posts tagged with 'dreadlocks'

happy birthday toddler dreadlocks

Amidst all the festivities last week I almost forgot to mark an important anniversary. My lockiversary, I guess. My dreadlocks just turned two years old.

Leah looking nonplussed, with an out-of-focus cop behind her

2 years in, still attracting attention

Dreading my hair was one of the better decisions I've made in my life. My mornings are SO much easier without the demands of hair that needs styling. I wash my head only when my scalp feels itchy, which ends up being about once or twice a month. I don't usually admit how infrequently I shampoo; I hope it doesn't sound too gross. I'm pretty finicky in general about cleanliness, and the truth is my locks never feel oily or smelly. If they did I'd wash them more.

The other nice thing about the dreadlocks is that each lock is like a little pillow. I feel like they're equally part hair and air at this stage, which means that they're not at all heavy, and I don't feel the same pulling on my head that I did when I had regular curly hair. I don't know if other people experience this, but my curls pulled on each other all the friggin time. For someone who has struggled with sensory integration, not feeling my hair pull is a BIG DEAL. It's like if you can imagine a car alarm always going somewhere in the distance, and then one day someone finally turns it off.

baby Harvey pulling on my hair. Ow ow ow ow ow.

I now have friends who never knew me WITHOUT dreadlocks. Which is weird. I wonder if that affects how they see me. I wonder if they think I am 100% the embodiment of a hippy. A natural born flower-child who always tuned her emotions to the ebb and flow of the seasons.

I wonder if anyone sees me the way I see myself, a child of unspeakable privilege who is still working on her judgmental classist rehabilitation.

9 years ago, in a $300 dress. Dan is wearing JCrew.

As for the dreadlocks themselves, they've changed a bit in the past year. They are tighter and less wispy on the outsides, though they're still awfully kinked up, with these little wubbles and turns everywhere. I thought those bumps would work themselves out over time, but the answer seems to be either NO or NOT YET. Or maybe if I did some maintenance I could get the dreads more uniform, but since my life is a little hectic right now I'm willing to accept whatever my hair looks like.

irregular dreads. What you see is what you get.

I wish I could say that dreadlocks changed me in some fundamental way over the past two years. That I am a calmer person, or a more accepting person, or a person who cares little about outward appearances. In reality, I am a person with ten extra minutes in the morning. With fewer headaches at the end of the day. I am still stressed out, hurried, and judgmental of myself and others. I'm still a bit of a classist brat. But I don't look as much like one, and that's at least a step in the right direction.

Leah holding LyeLye

baby steps towards happiness


a year with dreadlocks

I was going to post this earlier today, but there was kind of a massive terrorist manhunt going on and it didn't feel right to put up pictures of my hair.

But now that everyone can go outside again, I guess it's okay to resume narcissistic blogging. Today marks the one-year anniversary of my dreadlocks. Here is what they looked like a year ago after a nice lady came to my house and back-combed all my hair in one-inch sections.

dreads from the side with a headwrap

looking all demure for having a humongous head

And this is what it looks like now. (I just noticed that I'm not only wearing the same headwrap in this photo, I'm wearing the same sweater. You might thing that my new hippy hairstyle made me lazy about updating my wardrobe over the course of the year, but you're wrong; it's poverty.)

hippy egg hunt!

How do I feel about my dreadlocks after a year? Pretty good. I love not having to comb and style my hair every day. I love the volume on top of my head when I pull them back with a wrap. I love how they look when I pull them into a ponytail, like my hair always used to look before when I pulled it back into a ponytail except without the gel-and-let-it-curl step first.

No one has excluded me from society or even been rude to me in a store. Mostly people are friendly when you smile at them. Whatever your hair looks like.

Here's what my hair looks like without a headwrap. I asked Dan to take a photo of me while I was mucking out the chicken coop.

