Hey, a lot of this may seem fairly obvious to you dreads out there, but I had to explain things to my english teacher:
Reconciliation is the word that springs to my mind when I consider the state of my twisted, knotted hair. About fourteen months ago, I had my hair styled into dreadlocks. I had desperately pleaded with my reluctant mother to allow me to undertake this unusual choice. Ever since I was a twelve year-old reggae fanatic and had admired the look on my favorite musicians. She was understandably concerned; about how I would be perceived, if dreadlocks would interfere with my process of being admitted into a college, if I would be able to keep them clean. After several arguments and explanations about how to resolve these matters, I delivered my ultimatum. My sixteenth birthday was approaching. If I couldn’t have permission, I didn’t want anything. The burden of the guilt of thinking of me turning sixteen with nothing to celebrate it with finally persuaded her.
My ecstasy was met with mixed reactions. I frantically called my thirty-five closest friends proclaiming, “I’m dreadlocking my hair!” some shared in my ebullience while others seemed to express concerns analogous with those of my mother’s.
After scurrying all over Queens and Manhattan getting “consultations” and less formal advice, I settled on having Thembeni, an aspiring singer and friend-of-a-friend, to help me get started. The process itself is surprisingly simple: Thembeni sectioned my hair, combed it towards its roots, and twisted each section with a small amount of wax. The best part was hearing Thembeni sing while she worked. Even though I was overjoyed to see my hair in twists, I realized that this was only the first step in a lengthy process.
Before I locked it, I had never actually liked my hair. It was frizzy and kind of stringy, and I used to blow-dry it straight, which it wouldn’t ever remain. Certainly, I was “liberated” enough to know intellectually that I should be proud of the natural state of my hair, but emotionally, I felt it was ugly. I tortured my follicles with chemicals and too much heat, all for the sake of seeming prettier—it took me awhile to internalize that I am incapable of finding manifestations of self-hatred “pretty”. If I let my hair dry naturally, it would curl and mystically expand, and I would not like to be seen like this. Looking back on how deeply vestiges of cultural prejudices fueled by corporate interests affected my self-image, I am horrified.
I met a man with dreadlocked hair several years ago, and we discussed his experiences with the style. He felt like “a tree in the wind” when he went swimming in the ocean, because his dreadlocks swayed with the current. I have since met scores of people who have had dreadlocks, want dreadlocks, like dreadlocks, or want to feel mine out of curiosity. One of the things I love most about dreadlocks is that everyone’s are unique. Dreadlocks vary in width, length, texture, fullness, color, and odor, and some are even decorated with beads. There are also a plethora of ways to make dreads, some people let their hair matte and then twist it, some use glue to hold their dreads together. Overall, it is a very individualized process.
My hair is now related to me, it has meaning and beauty, it represents my personality, and I love it. I love the way it feels against the back of my neck when I’m dancing or running. I love the way it is fluid, and expands with frizz until I twist each lock with pomade. I love the way my dreadlocks look with my favorite t-shirt. I love the fact that I chose a relatively uncommon path, and that my image is now somewhat more reflective of my attitude and ideas. I love that, as I am exploring and forming my identity, I am able to love a representation of it.