Relationships are hard. Sometimes you can like almost everything about someone… but still find them borderline gross. Or be jealous of them, or resent them! And gang, lemme tell you: this week’s question has all of that going on. PLUS A MANBUN.
[Reminder: Need help figuring out if someone is hot or gross or might be fucking a dog? Maybe we can help! Or… not! But you’ll never know if you don’t try, so send your questions to [email protected] and prepare yourselves for inevitable disappointment. Or you could cut us out entirely and just buy a bear trap.]
My boyfriend has long hair. He has a really good Jason Mamoa surfer vibe going on. It looks great from far away. He is complimented on it constantly. However, close up, it is not really that healthy. My boyfriend is a staunch no-pooer, but he doesn’t seem to have a reason other than this one time he read a bunch of articles about how sulfates are bad for your hair. All sulfates, not just sodium-laureth. He has tiny flakes of dandruff and a ton of greasy buildup at the roots. I can feel the oil on my hands after I run my fingers through his hair. The bottom of the strands are dry and he has a lot of split ends. I know a little messiness is part of the look that he is trying to achieve and I don’t want to police his beauty decisions. I don’t spend time styling my hair so it’s not like I can ask him to start a 10 step routine in the morning.
There are some other things that could be going on. I think I am jealous. I have really good hair too. It’s long, wavy strawberry blonde, shiny (not greasy) and looks great with my eyes. However, I don’t get as many compliments as he does and when I do get compliments, it seems like they come with a ton of garbage. Like I have to think about if the person who gave it to me is just trying to flirt with me, or if they only value my physical appearance, or if I should even feel good about a compliment that is about my physical appearence, etc, etc. In college I had a few really close guy friends who, in the end, couldn’t be friends with me because I didn’t want anything more. I know it’s stupid but it really fucked with my sense of personal value.
Another thing is that it really annoys me that he won’t listen to anything I say about haircare. Like I said before, all he did was read a few articles online and he didn’t even read them that closely! He didn’t even realize there were other types of sulfates besides sodium laureth. I’m not an expert by any means, but I grew up reading 17 and Cosmo, and I’ve had long hair for a lot longer than he has. He is someone who is really specific about the brands that he likes and doesn’t listen to other people’s opinions about it. You know that hipster asshole that Abbi dates in the beginning of Broad City? That is literally him. And it’s fine, it usually doesn’t bother me that much because I don’t really have any opinions about high performance lambswool trouser liners or whatever, but I wish when I had a legitimate complaint, I could say it without feeling dumb. Like obviously, this is a shallow issue. But it bothers me! I don’t want to force him to do anything, but if I let it fester, it obviously turns into a huge web of shit!!!!!!!!! Like I am channeling a huge amount of rage into this email and I don’t know where it is coming from! He also uses some dumb hipster soap that smells bad!!!
Context: I really love him and he is a great person. He volunteers at the homeless shelter and the animal shelter!! And he doesn’t even brag about it that much!
First off, thank you for this question. Because your words inspired Dustin to identify THE BEST ongoing comeback of all time:
“He didn’t even realize there were other types of sulfates besides sodium laureth!”
I don’t wanna brag, but we’ve been dropping that one A LOT over on the Overlord Slack channel. And it’s all thanks to you!
But back to the matter at hand, let me assure you that you’ve come to the right place. Not only have we addressed similar (gross) compatibility quirks in the past, but the Overlords happen to have many thoughts about grooming and personal hygiene. Several of us have experimented with the “no-poo” method of hair care (though it never gave anyone hair as nice as Petr’s bygone flowing locks). And on a personal note, I married a dude who occasionally rocks a manbun like whoa. Your question struck all the right chords, is what I’m saying.
So let’s address the unkempt elephant in the room right off the bat: If your boyfriend’s hair is as greasy and jacked up as you’re describing, then he’s not no-pooing correctly. Not using shampoo doesn’t mean you don’t use ANYTHING, EVER. Typically there’s some variation of a “baking soda followed by apple cider vinegar rinse” procedure that’s implemented, though there are a lot of different methods people swear by (from eggs to clay to castile soap). And, sure, maybe for the first month you might look a bit greasier than normal while your scalp adjusts to the new routine and rebalances its sebum production, but that’s a step in the journey — not the destination.