Leah mucking out the chicken coop

dirty hair for a dirty job

There are individual dreads that I wish hung straigher or more cylindrical, or without a stupid loopy kink somewhere in the middle. Pretty much each dread has something "wrong" with it. But one can either roll dreads all day or pursue a real hippy lifestyle. With the kinks and bumps I can say I have truly hippy hair.

What do I do for maintenance? I wash my hair whenever it starts to feel itchy, which is about once a week. I put rubberbands in the top by the roots when it feels like the flyaways are getting too crazy. That's pretty much it.

I had more I wanted to say when I was thinking up this post, like how I stopped worrying so much about my weight as soon as I got dreads (part of it was the freeing nature of refusing to conform to traditional beauty standards, part of it is that big volume on my head distracts from my stomach) but I am a little bored already. How can I write about my hair on a day when BIG THINGS are going on in our city? Big things require big thoughts, though to me no bigger things happened than mucking out a chicken coop.

Oh well, anniversary marked. Let's see what another year brings us.


dreadlock update - 2-and-a-half months

I feel like I should do an update on my hair, though the writing feels rather slow going since I'm too lazy to do much of anything these days.

hangin out on the hammock

chillin island style

My 2+ month throat infection seems to be nearing its end, though I haven't yet regained the desire to do anything besides mind children. The other day a friend asked me to weave a bike basket for her and my answer was, "Ugh. Don't they sell those online?"

In all of this, though, working on dreadlocks is something I can do. Because working on dreadlocks requires no work at all! Just let time go by, survive one day at a time, and the hair will keep dreading. More or less.

the top of my dreads

When my mother used to tell me my hair looked like a birds nest, she shouldn't have given me any ideas.

It's fun to twist the dreads in my hand and think, "It's working! they're really becoming something!" Then I look in the mirror and say, "Good Lord, that looks like a mess." Fortunately though, since I don't need to style my hair much, I don't really look in the mirror. Once a week I wash my hair with dreadlock shampoo (baking soda and vinegar would work equally well but my mom bought me dread shampoo for my birthday) then I roll the dreads while they're wet and again with wax after they're dry. It's about 40 minutes of maintenance work a week, but I usually split it over two days because like I said I'm pretty lazy and (perhaps related to the tiredness) it's hard to get twenty minutes to myself.

I did, however, try to look somewhat presentable for a wedding I officiated last weekend. I rolled on the wax the morning of the wedding and did a half-up thing crowned with a scarf that I thought might look priestly. Here's the result. (I'm dancing with a sleeping baby on my front, in case anyone has a hard time figuring out the photo.)

dancing at ashley's wedding

footloose if not shoulder loose

You can see the bottoms of the dreads are still quite curly. I look forward to long tubular dreads a year or so from now but in the meantime I'm diggin the in-between.

I thought I was being rather formal for the wedding... I had a whole vest thing I wore over my dress for the ceremony, I tied up my hair and even used a scarf. Then I got to the bride's house and everyone was putting on makeup and I was like, "Oh right. Makeup. Should I, like, do that or whatever?"

It's only been two years since I gave up makeup, and yet it feels like a different lifetime ago. Then again, it's only been two months since I stopped fixing my hair every day and I've taken to it quite naturally.

ashley and leah

brides that invite children to their weddings are rewarded with child-like hearts. Also, I can go to those weddings.

There. Does that feel like a hair update? I hate that everything comes with a "I've been sick" preamble, but that's pretty much where I'm at right now. If I was praying for someone at church and they said, "I've had a lingering infection for two-and-a-half months" I would say "Did something happen in your life right before the infection started?" And if someone asked me that question I'd say, "Well, I got my hair dreaded, and then right after that I got sick."

Now, dreading my hair was nothing if not a good decision. It's much easier to manage given the demands of the children. It's much easier for my sensory integration issues, since I don't get the feeling my hair is pulling at my scalp. I don't feel all "hippier than thou" in fact mostly I'm not conscious of my hairstyle. I prayed about it in advance and felt convinced that God said, "Leah, I could not possibly care LESS about your hair." So it's not sin that's making me sick (not that that's how it works anyway, but that's the subject for someone else's book.)

