Meet my dreadlocks. They are one year old this month. My mom hates them. My son thinks they are fun (to pull on). Me, well, most days I love them and some days I just want to cut them off and burn them, which would make my mother a very happy woman.
Photo: One year old dreads.
I started my dreadlocks when Sir Riel was 4 months old. It was an uncomfortable and sometimes painful process – a few multiple hour sessions with Mariah backcombing, twisting, rolling, tugging, and needling my hair into multiple fuzzy ropes. I’d sit there on the floor cross-legged, nursing my son when he needed it, cuddling him, and trying not to pinch him when Mariah pulled too hard! So, why go through all the pain for a head of messy permanent-bad-hair-day dreadlocks?
Hair is a big deal. Every single person I know has an emotional relationship with their hair of one degree or another. We cut, dye, style and obsess about our hair being too curly or too straight, too light or too dark, too thick or thin. I know women who keep their hair long because that’s how their boyfriends like it, and other’s who keep their hair short in defiance of their religion. I know men who shave their head once a year and then let it grow all year long until the next shave. Some people keep their hair covered at all times, others never cut it. Hair is impacted by religion, gender, culture, fashion, health, and more. Hair is a big deal.
I have an emotional relationship with my hair just like everyone else. My hair has been a big part of my life for a long time, and I could probably write my life story from the perspective of my hair. But this blog post isn’t about my hair’s life story, it is about my dreadlocks so here are ten reasons I have them:
10. I want to go back to my government job with dreadlocks. I love my job at the Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons. My job is all about educating people about human trafficking and helping the province find ways to protect trafficked persons. In fact, today is my LAST DAY OF MATERNITY LEAVE before going back to my job tomorrow and I am SO EXCITED to go ‘back to work’ (like these last 16 months of parenting a baby have been a holiday or something). Well, not many ‘white gals’ have dreadlocks in government and I thought it might be fun to stir things up a little.
9. I like the funny looks people give me. Dreadlocks come with a certain stereotype and people definitely give me the ‘what is with your hair’ or ‘I don’t trust you’ looks from time to time. I’m that smiley girl who greets everyone walking down the street and am used to a warm reception. At first it was alarming when people treated me differently. What? Really? People actually judge me that harshly because of my hair? Wow. But now I see it as an important reminder of what I want to try very hard NOT to do: judge people for their appearance, or for that matter, judge people at all.
8. They are an expression of my non-conformity. I don’t believe in trying to fit into any box and I certainly don’t believe in changing my appearance to meet some external societal ideal or expectation. Our culture is constantly throwing information at women to tell us that our teeth need to be whiter, our hair softer, our eye lashes longer, our waist thinner, our clothes newer, and our lips shinier. My hair lets the world know, and more importantly serves as a daily reminder to me, that I don’t believe in all that bullshit.
7. They make me smarter. Dreadlocks are like wireless internet, they connect you to all the cosmic knowledge of the universe. Okay, just kidding. But they definitely don’t make me any less smart or hard-working, contrary to common stereotyping, and I suppose I’m out to prove that.
6. Dreads are easier. Make no mistake, maintaining clean healthy dreads is hard work, but a lot of things about having dreadlocks is easier. I wash them once a month or so with Dr. Bronner’s soap, and I never have to worry too much about how to style my hair.
Photo: My dreads shortly after they were ‘born’ January 2012.
5. Dreadlocks make great dancing hair. I do a lot of West African Dance which involves a lot of big movements and long locks accentuate the moves. I know it sounds silly. It’s a little like shaving your body so you swim faster or growing your thumb nail long so you can play the guitar without a pick. People really do that.
4. Dreadlocks are fun! And fun is good for you. I have a serious job. I take parenting seriously. I read serious books. I have serious conversations with serious people about things like the state of the world, indigenous rights, violence against women, and food security. So, imagine how great it is to look in the mirror every time I go to the bathroom and, zow, there’s a little explosion of fun seeing my locks flying in all their directions.
3. They help me stand up to my insecurities. I say I’m a non-conformist and yet I sometimes succumb to those nasty ‘I’m not good enough, thin enough, beautiful enough’ thoughts that wiggle their way into my head. My dreadlocks force me to let go of my insecurities by saying ‘you can either accept me or get rid of me’. I want to lovingly accept myself for who I am inside and out, not hide myself or diminish myself by trying to be something I’m not.
2. I like them. I like having dreadlocks. I like how they look (most of the time). That seems a good enough reason to have them, doesn’t it?
1. They remind me to be true to myself. My dreadlocks remind me to stick to my instincts and my dreams, even if other people don’t approve or understand. When I see myself in the mirror I am reminded to be my authentic self, to be genuinely me, even as who I am and how I express myself shifts and changes over time.
So there you have it. 10 reasons why I have dreadlocks.
Photo: Me with dreadlocks when I was 19 years old, taken in Kenya.
Mr. Hempleseed and I will be going to the first weekend of our Adoption Education Program this weekend. I received the outline of the two days and we’ll be covering topics such as adoptive vs. biological parenting, openness in adoption, special needs of adopted children, trans-racial adoption, building resilience in children, and sibling issues in adoption. I am looking forward to this learning journey and I know it will give me lots of think (and write!) about.
Locks of Love,