One Year Later

Funky Dreadies - 1 year!!

My one year dreadiversary is today. While I can’t believe it went by so fast, I also can’t believe I’ve only had dreadlocks for one year. I can’t seem to imagine a time before them and I can’t seem to imagine myself without them. I can see myself with long grey dreads and wrinkles and I love it!

The Technical Stuff:

My hair was this long prior to dreading. It took 14 hours of backcombing to start what is a lifelong process.(Backcombing isn’t necessary; another route to take is called “neglect” but I’ll let you Google that.) I made the mistake of using wax on day one. B.I.G. mistake! Wax actually just sticks the hairs together. It does not create real dreads, just the “look” of dreads. Movement and friction is needed for the hairs to actually lock up, so wax is very counter-productive. As a result, my dreads didn’t really begin to show a lot of progress for over 6 months.

At that time, I was able to do a deep cleanse to remove most of it (I’m still constantly removing it) and I saw huge progress after that. They began to shrink in length around 10 or 11 months, as they tightened. Palm-rolling helps them dread, as well as keep the bumps and loopies to a minimum. As you can tell, I don’t do much of that. 😉 Backcomb, then mostly neglect for me.

I wash with any non-residue soap: usually Dr. Bronners bar soap, Neutrogena has a no-residue shampoo or a handmade bar soap from the Farmer’s Market. I also use a baking soda and vinegar rinse some days. I need only wash every 5-7 days, which I did prior to dreads as well. Drying is easy in the summer, but in the winter or if there is a lot of humidity (basically never here) I use a blow dryer to thoroughly dry them. (Don’t ask what could happen if they aren’t thoroughly dried.)

1 Year Old Today!!

The Meaning I Found:

Dreadlocks are a journey and I knew mine was to be a spiritual one. From the moment I felt “it was time” I knew they would bring with them something. I just didn’t know what. I heard so many people talk about the “patience” it taught them. But patience over long periods has never been a challenge for me (in-the-moment patience is another subject).

Now looking back over the year I can very clearly see what it was/is that I’ve been learning. I’ll do my best to articulate it but forgive me I fail:


This has to be the biggest spiritual lesson that my dreadlocks have brought me. Snide remarks when someone thought I couldn’t hear, rolled eyes, hurtful jokes or dirty looks when they saw my hair were not uncommon, both from loved ones and strangers alike. There were people who made me feel ugly. There were plenty who assumed I was unintelligent or smoked pot or liked reggae (okay, I do like reggae but not because I have dreads). Likewise, there were people from whom I was expecting judgement and received none.

This showed me a lot about other people, good and bad. But mostly it was a mirror for me, showing me my own judgement and how often I see the surface of the moment but not the Truth beneath. How can I pass judgement? How can I truly know their heart or what they are going through and whether or not I’m really in a place of knowing them enough to call my assumptions fact? I can’t. I can only assume the best of everyone. I can only send them love and sympathy. I can only forgive and forget. I can only let go of my expectations or preconceived notions and move from a place of not knowing. Any other place is not my place.


Dreadlocks have a mind of their own. They twist and turn and grab and snag. They loop and bump and flatten out. But such is life. And this too shall pass. I can’t control every nuance of their existence. I can’t force them into something they are not. I can only be in this moment, appreciating what I can and accepting what is. The Serenity Prayer fits my challenging moments well.


There is no possible way to remain vain when you have dreads. I came to recognize my own vanity early in this process. I was terrified to wear my dreads down or uncovered. I was super-self-conscience walking into a room. About 8 months in, I started pushing my own boundaries of comfort – going places with my dreads down and without a wrap. It. Was. SO. Hard. It seemed the entire room would stare at me. Once, upon hearing a very hurtful comment in a store, I forced myself to take them out of their bun and shake them out. Why?

Because this is Who I Am. I’m not here to make someone else love me. I’m not here to be beautiful to anyone but myself and my husband. And he loves my dreads, as do I. In that moment, when I really wanted to hide, I picked myself up, forced myself to be confident. My dreads represent my Spirit: Free and loved and uniquely made. They represent the love of my husband, and the support he gives me as I find the Truth inside myself. They represent my being honest with myself, not conforming to the whims of others and loving myself, just the way I am. And they also represent my non-conformity to the values I wish to be free from.

