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ashley walker

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Essay on my dreads

2013-04-26
By: ashley walker
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I wrote this essay on my dreadlocks for school, my teacher said it was his favorite :0 but ignore my grammatical errors haha

You need to look clean cut to get a job. You need to smell good to attract friends. You need to sit like a lady to be respected. You need to comb your hair. Boys are not going to like you if you do not comb your hair. We consume these ideals because we are afraid of not being accepted, we are afraid of being ourselves. What is even worse is that our peers or our parents do not tell us otherwise; we need to stay in the solitary confinement labeled normal and wear a straitjacket of social norms to hinder our creativity. Yeah I wanted to fit in, everyone does, but not at my own expense. My mother would say comb your hair, you need to look nice but why? What benefits are there? Why should I not go out being completely comfortable? Comb my hair? Why? It hurts, it never stays right, and it always needs to be washed. Who cares if I see someone I know? They are not going to physically hurt me for not combing my hair. However, to dread is to attract discrimination and being the one child who wants to be untamed and tangled is never easy. The dreadlock process is a journey that brings, tantalizing, the judgment of strangers, discrimination of employers, and the ridicule from family members. In return, the dreadlock process gives spiritual guidance, humility, patience, and strength within the community.

Every journey begins at the decision to accept it; I decided to get dreads for no reason whatsoever. I had no body modifications, I was not Rastafarian, I did not smoke a lot of pot, I just wanted dreadlocks and they were really easy for me to get. Like most things, capitalist America does not want you have anything unless you have to pay for it first, so I had to do a bit of research. Dreads are supposed to be as natural as breathing with as little maintenance as possible. There are companys that will try to sell kits, and products that will make your dreads lock faster, smell nicer, look cleaner, but what they do not tell you is that in doing this you can eventually lose them. Yes lose them. Products are bad for you hair, and the more you pick at dreads with crochet needles or a backcomb, the weaker they can get and fall out. They sell these products to create problems with you dreadlocks, so they can make more products for you to buy to fix these problems. With some guidance I chose to be as natural as possible, I knotted up my hair with my bare hands using a method called twist and rip and threw away my hairbrush. I wash my dreads with products that do not use chemicals. My rule is that if it is not safe for me to eat I will not use it on my body.

So the beginning stages of dreads are not pretty, especially with Caucasian hair, your hair does not look like Bob Marleys, it is not sexy and messy, and it is full of snowflakes, itchy scalp, and scalding. My parents did not know it was permanent. My father would not talk to me for three weeks and my mother kept complaining to me because he would yell at her for not showing me how to comb my hair. It is ridiculous how when we do something good for ourselves, other people only care about whether it looks good. I was a problem every time I came downstairs, every time we went in public, every time appearance was an issue. It was so sad because I have never been bullied as much as I was by my own family when I got dreads. This is where I learned who cares about what I think and who encourages my individuality. It was not threatening my life, their lives, their relationships, yet they threatened my self-esteem and for what? I saw a truth revealing within these tauntings, I was soon to learn that being myself in every situation would show me who wants to care about me and who has to.

I get a fair share of comments on my hair daily, and it is interesting how the comments have gone from negative to positive based on location. Of course my friends encouraged me, some young teachers would appreciate it, some older ones would make borderline insults. Some people do not know what the hell is going on with my hair. In my hometown of Leesburg, the residents are mostly middle-aged adults, and I would get questions from my parents friends about it. Do you wash your hair? Can you take it out? Will you shave your head one day? I usually try to stray from the ignorance of some questions but usually these questions were not signs of approval, just them trying to notice the elephant in the room. However, when I came to Radford the scene was totally changed, people wanted to touch my hair (which I love by the way) they complimented me. Of course the occasional questions that bother me come up such as Are you trying to grow dreads? Which is a bit of an insult because there is nothing to try, they occur naturally. There is also Do you like your dreads? always coming from girls with clean, straight, silky hair wondering if they can help me conform. This change of comments may be due to the fact my dreads are more tame and mature since I came to Radford but I am glad they did.

There are a few connotations with dreadlocks though, that is quite obvious but become more obvious in the presence of strangers. It is that people with dreadlocks use drugs specifically marijuana. In the beginning, I did not notice that this was an issue with people but now in college I get the occasional Do you have any drugs? at parties from people I do not even know. Some people assume that I am high in class and I know this because as soon as they familiarize themselves with me they tell me that they notice that I get high before class. Which is completely false, I have never done so nor ever will but I guess now that people assume I am, I would probably get away with it. It is a shifted view, that is only present because people are misinformed and because of that strangers will judge and size me up quickly. This can especially be a problem when I have to get a job because the job market wants to force you to be in the norm, and it is completely not fair because other people can where certain things for their religion yet I can not have dreads and work, while my dreads are part of a spiritual practice. People can be close-minded to what they can and cannot discriminate against, there are other ways of practicing spirituality and they need to know that. What about my hair makes me a less diligent worker if I piss negative?

Experiencing all of these reactions to my hair has shown me so much about the world and revealed to me, myself. It takes one small step out of the box and people want to rush you out. I am so fortunate to know that there are more and more people being open to individuality and teaching each other about our differences rather than oppressing them. Getting dreadlocks taught me more about myself in my relation to these people I love, the world, and all of bigger thoughts you cannot fully comprehend yet, it is just a part of picture and it is still blurry but with what I know about myself is that I am a whole, I am a partial of a whole and that we are all connected. See I stopped combing my hair and I learned to accept myself for what I looked like when I woke up in the morning I did not try to make it smooth or shiny. I had really bad hair days, some times I would regret the decision but I kept them regardless, because I know that I will learn to love myself more if I make myself go through the bad hair days while I get taunted and judged by the people I meet. And my dreadlocks will become more a part of me just as my arm is, because they grow so wild and free yet you understand everyone of their mannerisms. I can think of a specific dreadlock and tell you about it, they are like small extensions of myself. I made it through those tough times because I know now that I love my dreads they taught me patience and humility and those are both qualities of beautiful people. It has been said that if you comb your hair your spiritual thoughts are easier to be released but if you do not your spiritual thoughts remain with you and retain their substance. I began to feel more connected with my natural self in relation to the world and seeing things in a brighter light. I have learned not to question people choice of appearance but admire it; I have learned that whole communities can benefit from diversity because it allows people to become well rounded. I have become well rounded. My dreads are becoming well rounded and even though they are not quite there yet I appreciate every little hair out of place because it is what makes me different that others, it makes it okay to be imperfect. That it is okay to not look clean, or smell like perfume, sit like a lady, or comb your hair. We need to start accepting that we are all the same people on the inside so we need to accept the other people who just express themselves differently on the outside. That way we can explore new parts of ourselves through other people. It is sad to those who within social confines of well groomed workers, I do not feel bad because they think I am strange, I feel bad that they never got to know someone who would accept the way they kept themselves regardless of what they thought of me. As far as shaving my head goes, I will keep growing out my dreads until they serve me no good, but I do not see that happening in my future.

Erik Hylan
07/27/13 10:28:22PM @erik-hylan:

So true Ashley this is a great essay I wish I had read this earlier


AJ3
04/27/13 01:15:06AM @aj3:
Awesome essay, it is very, very true. It's a shame that we all can't just be accepted as people without having a certain stereotype labeled to us. I have learned quite a bit from my journey so far and look forward to learning more and growing with my dreads. Keep up the good work!

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