In case you as readers didn’t know, I have had dreadlocks for about a year now. They’ve been with me for a good majority of my senior year in highschool, as well as the entire summer of 2012, and some of my time in university. They mean a lot to me, both spiritually and emotionally. They have taken quite a while to form and look like actual locs, and in the time that they were forming, I became very attached to them. I love them. They’re a part of me, and they symbolize all the things I’ve been through in the past year. They are my hopes, they are my hopelessness, they are symbolic of my patience and my willingness for change and acceptance.
And I’m combing them out.
Sounds crazy, right? Trust me, I know it does. I love having dreadlocks. I love how they look, I love how they feel. I love washing my hair and having their ropey bodies brush against my back. I love the feeling of them when I wake up in the morning. I love the questions people ask me about them. I love having them. But I also know that as much as I love them, as much as they mean to me, there comes a time when I’ll have to move on.
When it comes down to it, my dreads have helped me through a lot of experiences. They’ve shown me what it’s like to be looked down upon by people who don’t agree with my choices. They’re the product of my rebellion against standard and mainstream ideas of beauty. I wear them proudly, and despite what some people will think and go so far as to tell me, I’m beautiful with or without them. They’re the result of my first adult decision that I’ve made by myself, even if my mom didn’t like it, even if my boyfriend or friends hadn’t approved of them. And from that, they’ve given me a small taste of who would be behind me in bigger decisions that I’ll have to make in life. My mom grew to love them, which I’m glad for. Not only have they helped me grow and realize who I am as a person, but they also changed a grown woman’s mind, and helped demonstrate diversity in the way people look and have made her more accepting and educated on a hairstyle that isn’t “dirty”, or “unprofessional” like some people have led her to believe.
However, in addition to all the good they have brought into my life, there are also negative issues that have been brought to my attention since I’ve made the choice to have them. Firstly, they’ve created a boundary between some people and myself. While it sounds crazy, the way people interact with me and approach me has changed drastically. People sometimes know me only as “the girl with dreads” or “that hippy-girl” or “neo-Marley”. There’s an RA in my hall with beautiful locs, and many people refer to him as such. While I understand it’s natural for people to use a certain characteristic to refer to someone, this goes deeper than that. People actually talk to me different, especially older adults and children. While children don’t know any better, it makes me uncomfortable when I’m at the grocery store and adults will stare at my hair, or when I go out to eat with my mom and elderly couples will whisper and point. I don’t like to be judged, especially on the basis of something so small as my hairstyle. I like to stand out, but not uncomfortably, and definitely not when I’m trying to live my life in a normal way doing normal things. This staring happens on a daily basis, and once in a while I get the “shouters”- people who will tell me “sick dreads!” or “WOW, are those dreads?!” While that attention is positive, it’s still interfering with my life, and can be very uncomfortable. Especially if I’m in a rush or I’m with someone special. It can get awkward.
In addition to outside feedback, I’ve also been feeling like having them has been holding me back in my life. Not only do others seem unable to look past my dreads and the stereotypes that come along with them, but by having them, I feel confined to feel and act certain ways. It sounds silly, I know. However, I feel as if I should be nature-loving, because I felt that way when I put my dreads in. I feel as if I shouldn’t wear certain clothing, because it doesn’t work well with the image my dreads portray. In fact, the way I feel and the way I’m sure my dreads project that I feel don’t seem the same to me at all. While I do love them, I’ve changed from who I was when I got them. And I feel like they don’t fit me anymore. When I look at them, while I still do think they’re beautiful, I don’t feel as connected to them anymore. I feel like they’re not “me”. And a women’s hair should compliment how she feels inside her heart. “A women’s hair is her own canvas,” a person once told me. I agree with that. Whether I’m bald or I have waist-length mermaid hair, I want it to represent how I am, and correlate with how I’m feeling. Bald hair can represent bravery, and to me, that’s something so special. My body is my art; it’s a way of portraying my feelings without having to speak. Right now, my dreads aren’t using the right words.
You may think that this is a long, pointless post. And I respect that. However, for me, this was a bigger decision to make than just deciding to “change my hairstyle”. It’s changing a part of who I am, which is why I need to comb them out. I’m not the person I was when I put them in, and I’m looking for a change. It’s like a coming-of-age ceremony, and while I know it will be painful after I take them out, I also know that I need this transition- and maybe, someday, I’ll decide that dreadlocks are right for me again. If that day comes, I’ll put them back in. But I can’t do that right now. At the moment, I need to look forward, and I need to accept the changes in my life. Overdramatic? Maybe. But I felt like I needed to write this to address to not only you, the reader, but also to myself, that I’m not the same person I was a year ago. And I need to let the world know.