To Dreadlock or Not To Dreadlock

I recently posted this question on twitter/Facebook, "I'm thinking of doing dreadlocks in my hair. Yay or nay?" I've been thinking about this for a long while now, really ever since Thad was born, but recently I've actually gotten sort of serious about it. In fact I've sort of started them. As you can see from the pictures its not quite dreadlocks yet, but it's getting there. It just sort of happened. I wasn't really planning it, but about a month ago I stopped brushing my hair. I still washed it, but I haven't used conditioner in months and normally only wash my hair about once a week or so. Well, I'd jump out of the shower and one or the other of the kids would need me so I'd just throw my hair up and pretty soon I was noticing that it was sort of starting to dread on its own. And hence the question was born, to dreadlock or not to dreadlock?


I can sort of see my mom's look of horror as I write this - of course you shouldn't do dreadlocks in your hair!!! Get a good easy to maintain hair cut and BRUSH YOUR HAIR! After all she chopped her hair short after having kids, as so may people do. But, I'm not really a fan of the short hair cut, and I've always secretly sort of liked dreadlocks. There's something about them that personifies an ideal I have - a part of the person I've secretly wanted to be, but I'm not quite sure I really am.

To me they are characteristic of a natural, earthy, hippie. I've always had a little bit of a hippie bent to me and it's only gotten stronger in recent years, but I'm not sure I'm really hippie when it comes down to it - natural, YES; earthy, a little bit; hippie, well maybe.

But, then there's the other things that dreadlocks personify to me... Words like bold, culturally brave, and a little bit rebellious. Those are words that I would like to personify, but deep down I'm not sure they are really me either. Sure I've been known to make some decisions that go against the norm, like long term breastfeeding, tandem nursing, and natural home birth. But, bold, brave, and rebellious aren't really words I'd use to describe myself. I was the kid who rarely got in trouble because my own guilt and desire to be liked kept me well within the lines. I still have problems speaking my mind (well, at least in person) and rarely stand up for myself or my ideas when face to face with an authority figure. I'm not bold, brave or rebellious, but I'd like to be a little more that way. I want to be able to hold my own in a conversation, defend my believes, fight for things I care about, and openly go against the grain when I feel necessary. Maybe there's a part of me that wants dreadlocks because I think it would be a good practice in pushing myself to not just blend in, bend over, or get out of the way. It would be a practice in pushing myself out of the box. I even think that the fact that it would cause some people to make preconceived judgements about me might help me to be bolder. If they have already pre-judged me as a hippie, then it would free me up to let some of my more hippie tendencies out.

But, then sometimes I wonder if my wrestling with this question is, on a much deeper level, me wrestling with the self that I want to be and the self that I am. There is a big part of me that wants to be that hippie, crunchy, mama. You know, the one with four or five kids all birthed at home, who sews her own cloths, grows her own food, cooks using only organic and local ingredients, home schools or unschools her children, spends hours just playing and ramping through the woods with her kids, doesn't have a tv, has chickens, makes her kids toys from natural materials, bans plastic, allows her kids to self-wean, is artistic, has an active yoga practice, parents gently, is in touch with nature, her own femininity, and God...and the list goes on. There's a part of me that holds up this ideal, but there's also a growing part of me that is starting to feel that although I may like that ideal and may even do some of those things at one point or another, it's not really me, at least not completely. The truth is I yell at my son, I hope I'm never pregnant again, I don't know how I'd keep sane without sesame street and other PBS shows, I occasionally warm up our food in the microwave, I have the worst brown thumb ever and kill everything I try to grow, we have plastic toys, I don't know how to play, I'd probably be happier inside with a book than outside getting bit by bugs, I love convenience and speed, I can't afford to buy all organic, and at least at the moment I am completely out of touch with God, nature and myself.

Maybe I want dreadlocks because I feel in some small way it would be like affirming and taking a small public step towards the self that I want to be. Or maybe I want them because I'm in denial about the self that I actually am... I don't know. What do you think?

Rejoicing in the journey - Bethany Stedman