but I’m going to change my hairstyle during this pregnancy. I hope you can still see me as the same woman you asked to marry you, regardless of if my hair is straight or curly.

What’s the worst that could happen? I’d hate to think your man would break up with you over this. So maybe over time him, his mama, and his relatives come up with sassy put downs about your hair. If you’re strong in your desire to wear your hair as you see fit, you’ll learn how to deflect their hateration without letting it ruin your day. My mom and dad might not want to admit this now, but they weren’t exactly thrilled when I first laid down the creamy crack. I took some jokes at home from family and friends. But they’ve definitely come around now, though — the ones I care about, anyway. It takes time, but option 1 could be worth it.

Option 2 — you suck it up for the sake of family unity. As someone who’s been married for six years herself, I’ll tell ya — marriage takes compromise. You want to do one thing, he wants to do another, and in my experience it’s best to choose your battles wisely. This is the man you’re walking down the aisle with, and having a child with. It is just hair, right? Maybe working with him to overcome his issues, and letting him know that even his own natural hair looks good without an S-Curl or a wave cap, could be a good step towards his future acceptance.

Option 3 — don’t even talk to him about it, just do what you want to do anyway. Try this next weekend — give yourself a day of beauty and pampering. Deep condition your hair and style it the way you want to, put on your favorite outfit and make yourself feel beautiful. Let him see how you look and how it makes you feel, and see what he has to say then. It might not be as bad as you anticipate. And if he truly loves you, he’ll have to learn to love you as you want to be, eventually.

Which option will you go with?

I really, really hope this helps. Lots of love and encouragement to you, Shay.

Bellas and fellas, PLEASE chime in and tell Shay what you all think. What advice should I have given, here? What advice do you have to give? This is a tough one, right?

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