If Desi didn’t win “best eyes” in her high school superlatives, I’ll eat my shoe. They are gigantic, and celery green, and shapely, and surrounded by cartoonishly perfect lashes. And yet, her eyes aren’t even her best feature. Because Desi has the most extraordinarily thick hair on this planet, which she has twisted into long, tidy dreadlocks.
I’m always cautious about asking what I’d call “ignorant-ass white people questions,” but this one seemed harmless and I was just so curious. So I asked Desi, “How much do you think your hair weighs?” and it sparked a 30 minute conversation about her locs, how she cares for them, what they mean to her, and how the hell she carries an extra, I don’t know, maybe 10 pounds on her dome. What a woman.
A lot of people call my hair dreadlocks, but I refer to them as locs. There isn’t great connotation with the word ‘dreadlocks’ because many people today think of it as ‘dreadful’ or something bad. However, the far back history shows that the word ‘dreadlock’ came from a ‘dreadful holy power.’ Since most people have the most current connotation of the word, I usually just use locs.
I absolutely love my hair. Besides being a testament to my own journey, a representation of all that is natural, I often get noticed for my hair as well. Those without locs tend to admire it, those with locs tend to form an immediate sort of camaraderie with me that I believe is very precious.
I was forced to chemically relax my hair from a young age because my hair is extremely, EXTREMELY thick. My black mom was never really skilled with beauty, and my white father had no idea what to do with it. The chemicals always burned, my scalp was always tender and flaky, and the straightness never lasted as well as it should have because I played soccer every day (sometimes twice a day).
I always asked my parents for locs (my black aunt is a hairstylist and also tried convincing my mom to let me wear it naturally) but they always said no. To locs specifically, they said I would never get a job and I would never be taken seriously. No one wanted someone with ‘dirty hair.’ To maintain the relaxer, it cost $200 every 6 weeks and in between, it would take 4 to 5 hours just to wash, blow dry, and straighten my hair again.
Fast forward to college and finally being able to make my own hair decisions. I started dating someone with locs, so I felt like it was a perfect time to transition. I cut off all of my relaxer and was left with about an inch of a fro left on my head. My amazing aunt started my locs and I never looked back. Now, I not only do my own styles/retwists, but I also create my own twisting cream out of raw African shea butter, coconut oil, lavender oil, eucalyptus oil, and twist other people’s hair when requested to share the love.
Right now. It’s never been this long or this healthy, and I think that’s why people notice it. The love and effort I put into it is a testimony.
When I was heavily chemically treating my hair as a teenager and playing soccer often, the sweat would make it very hard for my scalp to breathe and my hair to thrive.
It takes about 3 hours to retwist my hair at home.
I usually run my hands through it or twirl a loc on my finger.
I think my hair constitutes a huge part of my identity and expression. My hair is extremely thick and full of life which means it’s full of love and lessons, and I think people appreciate that.
People respect my hair for the obvious effort and patience that has gone into it. Especially in the POC/Black community, I am often noticed for my crown, and people speak to me about it regularly. In fact, I honestly can’t leave the house without someone pointing out or complimenting my hair at some point.
My hair has inspired others to start their own locs as well (ask my coworker Barbara!), and that is important to me—to be as positive an influence on other folks as you possibly can. White people, however, tend not to appreciate it quite as much and more often just ask if they can touch it… which is NOT flattering or appreciated.
For more of The Story of Your Hair, check out what’s going on with Jared, Sarah, Sani, Jillian, Rupa, Josh and Zack. Want Kelaine to write about your dope hair? Tweet her @kelaine and she’ll be in touch.