One Year Later
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.)
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.]