Maybe I feared people would think I was lazy if I got dreads so I immediately got sick so I'd have to be lazy? To live down to expectations? It doesn't make logical sense but it sounds a lot like me.

Anyway, I like the hair but not the lingering illness, so I pray the Lord will redeem it somehow.


Dreadlock update: 1 month

It's been a month since I had my hair backcombed into dreads. I'm getting pretty used to the hairstyle, even though I usually refer to it as "my hair" instead of "my dreads" out of deference to people who've actually been doing this for some time. I have an easy out right now. When I throw it back in a ponytail it just looks like a messy curly ponytail. So I'm not like 100% counter-culture. All I need is a scrunchi and the other suburban moms think I'm one of them.

dreadlock ponytail

I don't know why I threw up a lame peace sign in this picture. Tired of photographing myself at arms length I guess.

This actually marks a new phase in the dread development. At the beginning I couldn't pull my hair back and have it look normal because it was too puffy. As the dreads have started to contract and dread up a bit it's much different. The footprint (er, headprint?) is much smaller. So for the time being I can go to church with my hair back in a ponytail and not worry that the people I pray for will be afraid of contracting bedbugs. I mean, any more than usual.

dreads at 1 month

1 month old dreads, wrapped up and ready to go

I've been washing my hair once a week with dreadlock shampoo. Baking soda and apple cider vinegar work equally well, but my mom bought me the dreadlock shampoo for my birthday and it's a bit easier to deal with just because it already lives in the shower. I don't have to get all undressed and then run downstairs because I forgot a cup of vinegar. And then the baby starts screaming because he caught a glimpse of my boobs.

I mean, screaming in hunger. Because he remembers he wants to nurse. Not because the sight of my boobs are an abomination.

My hair, not so abomination-y either. At least in my own opinion. Which (until y'all figure out how to put in your email address to post a comment) is the only one that matters.



I had a great day with the boys yesterday and my sour mood seems to have evaporated. I credit several things: 1) answered prayer, 2) trying to accomplish next to nothing, 3) my new plan of giving in (how do I do that thing that bloggers do when they strike something out so it has a line in the middle of it? Is that an html tag?) i mean being nice to Harvey.

In January I had a similar thing happen where I was legitimately sick for two weeks and then like lethargic and grumpy for a month following. At that time I went to visit a psychiatrist for Postpartum Depression. He ask after the ages of my children then said, "I had babies two years apart too. It's really hard, isn't it?"

I didn't move forward with any psychiatric treatment. I visited a GP the same week who diagnosed me with a sinus infection and after antibiotics I felt right as rain.

I'm wondering if there may be a new reality to my health these days. Maybe after the last 50lb pregnancy, sleeping poorly for a year, and subsistence nursing a chubby baby, maybe I'm a bit worn down physically. Maybe it just takes me a month to recover from a flu. Maybe I should (further) dial down my expectations.

Anyway, I feel this is good news and I apologize if this blog has been a little heavy lately. I know it's Friday and you expect a hair update, but my hair looks kind of bad today... I haven't maintained it all week. Oh well, i guess that's part of the update, yes? Maybe I'll post something over the weekend for the month-a-versary.


Dread update - 3 weeks

Look how much smoother and straighter my dreads have gotten in only three weeks!

my dreads at 3 weeks

that's a morning face, isn't it?

Let's throw that day one photo up here just for reference:

dreadlocks, day 1

not trying to look high in this picture on purpose... the sun was really bright and I was squinting.

Holy shit, huh? That's a real difference.

I should probably be rolling them and maintaining them more, but I'm not, and I still like how they look. I do maintenance maybe three times a week for a half hour or so. This is a just-out-of-bed shot. I'm really into NOT styling my hair.

my dreads from the top at 3 weeks

coming along, just like those seedlings

This week I've gotten used to wearing my hair down in public. My big revelation (are you ready for this?) is that women can wear a huge range of hairstyles. Without it being a big deal. Other than a few neighbors looking askance, everything has been fine. No one's asked to see my paperwork. Strangers still tell me my kids are cute. And here I thought I was going to start a revolution just by donning a hair wrap. Silly me.

