My husband – whom I absolutely love – has grown a ridiculous man bun. I don’t know what he’s trying to prove or who he’s trying to be but, as far as I’m concerned, he’s a professional man, a 45-year-old father of two who should know better. Whenever we see our friends I look at their neat and tidy husbands and feel furious that he’s making himself laughable. How can I make him see that this ‘experiment’ needs to come to an end?
Imagine for a moment that this letter read, ‘Dear A&E, my wife has cut her hair very short and she looks unfeminine and ridiculous. How can I make her see that she ought to know better?’ It’s not hugely comfortable reading is it?
So often we see our own self-image reflected in the decisions of the people we love. Our issues with controlling their decisions will be, more often than not, to do with our own vulnerabilities.
You want the clever, professional man to look like a clever professional man. He is, of course, still a clever professional man, but you are getting hysterical because you are worried that others won’t see him that way and will judge you accordingly. Take a look at this behaviour, Pained. It could do you great harm.
Maybe he looks ridiculous. Maybe he just looks different. Different from what you are accustomed to, different from the way you think your partner should look, different from the other men at the pub or the parents’ evening. But you don’t absolutely love them, you absolutely love him. And so we would gently ask you to grow up.
Your seething resentment and embarrassment will humiliate him and, although people may not remember what has been said, they will always remember the way someone else has made them feel.
This is his hair journey to navigate. We would imagine that, at 45, he is rather thrilled to possess luxuriant enough hair to form a man bun. A vast proportion of the acceptably neat and tidy men you mention will be looking at him with envy. As will their wives.
You could, we suppose, explain to him that you are finding the change in his appearance a little uncomfortable and that you don’t like the man bun, but – and this is a GARGANTUAN but – you love him however he looks.
Listen, Pained, it’s perfectly OK for you to dislike his hair. But it is not your job to make him see the error of his ways. You are not his mother, his teacher or his stylist. There needs to be slack in relationships, room for people to ‘experiment’ and grow in all sorts of different directions. We are all so educated to believe that everything means something.
Is he unhappy? Is he rebelling? Is he having a crisis of confidence? Is he subtly starting to separate from me and our life? But this is not a full-face tattoo, a life-threatening weight gain or a 25- year-old mistress. It’s not contempt or dismissal or a turning away from intimacy. It’s hair.
We can all be a bit David Attenborough: ‘And now the male of the species prepares to leave his mate by displaying increasingly flamboyant hair.’ Well… is he? Probably not. He’s probably playing, having some fun and trying new hair on for size. Why rain on his parade?
So here’s a New Year project for you: stop worrying about his hair and start looking into why it bothers you so much. Challenge your own discomfort. Because this is not a happy way for you to live. Emilie is growing her armpit hair to challenge the discomfort of how she feels about it (the patriarchy blah, blah) and her husband hates it.
But it’s not a deal-breaker. It’s not even a happiness breaker. It’s just armpit hair. And sometimes a man bun is just a man bun. It’s not making a mockery of you or your way of life. It’s not disassembling the man you love. It’s just going without a trim for a while and trying something new.
Go easy, Pained. Don’t turn a hairstyle into a horror story.
More from the Midults:
What readers advised in response to last week’s problem: ‘My husband and I can’t agree on how much to spend on Christmas presents’
@SimonBailey: ‘Speaking as one of the in-laws, I spend lots on my grandchildren while my daughter in law’s family can’t afford to spoil them like I do. Having read this article and some of the comments, I can see the error of my ways and how unfair I have been. I feel guilty, so all of the expensive presents are going back to the shops to be replaced with stockings.’
@MalcomMcLean: ‘It’s a difficult one, particularly since the economic situation has changed. When grandparents were children, toys were expensive and valued, whilst housing was cheap. Now you can buy mountains of Chinese tat for next to nothing, whilst you can’t afford the space to keep it all. Grandparents often don’t realise that their presents aren’t really helpful, and it can be very difficult to say this tactfully.’
@RoPe: ‘I’d suggest a Secret Santa for the adults – but with a healthy budget so you can buy something nice. Then let everyone buy for the kids as normal.’