There have been many times when I looked in the mirror over the past year and wondered what I’ve done. Times when I saw everything those negative commenters saw. But more often than not, I saw a strong woman, learning how to stand apart and in confidence. I saw a different kind of beauty. One that may not appeal to the world but one that fills me with Joy. I saw *Me*, a truer form of myself – true to myself.

I am not my hair.

My hair is me. 😀

[P.S. All dreadlock photos here. I’m going to do a seperate post about all the FAQ I’ve received over the past year. If you have any questions, ask away and I’ll answer those too.]

29 Replies to “One Year Later”

  1. this is no failure to express or articulate anything.
    this is my absolute favorite blog post EVER, ANYWHERE!
    it gave me chills, brought me to tears, made me laugh, and relaxed my fears.
    even though i am only 1 month in to my dread journey, i have already experienced ALL of these things that you so beautifully illuminate here. i can only hope to be so completely aware and articulate on my one year dreadiversary!
    you are beautiful! thank you for sharing!


  2. Very well put. Tara I swear I’m so busy some days I barely have time to stick my naturally curly / tangled hair in a ponytail. I then pick up my daughter at the afternoon school run and yes, i can feel the mums staring at my hair and sometimes it looks a bit like dreads. I gave up vanity for other’s approval too. If I want to put make up on and look nice, then its for me or just for simon for the day coz he likes to see me looking girly sometimes. ahahaahaa But I have gained the confidence that I don’t need fashion / make up and good hair to be loved. I just need to be me.

  3. I absolutely love this post, and much of it is due to envy because you did exactly what I really wanted to do. Except right after I decided I decided on dreads, I found out I was going bald. I missed out on the judgement and the wonderful things you’ve experienced, and it’s nice to hear someone else tell their tale.

  4. Happy dreadiversary Tara. You are such an amazing young woman. You probably can’t even imagine, at your age, how much you are going to enjoy your life. You are not letting the trappings of society dictate your life, therefore it will be most awesome. It took me to be grandma age before I “got” it. We need more beautiful, free spirits such as you in this world.

  5. Happy Dreadiversary!!! <— very cute by the way =-) I have been reading your blog for a little over a year…. I can hardly believe it has been a whole year. I kept thinking for SURE you and I would see each other before this. We also homeschool here in Southern Nevada =-) I have kept my eye out for a homeschooling or unschooling Mama with dreadlocks… but with my three running around wild I must have missed you =-) I also wanted to tell you what I always tell my children when they hear something not very nice about them…. I say “Well is it true? No, good then why do you care?” keep smiling and keep doing what you do best… being yourself! I do not care for my own hair to have dreadlocks, but think your hair looks GREAT! My youngest daughter has Samoan unrulely hair… OH MY, and there are many many many days I just let it be, and I am sure there are plenty of dirty looks, and maybe even comments… but I just don’t care enough to pay attention *snort* I look forward to another year of reading!

  6. What a fantastic and real post. I really enjoyed it. It’s fascinating what you have learned about yourself in the past year because of the dreads. I also think your hair looks great and keep being you! 😉

  7. This is such lovely synchronicity. I was thinking last week – because you mentioned your dreads I think – that I had to ask you what was the big deal. I noticed that they meant a lot to you but had no idea why – just seemed like hair to me. LOL I have two friends with dreads and I never heard them mention them. I will have to ask them now if it was a spiritual thing or what. Great post – glad you answered my telepathic question 😀 Took a look at the flickr pics too, very groovy.

  8. Interesting!

    I understand what you mean by the learning journey of them. I have tattoos. One is particularly large and takes up knee to foot on one leg, so it is obvious to everyone.

    When I lived in Chicago, Los Angeles, Santa Fe, Gainesville FL…people always complimented me on them, that big one in particular. Always positive, always asking about who did it, what it represents. Made many friends just from the nice comments starting new conversations.

    Moved to Wisconsin. People work HARD to avoid talking about it. Don’t look. I’ve been excluded from the ‘mom cliques’ in the neighborhood. Ya know, I’m weird. THAT kind of person. I think here they see it as a white trash/biker thing, whereas EVERYWHERE ELSE I have lived around the country saw it as a creative outlet with meaning. So. Judgement. Acceptance. Vanity. Yep. I’m with ya.