The revolution will not be accessorized.


dread update, with a bit more info about technique

So I want to write a hair update with a bit more information about my dreadlocks, since many people have asked me about how my dreads were made and how I maintain them and maybe you can explain Leah what they're SUPPOSED to look like? exactly what kind of look ARE you going for? To which I say, the process is the product; embrace the hairstyle as it evolves.

it kind of looks like normal curls, until you see it from the side.

No, I'm just playin. There is a finished look I'm going for. I imagine an ideal dread, a perfect cylindrical spear the consistency of wool felt. Dense and half an inch thick and ending in a tiny point. I imagine a whole head of these, sometimes up in a bun or sometimes flying in the wind or sometimes decorated with beads or chicken feathers that I hot-glue to beads in my copious free time. I don't know if I'll get there shy of a year, (and I don't know if I'll ever have time to join beads and feathers with hot glue) but it's something to look forward to and offer as an alternative in case you think my current hairstyle looks like crap.

On the other hand, I do really like the way my hair looks now. Yes, the dreads are kind of big and messy, but I'm getting used to the look. I love how much volume I've always got on top of my head. Seriously, I think it makes me look skinnier. I mean, um, I am skinnier. Skinnier and skinnier.

a half-up look with a bit of oomph

When you think of forming and maintaining dreads, there's a continuum. On one end there are the natural dreadlock people who advocate neglect and nothing else for forming dreads. Touching your hair with anything but water and kitchen tinctures is tantamount to fornicating with the Whore of Babylon. ("Dan, how do you spell Whore?" "With a W. Are you writing about the Whore of Babylon?") I admire these folks for sticking to their guns (er, guns filled with flowers or whatever) and for looking like they woke up on the wrong side of the tent for the better part of a year. It takes a long time for natural dreads to form, you see, and there's a lot of messy looking hair in between. I'm sorry guys, I just don't like the look. Natural dreads tend to be really irregular in size and shape, and often you get big flat ones that look like you left a kitchen rug in your hair. I say that in the most respectful way possible.

On the other end of the continuum are the KnottyBoy sales reps who maintain mature-looking dreads from day one via a route of wax, gels, sweat, and hair-pulling tears. Whereas the natural folks say the best way to start dreads is to do nothing, the big product folks say the best way to make dreads is to do A LOT. Backcomb your hair till it turns into a big ratted mess, secure with wax, maintain with gel, wash with special shampoo, palm roll the suckers until your fingers hurt. You get the idea. The upside is your hair looks nicer. The downside is you feel like the same sort of hippy-as-consumer who buys Seventh Generation diaper now co-branded with the Lorax Movie(!).

In the middle of the continuum are Black people who don't need as much product to set up nice dreads... they can twist them and leave them while looking like neither mountain man nor Poison. And also I suppose you could segment your hair with rubber bands and leave nature to take its course with a little more guidance. Personally I was unaware of this whole debate when I contracted with a hairdresser to start my dreads. And even if I knew, I'd probably still buy into the dreadlock industrial complex. I'm only an aspirational hippy at heart. I'm truly very bad at allowing nature take it's course.

So I went for backcombing and "instant" dreads. Well, instant is a misnomer. It took six hours to section my hair into one-inch segments, back comb each segment and roll it together with wax. And then there's the months it'll take for the puffiness to compress and for my hair to actually dread, wherein the puffs of matted hair turn into felt-like cylinders. And only then will they really become "dreads" rather than backcombed hair. The idea is that over time the hairs grab onto each other and pull tighter, just like a handful of wool roving compresses under a felting needle. (Yeah Leah, just like that, says the majority of the blog readership who don't dream about a new hobby in needle felting.) As this happens, it'll be like I'm going through several different hairstyles. There's the funky way it is now, kind of puffy and crazy, and the future more polished look that I'll get to in six months to a year, if I can last that long without succumbing to mold or lice.

