For the last 3 years I have been wearing my hair in dreads. Many people adore them; needless to say, though, many people absolutely dread them! I'm not sure if its just that they are dreads or the fact that I choose not to style them a certain way, but everyone has a reaction and most of them are not positive.
From rude comments at the supermarket to people staring at me in horror, these past few years have been very bittersweet. Let's talk a walk down memory lane.
Rewind to the winter of 2009, I was pregnant with my son Dante and sporting a very socially acceptable head of long micro braids. Any black girl will tell you micro braids and braids in general the go to style for african american women everywhere as they are easy to style, always in fashion, economical and, more often than not, the cheapest style to get and maintain. I actually wore braids for most of my life, living out my dream of being the fabulous teenager that Brandy always wished she was.
There were never many times I didn't have my faithful braids with me, except the brief moment of experimentation with sew-in weaves that I went though once I was finally fed up with spending hours upon hours taking those things out, and then another 4 to 6 hours usually in the same day getting them put right back in. I'll be honest my sew-ins were pretty amazing they were undetectable and I was always complimented for having such “good hair”.
The thing about having those awesome undetectable sew-ins is that if you are like me you have very thick, tightly coiled hair and that doesn't look so glamorous and undetectable when it's blended with bone straight mongolian tracks or extensions. In fact, it looks -- and please forgive me for using the word, but it looks RATCHET! So in order for a West Indian girl like me to pull off those weaves I would have to first relax my hair so that it was straight and able to blend in with the person who's hair I was actually wearing.
Now, I know the term "creamy crackheads" is used for women who are supposedly addicted to relaxing their otherwise textured curly hair, however as a woman who has relaxed my hair many times I can honestly say there's nothing about the process that I found addictive. Maybe the results are addictive to some, but in all seriousness it burns like hell.
Like I said, in 2009 I was pregnant with my son and one thing all my mother-to-be books taught me is that putting any type of chemicals on my head while I was with child was potentially dangerous to the baby, hence my decision to go back to the braids I'd worn all my life. I loved my braids and they made my pregnancy much easier without having to worry about what I would be doing with my hair everyday.
Once my son arrived I was ready to go back to sew-ins, but a phone conversation with my best friend Chenelle lead me to consider something different.
Chenelle had been natural for almost a year at the time and loving it all the way. She was looking at a hair product and wasn't sold on the reviews so I suggested that she check out some videos on it and see what people were saying. Of course that lead to me also looking and watching countless hours of natural hair videos.
I was impressed. All the women looked amazing and seemed to have major self-esteem boosts from being their natural selves. I was suddenly seriously considering the whole natural hair thing.
That July, Chenelle came up NJ to visit as she always does, but this time she was rocking a head of the most beautiful bouncy curls I've ever seen. I remember I could not take my eyes off of her hair or keep my hands out of it! That night I went home and watched even more hair journeys and started the path to my own.
After about 9 months of “transitioning,” which consisted of an endless slew of twist-outs, braid-outs, yarn braids and even wigs to get me though that awkward super short hair stage after I finally cut my hair, I stumbled upon a collection of “tag” videos. It was basically a bunch of videos by different people narrating their experiences throughout their loc journey.
One video in particular caught my eye: it was of a beautiful girl by the name of Moecah99. She had luscious, thick dreads and made it undeniable that women could have dreadlocks and look beautiful, graceful and elegant. Her video testimony was just the push I needed.
Finally on Mother's Day 2010, once again on the phone with Chenelle, while installing yet another set of twists, I mentioned the possibility of not taking this set out and allowing my hair to dread. She was all for it! An hour later my decision was final and my dreadlock journey began.
The first 8 months with my dreads I did everything I was “supposed” to. I washed, retwisted and oiled my hair on a regular basis. However, because my hair was still short, I got the looks! I can't deny that I was treated like a grotesque mythological creature by almost everyone including the father of my children. People just weren't here for it! If I was Beyonce, my dreads were MY ugly short bob haircut.
It seemed like almost 2 years before my longtime boyfriend would even look at me, let alone touch or acknowledge my hair, and I loved every minute of it. I more than expected a less than favorable reaction to my hair so I wasn't bothered, actually I get off on making people uncomfortable by being myself and not doing anything particularly offensive.
During my 9th month of being locked I started to take an even more apparently offensive approach to my dreads and stopped manipulating my hair! Some call it freeform, others call it not loving myself enough to take care of my hair. I stopped retwisting it and started to just wash it and let it grow.
This seems to blow minds and send people just running in fear. I am constantly being asked “So when are you going to do your hair?” “When is the last time you did a retwist?'' or being compared to Bob Marley which is actually my favorite and most appreciated compliment, even when its not meant to be.
Every trip out the front door is a new encounter with some someone that has a problem with my hair. The stares aren't an issue. I understand that people sometimes (or most times) act like children when they are faced with something new, so I take my lumps when it comes to that, but it never seems to end.
One night I was in the supermarket, standing in line, minding my own business, when I hear someone say “That's disgusting.” When I looked up it was a woman standing two customers ahead of me staring directly at my hair while talking to an old man who I assumed was her father. When he started to look to see what she was talking about, I then heard her say, “Don't look, don't look,” but it was too late he was looking and I could tell he wasn't liking.
What confused me was that they were with a boy who looked to be about 15 and he had dreads (manicured of course) but even more shocking was that the boy looked embarrassed for his less informed elders.
In situations like this I never have an emotional response, mostly because they don't really get to me enough to garner one, if anything I just give the much deserved blank stare that has “Are you kidding me?'' written all over it and go about my way.
Here is the thing, when I made the decision 3 years ago to loc my hair, I expected more negative reactions than I actually get. I knew that many people would not understand it or find the look appealing, and when I decided to freeform and allow my hair to simply grow naturally I knew that even some of my fellow loc wearers would have an opinion but I made the decision for myself and will continue to wear my hair this way because I am happy.
I tell people that deciding to wear dreads was the most selfish decision I've ever made, and it is also one of the best. I've never been or felt more like myself and being that I am happy with my choice; there is nothing anyone can do or say that will ever change it. We all have to do what makes us happy, that's what makes us different and unique.
So regardless of If you wear dreads, are a loose natural, wear braids, weave or a relaxer remember that it's your choice and you have to own it because people are going to judge you regardless of your decisions, at the very least make sure that the decisions are yours.