mash: black beauty / introspection
So I’ve started a new hair journey–locs. “Oh, exciting and controversial,” you might be thinking in a snide internal voice. “She doesn’t have anything more exciting to think about?”
Well, it isn’t so simple to me, or millions of other women. It’s a bit more about acceptance of self in the face of society, tradition, and culture, and less about a hairstyle.
You see, my family is old-school-Caribbean, and my father is anti-locs. He hates them. When I was growing up in NYC, with all the fashionable people with all their fashionable hairstyles, I always leaned towards the natural and loc’ed looks. And I was always pushed by my parents way towards perms and told I was too pretty for “knotty-dread”. That’s what I grew up calling them: a combination of two very negative words: “knotty” and “dread”. Who wants something knotty or dreaded on their head?
And it isn’t that my father was just against the hairstyle. Loc’s represented rastas, “liming about” (a Caribbean way of saying laziness), and a rebellious attitude. These were not things that my clean-cut, hard-working, Christian family embraced. No “dread-loc’ed” people hated authority, ‘the man’ (who usually turned out to be white), and conventional religion–and instead spent their time in pointless arguments and smoking weed. At least that’s what my father instilled in me to believe.
So while I eyed the beautiful loc’ed styles in my youth, I stuck to my perms. Eventually I broke free from that (a story for another day) and proudly rocked ‘fros, braids, and twists–usually to my parent’s shigrine. And as I grew I met women that defied my learned prejudice about locs. I had teachers and principals in my strongly afro-centric schools that wore loc’s beautifully. And guess what? They had jobs, educations, didn’t smoke weed, didn’t hate ‘the man’, wore crosses or other emblems of traditional mainstream religions. And their loc’s were well maintained, and anything but knotty or dreadful.
So I asked to get loc’s. “Not in my house,” was the simple and to the point response from my dad. So I dropped it and simply admired from afar. As I continued to grow I heard a lot of the same prejudices repeated in others towards people who wore locs.
“Oh, they must smoke weed.” “They probably hate white people.” “Couldn’t possibly have a stable job.” “That person obviously isn’t educated.” “He/She must be super angry all the time.” “Oh look, a rasta.” “They’ll never get far in the professional world with hair like that.” “Loc’ed for life. That’s just who they are.”
And even though I knew that these probably weren’t true I soaked them in. And as a grown woman who said she was moving towards self-love, I fussed and fought with my hair often, unhappy with my varied chosen styles. It finally took my husband to go, “You always comment on other people’s pretty locs. You’re grown and live in your own house. You don’t need daddy’s approval, or anyone else–just go get them.”
And I thought about it. How could I say I really am growing towards independence and self-love if I’m letting the fear of incorrect and silly prejudices stop me from trying something I might like? How can I really embrace myself, or teach my son to embrace who he is, if I wasn’t even being myself?
So, I recently loc’ed my hair. It wasn’t a long drawn out decision. I decided to try it. If I don’t like it–guess what? I’ll change it. But for now, I’m not going to let fear or social prejudices stop me. I am who I am–and I’ll look how I want. I’ve decided to untie myself from cultural stigma, and loc myself to free myself.