Not that it's any more likely that I'll get lice now than it ever has been. It's just that lice are hard to kick out of dreads. And even if they weren't, last time I got lice (which was in 1995 and the only time I ever got lice... from an airplane if you're wondering) I vowed then to shave my head if I ever got them again. I had long hair at the time, and that friggin tiny comb was torture.

Mold is another issue. I have to be careful to get my hair nice and dry after I shower, and I'll probably do a deep clean anytime I swim in the pond this summer. I've been using a blow dryer on my hair after the shower of if I go out in the rain. It feels a little silly to be blow drying dreadlocks, but at the same time it feels reassuringly feminine.

Harvey is fond of saying, "You have pretty hair, Mama."

After the initial dreading session my hair started to grab on to itself pretty quickly. This has been a real boon. I've washed my hair twice already, and I had expected to come out of the shower with lots of work to do shoving errant hairs back in place. Instead, everything mostly stayed in its nice dreaded segments, albeit frizzier than before. I had been using more wax to tame the frizzes, but then my mom bought me some accelerator gel for my birthday and I've been using that instead. It's overall better for my hair because it washes out completely, unlike the wax which will NEVER LEAVE YOUR HAIR OMG YOU RUINED YOUR HAIR FOREVER YOU CORPORATE SHEEP say the natural dreads people. Either way I feel I have very little to worry about structurally speaking - the dreads are keeping separate from each other and not unraveling - so the gel or wax is just for aesthetic purposes. If I want the dreads to look neater and tighter I use some product. If I feel like embracing the messy look, I do nothing.

a hair birthday hair wrap from my mom. Made of recycled Saris!

Of course, it's all relative what "messy" means here. Others might think I look like complete bedlam all the time, and perhaps they're right. But for my own sake I can tell the difference.


Dread update, 1 week in

The dreads are starting to tighten up and lose some of the overall poofiness. At the same time, I'm coming to terms with the fact that messiness is just part of this hairstyle. I think you can fight messiness in dreads the same way you can fight germs touching children. It's possible, but one quickly learns that the easier route is the route of acceptance.

dreads week 1

less side-show Bob, still not ready for the main show.

I'm getting more comfortable wearing them down (even out of the house!), but it's still not my favorite look. Mostly I wear them up in a wrap and I'm rather captivated by how darling that looks. You can see the end of yesterday's post for some shots. You may not think it looks darling, but you know that's how taste works. It's subjective.

I've also found that since the front hasn't dreaded up yet I can pull it back in a ponytail and it looks just like regular curly mess.

dread ponitail

early morning mess

Which is nice for just walking the dog first thing in the morning. I was wearing them down the other day and a neighbor gawked at me like I was giving birth on her front lawn. I don't mean anything bad about her, she was just very surprised by the new look. Probably she was rethinking our relationship: "The young lady with the babies... I've talked to her before... could it be she's NOT a Republican???"

So that's where they are after a week. The initial shock is gone and I'm pretty glad I did it. I like the overall look, if not how much I should be maintaining them. As clearly evidenced by the second photo. I should add, they do look more segmented on top after I roll them out for a half hour, but I can't be bothered to do that first thing in the morning. I didn't get dreads so I could wake up and style my hair.


dreads, day 1

The other day I wrote about the spiritual concept of "the now and the not yet." I'd like you to think that way in terms of my hair.

I got my hair dreaded last night, but it'll take about six weeks to look like cute tight normal dreads. So there is the finished look I'm going for, that's the "not yet" part," and then there's the "now" part which has things to celebrate while still not being the exact finished thing. Got it? Okay, I guess I'm just trying to set your expectations low. Here's the day-one pic:

dreadlocks, day 1

not trying to look high in this picture on purpose... the sun was really bright and I was squinting.