    Congrats on a year. I think your dreads are lovely.

  9. Tara, I’ve long dreamed of having dreads but I feel scared to do it. Firstly because I know little about their care, and also because I’m afraid of what my fiancee would think. That’s probably an awful reason to be holding back, but it’s the truth.

    Loved reading this post and learning what the past year’s experience has taught you about yourself. I’m taking a more serious look at this personal choice now… 🙂


  10. I dreaded my daughters hair while visiting her, she too is a natural, she sent your blog to me, thanks for articulating the process. Blessings. KA

  11. My aunt showed me your blog after seeing my new locks, i’ve had them for three months now and am so in love with them, just like you said I don’t know how I went without them. I get great support from many and a lot of rude and harsh judgement from others. I was actually reading this page while my Grandma was scrutinizing me for them and it made me really happy to see in words exactly how I feel about my beautiful hair!

    What I really want to say is THANK YOU!! for putting your thoughts out there and letting people know what it really means to have dreadlocks!

  12. Thank you for putting into words what I cannot seem to explain to people when they ask me why I have dreads. Mine started as a different road for sure. My son went to jail, and he is rasta. He is not allowed to have dreads so I told him I would grow them and keep them until he gets out. Well over the past year I have become very attached to my dreads, no pun intended 🙂 It really is a great way to see how people are though. I have some who will talk to me and not look at my hair one time, not even bat an eye. Others like you said will be downright rude. Since I already look very odd here in CR, blue eyes and light skin, it is just one more reason to stare! Oh yeah and a Chinese daughter, just really throws them into a real dither trying to figure us out 🙂 I also agree that the first six months was awful. I had mine done with the rip and tear method, ouch! The guy also put wax on them, and he was really high, so I had some redoing to do. I also have the bangs and actually like them. I have to wash mine everyday because I am a triathlete and run, or swim or bike every day. I just make real sure they are dry, don’t want no mildew, ew! Thanks for sharing, and keep posting pics, I can see where mine are going after my one year mark next month.

  13. When I wash my dreads I wash them in the morning. I always keep them wrapped in a towel for at least thirty minutes, and then give them a good towel dry. Then I just stay in the sun for the rest of the day 🙂 I have never had to use a blow drier, even in rainy season here and it is humid here. I never cover them until they are completely dry. The thing is I have much thinner hair than you do and fewer dreads, so they dry quicker. Don’t think I would do the blow drier thing, way too lazy 🙂

  14. Hi Tara,

    I am writing about natural hair care on my 5 Seed blog right now, and would like to post briefly about dreads – not advice, or a how-to, as I don’t have the experience, but just mentioning it as a path toward eco-friendly hair and self-acceptance, etc. I would LOVE to use a pic or two of yours in the post, if that is okay.

    Even if you would prefer that I didn’t use any pics, I’d like to mention you and link back to your dread posts.



  15. excuse me ma’am i think i love you! i don’t particularly feed into everything you are saying…like the whole washing your hair with vinegar….yea not for me. but i thank you for writing this blog because it is the truth. locks are a form of self expression,and i believe it takes a strong person to wear locks. i myself started mine in December of 2009 and i love them to death. when people ask me why i’m growing “dreads” i take huge offense to it and i always reply. “there is nothing dreadful about my hair”. i believe locks are beautiful and a great way to show off your individuality.
    thanks again and keep it on lock (=

  16. very well said sister
    ive had my dreads for 20 years i couldnt imagine life withoit them
    i went neglect, when i began nobody ever heard of backcombing or ..eww wax
    its been an adventure

  17. nah well the wax u used in the beginnings probly adding some weight and it never really washes out (we do have wax removers on dreadlockssite ) i only feel the weight if theyre tied up crooked
    plus the baking soda acv wash leaves em feeling super light super soft and super clean
    theyre past my toes and i dont notice any weight unless theyre all balled up ontop of my head

  18. Wow, thanks for sharing your dreadfully wonderful journey. I started my neglect last weekend and cannot wait to enjoy my own journey. Smiles and warmest wishes to you.

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