(Another juicy tidbit from our Slack? Steven Wilson calling dandruff “nature’s glitter” — which is funny and gross, like a laugh that turns into a burp that left-turns into vomit unexpectedly. Do you see what we deal with?)
The point is, your boyfriend is definitely grooming all wrong. Does that answer your question? What… was your question? Honestly, I sort of lost track of what advice you’re actually seeking. Because amidst your very detailed rant, an even larger truth emerged:
You kinda hate your boyfriend, don’t you? Or at least, you resent the fuck out of him, and you definitely don’t sound very attracted to him. And it’s no wonder! I can only imagine dude smells like patchouli and stale milk or something, and he volunteers but he “doesn’t even brag about it that much” (implying that he definitely brags about it at least a little), and he doesn’t seem to listen to you. Honestly, he sounds exhausting. And not worth it! So… why do you bother?
Look, nobody is perfect, and loving someone means letting them be themselves. You’re never going to love everything someone wears or all their weird habits, and that’s fine. I think of it as a question of balance: Is their happiness over the issue in question greater or lesser than your unhappiness? Right now my husband has a big ol’ beard. Like, BIG. And I am not a fan. I mean, I don’t hate beards, but I wish he trimmed it more and kept it tidier. But that’s my personal preference, and I don’t think it outweighs his personal preference to let that shit flow. He’s proud of it, and fair enough! It makes him happy, and that on its own makes me happy. But the one area I did seek compromise on is the ‘stache, because that DOES impact me. I don’t have any intention of getting a mouthful of facial hair every time we kiss, so all I asked was that he keeps that part trimmed — and he agreed. Also, he shampoos and conditions and beard-oils that shit DAILY, so it always smells great (otherwise that would be another issue I’d be raising with him!). In your case, if you were to say I HATE MANBUNS, then I’d be pro-FauxMomoa on this. His hairstyle is his choice, and it’s not a real detriment to your life. But you’re not saying that! You’re saying I HATE GROSS GREASY DANDRUFF HAIR, which is fair! That shit’s getting on your fingers and pillowcases, and more importantly — it’s avoidable if he just did the research! And as YOUR partner, he should be open to compromising on this, provided you’re willing to help him find methods that will satisfy your desire for hygiene and his desire to fuck sulfates in the ass or whatever.
But it also sounds like you’re dealing with some deeper issues too. As you note, jealousy might be part of it — and your desire for validation combined with your trust issues regarding the motives of others is a WHOLE other knot you’re gonna need to spend some time unraveling. Like, those dudes in college probably sucked, and you were better off without them, but also? Just because someone compliments you while flirting or trying to get in your pants, it doesn’t necessarily invalidate the compliment. They might genuinely mean what they said… but they may have only bothered saying it because they had other motives. More importantly, you shouldn’t base your sense of self-worth on the stray commentary of horny college bros. Or anyone, really. Do YOU like your hair? Then that’s all that matters! And looks aren’t everything! And people suck! And while it’s great that you’re already self-aware on this thorny subject, it’s definitely one you should continue addressing, for your own happiness and the health of future relationships. After all, maybe you don’t need to trust the opinions of random strangers, but you’re probably going to want to trust your partners in the future. His cleanliness is on him, but this issue is on you, so you gotta do some soul-searching to see how much one is impacting the other right now. Instead of jealousy over the attention he gets, maybe turn that around and be happy that other people appreciate him the way you do — and that he’s chosen you over them?
Or don’t place any value on the opinions of people who are complimenting THAT greasy mess, because they clearly have no taste.
Ultimately, I think the majority of your concerns are valid, and it might be worth trying to have another talk with him. This time, focus on compromise, and the impact his grooming choices (and his dismissal of your opinions) are having on you. In the end, if his dandruffy lifestyle is more important to him than you are, then you really don’t need him. But only put in that effort if this guy is worth it to you, based on attributes I can only assume you didn’t bother to mention in your letter. Because based on what you wrote? I’d say dump his greasy ass already and move on. There are plenty of cleaner manbuns to be had — and many of them are attached to less-pretentious dudes.
Or just wait till he’s sleeping and light that shit on fire. The ultimate “No Poo” method is having nothing to shampoo in the first place!
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