And here's how I'll wear it until it tightens up and looks less messy in the front

dreads from the side with a headwrap

looking all demure for having a humongous head

I actually think the wrap looks pretty cute! I have like an imperative to accessorize now.

dreads from the front with a headwrap

wrapped up and ready to go

I've had some moments of "Oh Lord, what did I do to my hair??!" in equal measure with "Oh my God this looks so adorable!!!" My curly hair was lovely, but I needed a change and a reprieve from the way the curls pulled at each other and hurt all over. I'm happy to report the dreads feel feather light, as if there's nothing on my head at all. Not to say that I dreaded my hair to help my sensory integration issues, but it's definitely a plus.. All in all I'm enjoying the feeling that this hairstyle, while feeling major in a way, is actually a rather low stakes life change. If I don't like it I can have really short hair in a few months. Is that really such a big deal? Anyway, for now I feel good, and I'm excited to see how the dreads will cinch up and get thinner in the coming weeks.

I want to make a cute funny joke here, but I stayed up past midnight with the hairdresser and Harvey woke me up at 5:30. So, um, yeah. Dreads. Yipee!


oh my goodness, another blog post about my hair

Thank you to everyone who weighed in a about my proposed hairstyle change. I've been thinking in these past few days (are you ready for a deep thought?) that hairstyle is an identity issue. The intersection of how I see myself with how I present myself to society. As such there seems to be a lot at stake when the presentation changes. Will everyone accept me in the same way they did before? if not, is there an asymmetry between the person I think I am and the way my friends view me?

The answer seems to be Yes and No. The people I've told in person "Hey, I'm going to dread my hair" have all pretty much shrugged their shoulders and been like, "Yeah okay. I get that that's something you would do." Which makes me feel pretty good about the way I currently present myself. Which is to say, I feel like a crazy hippy in my mind, so it's nice that my friends see that. It's the friends on facebook that have been more like, "Wait, OMG what?"

Here's another banal deep thought coming your way. It's hard for me to reconcile my current sense of self with the person my facebook friends knew ten years ago. Of course, the Leah who goes to reunions is the same person: I certainly present the same combination of fake-outgoing anxious over-sharing bubbly exhaustion that I did in high school. That's just the way I talk. But from a values perspective there are few things I cared about ten years ago that I still care about now. (Of course how banal again. I had kids in that interim and that changes everything; I'm not saying anything that everyone else hasn't figured out, and yet and yet...)

The person that I was ten years ago, overanxious and striving and wicked concerned about my appearance, that person died (theology alert!) and was buried in the waters of baptism. Yes, I know the way I appear in this blog post is overanxious about my appearance, but, er, it feels different and I swear I'm a different person. And theologically speaking I can be both that person and a different person; we are resurrected both in the "now" and the "not yet."

Dot dot dot. I feel like I started to write this post with an air of "You guys don't get me" and now that I've written it I find the whole thing kind of bitchy.

Dot dot dot. I've left this post and come back and I've completely changed my mind. Of course I am the same person I was ten years ago, extremely anxious over how other people view me and whether they accept me. If not, why would I vomit so many words about whether people like or dislike a hairstyle that I haven't even gotten yet?

No. The Leah I was at 6 and at 16 (theology alert!) is the Leah that God created, the same Leah that lives today saying every stupid joke that comes into my head and being more exuberant than the social situation warrants and having my heart break into pieces every time I see a fuzzy animal. But. (one last theology alert and then I'm done.) The Leah at 16 did not live in freedom, and I do. On account of Jesus, yes. Primarily so. But also on account of pursuing a life of freedom. Living freely sometimes feels very easy (thank you Jesus) and sometimes very difficult (thank you facebook). But that's the struggle that we've set ourselves to, and I hope that's what my friends see in me when they look at me and see a crazy person.

Okay, enough on this already. Hair is going into dreads on Thursday. I'm not going to talk about it again until I have photos.