So, I have dreadlocks. If you used to read my blog before I dropped off the face of the earth, you probably remember that. Back in 2010, my girlfriends locked up my hair for me. I kept the dreads for about 10 months before I decided that it just wasn’t working for me. Since we’d actually sectioned, backcombed, crocheted, waxed, and powdered them into submission (see also: into hard pieces of hair that resembled cat poop [love you, Jane and Joy!]), I was able to simply comb them out at the 10 month mark. Basically, they never really locked up – they just looked like dreadlocks. Oh well. It was still an important time of learning and growth!
Then, a few months later, I learned about the “freeform” or “neglect” method of obtaining dreadlocks. This method immediately struck me as right and good. I had been pondering my previous set and had come to the conclusion that for me, dreadlocks should never be an immediate result of one night. I wanted dreadlocks because I refused to comply with pointless social expectations; because I wanted a near-constant reminder to surrender control of my life to God; because I have more important things than my hair (being a wife, being a mama, cleaning my house, making art, connecting with friends…) to think about. So then, why should dreadlocks come easily? Obtaining them should be a slow, steady, thoughtful process. Each little knot, loop, and stray hair should be appreciated. And, perhaps most importantly of all, the dreadlocks shouldn’t look perfect. Wouldn’t that defeat the purpose? Wouldn’t it just be another hairstyle? What would I learn from having perfect hair? I would have naturally-formed dreadlocks, and they would happen in their own time, in their own way.
On February 14, 2011, I did a bit of sectioning to my hair and then agitated the sections a little bit by doing something called “twist and rip” (it’s the most gentle way to give your hair a few starting knots). Then……….I left it all alone. Yeah…that’s it.
Now, a little over 20 months later, my dreads are definitely coming along, but let me tell you – they look like freeform locks. They are squiggly and they are uneven and they are “interesting.” But they are exactly what they need to be and they teach me so many lessons and provide me with so many reminders to just let go. I am humbled by the way they have locked up and shrank to many different lengths. I am forced to look at myself in the mirror, recognize the glorious mess that is my hair, but then choose not to tame it. Oh, I’ve been tempted to chop it all off, and I’ve even wondered why I ever got myself into this in the first place. But all of that continually points me back (sometimes, with the help of encouraging words from wise friends) to the reasons I went down this road in the first place. Rise above. Surrender. Focus on what matters.
I first let go of my hair when I was still living in Rochester, NY, so I didn’t get a lot of attention (positive or negative) since dreadlocks weren’t all that uncommon around there. However, now that I live in Southern California again, I am amazed (and amused) at the things people have said and the looks they’ve given me.
My all-time favorite: “Wow! I love your dreads!…You’re obviously living a very free lifestyle!”
Oh, totally. Just, you know, living in a rental home with my husband and my three kids, cooking and baking and cleaning every day, going to church……that’s what you mean by a free lifestyle, right?
Seriously, though! It’s fascinating to me that dreadlocks elicit such an interesting stereotype. I do realize that there are particular lifestyles that are commonly associated with dreadlocked people, but I do find it interesting that there are people who simply give into that general assumption instead of opening their eyes and looking at the whole person standing before them.
I am not my dreadlocks. I am not my tattoos. I am not my height, or my weight, or my clothing. Sure, some of those things are physical aspects of my body, or they are reflections of my creative side and my spiritual beliefs, but they do not define me. Rather, they are defined by me. They are pieces of my story but they don’t give it all away. They provide glimpses into the story you’ll learn if you get to know me. But why stop with the pieces?