Dreading It

If we’re talking about hair, we might as well cover it all. But before I continue, I want to assure you that I don’t think dreads are the only eco-friendly hair style! If you have been considering it, however, read on.

I don’t want to write about how to dread your hair here, as I have never had dreads. Describing the process should be left to the people with experience. However, I do want to discuss the spiritual and green aspects of dreads. (Yes, I said spiritual.)

Anne Lamott (photo: Jo Anne Hertz / ITVS)

Let’s start with Anne Lamott. First, if you haven’t yet read her books, go pick them up. They’re amazing. All of them. (And no, I’m not receiving compensation to say that!) Anyway, in her early work, she details her frustrating relationship with her hair – curly, frizzy, and a daily zap of her self-esteem. Her solution? Dreadlocks. Super tiny, adorable dreads. She chronicles her journey into dreadlocked hair here – a hilarious and insightful read if you have the time. One of my favorite passages:

A few weeks later I saw “The Shawshank Redemption,” where, at the end, Tim Robbins escapes from prison via the sewers, after serving time for a crime he didn’t commit. He emerges from the pipes into a rushing rain-swollen river, and he staggers through the current with his face turned towards the sky, his arms held up to heaven as the rains pour down.

I sat in the movie theater crying until it occurred to me that if I were the prisoner being baptized by torrential rain, half of my mind would be on how short my bangs were going to be after they dried.

I went home and I called Marlene. “Okay, baby,” I said. “I’m ready.” The next day she and her dreadlocked teenage daughter came over to my house with a little jar of beeswax…

The transition was apparently scary, anxious, and soul-shaking, as I’ve heard it can be for many people. It challenges our perceptions of ourselves. It rebels against our culture’s definition of beauty. It can even stir up judgments and stereotypes – especially from others. Lamott made it through this process and came out on the other side feeling like she had embraced her true self.

They’re so cool: each dreadlock is different, has its own configuration, its own breadth and feel. It’s like having very safe multiple personalities. It’s been two years and they are growing past my shoulders. Sometimes I wear them up, sometimes down. I wake up most mornings looking fabulous. I used to look at people with normal white people’s hair, and their bangs always stayed long and they got to hide behind the satin curtain, and I was so jealous. But now my bangs are always long, too. I peer out at the world from behind my dreadlocks, as through a beautiful hand-made fence, in every kind of weather and every kind of car. I remember Nora Ephron saying a long time ago that she was one of those women who was gaining her looks, and it turns out that I am one, too. It was a long time coming, and I have to say, it is incredibly sweet.

Years after reading Lamott’s journey into dreads, I found myself a regular visitor at The Organic Sister – another dreadlocked mama. I remember reading her one-year “dreadiversary” post and being fascinated with the insights she had had during the past year of her dread journey. I highly suggest reading her posts on this subject, especially if you want to dreadlock your hair. She gives very detailed tips on what to do, and would be a wonderful resource. Even if you don’t want to dread your hair, these posts are very interesting, and I think anyone going through any transition in their appearance can relate. (And read her thoughts on no-poo here. Yay for no-poo!)

Tara, aka "The Organic Sister" (Permission to use photos graciously granted by The Organic Sis, herself.)

I even noticed that one of my favorite food bloggers, Sara Janssen, has dreads. I’ve been reading her blog, Happy Foody, for quite some time. Imagine my surprise when I saw a picture of Sara on The Organic Sister’s blog documenting a visit between the two families! It turns out that Sara has two other very enjoyable blogs that I highly recommend (Happy Janssens and Walk Slowly, Live Wildly), and her posts on dreads are yet another fascinating peek into this process.

So dreads: eco-friendly? Sure. You won’t need to wash your hair as much, won’t need more “stuff” in the form of combs, brushes, and styling products… All of that is wonderful.

But I think the best thing about dreads (if you are considering them) is the journey of realization that each woman takes. Realizing one’s freedom to look the way they want to look. Surrendering to the natural inclinations of one’s hair. Seeing true inner and outer beauty shine back in the reflection of the mirror.

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2 thoughts on “Dreading It

  1. Love what you said at the end, how they are indeed “green” but the inner journey is truly the highlight. I think most people following a sustainable path will understand that completely. Mindfulness seems hard to have one without the other.

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