This last September, my dreadlocks clocked ten years.
It’s startling to realise that it’s the longest relationship I have ever had with anything. So, forgive me if I am a little sentimental. I feel the need to do a shout out to friends like Jeta Amata who sent me for my first hairlocking session, Pastor Goody Goody who did the actual locking and Editi Effiong who was my faithful salon-mate those first few years. I thank all the friends and family who have been with me on this journey, always encouraging me, never letting me give up, like that time when I had a bad case of dandruff. My sister Racheal and late friend, Enabe did all they could to find me help.
Right now, I am happy to announce that my hair measures an average length of 18 inches. Wish I’d counted the number of locs or better still, conscripted one of those people who take such pleasure in running their hands through to do it for me.
Alright, I’m done being silly.
In the spirit of celebration, allow me compile a list of certain experiences common to dreadlocked people.
Admiration; if you have dreads, get used to it. Once people establish that that is indeed your hair, they begin to ooh and aah. I have had people stop me in malls and take pictures with me (much to the chagrin of my friend who had just started growing his). All that’s left is signing autographs.
Assumption; This category though! You smoke pot (I don’t), You love Bob Marley, dancehall, all things reggae (I do), you are making some kind of Afropolitan/rebellious/creative statement with the hair (jeez ten years ago I didn’t even know what all that shit meant). You get tired of saying ‘it’s just hair.’ And then this, your hair smells (oh Christ). Some other assumptions are fun. Like when I go for an event and the red carpet host asks my friend in an insistent voice, ‘who is she? The heavy emphasis on the ‘she’ connoting ‘is she an actress? Musician? Socialite, any specie of celebrity? What what?’ My friend didn’t know if the correct response was ‘errr, she’s nobody’ Hehehehe awkaaaard.
Presumption; You’re in a bad mood and someone thinks it’s okay to walk up to you and touch your hair. Just because. Or bombard you with confessions of their ardent desire to have locs but don’t want to go through the trouble/how they had locs far longer than yours and only cut it just two weeks ago/how their ex-girlfriend has amazing locs/tips on how to make your hair better etc. Christ this can be exhausting and like the pretend celebrity in (2) above, you have to smile and smile when what you want to say is can you f@#k off? Oh and what of the people who imagine that having grown the hair for so long, you are no longer the boss of your hair and are therefore not allowed to cut it on a whim. While people usually react to any woman cutting her hair, it is ten times worse for Loc Heads of any gender. Just so you know, when I eventually cut my hair, I will say I have cancer, it’s the chemo. So you can leave me alone.
Curiosity; are you not tired of this hair? The same style every day. Do you not want variety? No, we do not! It is not a prison. If we wanted change, we would get it.
Suspicion; Is it or isn’t it your real hair? I had a very embarrassing experience when I was doing my NYSC in Ondo state. Went to a salon to wash my hair. The lady naturally asked if it was my hair, like did I grow it? I said I did. Moments later, another customer came in and they had a heated exchange over my head in Yoruba. In the end, the salonist remarked, ‘chei sister, why adult like you dey lie about hair now? Na wa for you o. You dey lie abeg. No be your hair anything.’ That’s the condensed version of the unsavoury things she said to me. I was mortified. Just grabbed my things and left.
Superstition; Still In Ondo state, from people far older than me who came to my office to kneel and greet me, to pregnant women who touched me and touched their bellies, mumbling, to taskforce men who were harassing my bike man but on sighting me, started withdrawing almost in slow motion. It was surreal. In their defence, there was nowhere to lock my hair that year so I looked like a proper dada. Still!
Fear; This works both ways, fear others have for us (refer to 5 above), and fear we have when we come across a mad person on the street and think oh my god, they are gonna think we are mad too and therefore buddies.
Inquisition; Is your hair natural? A simple enough question, except that you never quite know how to answer it since it could mean one of two things. Are they asking if you were born with dreads (dada) or are they asking if it’s real locs or faux locs?
Comparison; speaking of faux locs, nothing drives us crazy like people with faux locs looking at us and smiling, winking etc pretending we are ‘sisters’ excuse me, no we aren’t. Infact, Ade Balogun captured this perfectly in her June 2015 edition of the hair Magazine, Locitude.
Anyway, consider this some kind of etiquette for engaging with Loc Heads. You’re welcome. Co-operate with us because we no well o.
Happy Independence Week people.
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