I started to wear my hair in dreadlocks sixteen years ago. It was not something I did for style or likes on social media. The decision to wear my hair in dreadlocks was a conscious choice to reflect pride. I wanted to preserve my natural hair in recognition of familial ties to the history and culture of African people.
My dreads also began as a tool of resistance. They made a statement against dominant perceptions of men with short and well-groomed physical appearances. Now that I am growing older and my hair looks thinner in some sections, I find myself thinking about the prospect of baldness.
My father lost his hair years ago. When middle age arrived, his hair left! I don’t have any memories of my dad with a full hairline.
I am aware of genetics. There are occasions when I have to remind myself to stay positive. According to a US News article, although hair loss is associated with maternal genes, men can assume that if their father is bald then it is probable that their hair will follow a similar pattern.
When my father visited me last week, I expected him to comment about my dreads. I know he does not like my hair. He often says things similar to, “It will not be long before you join me” or “I have a new barber.” It’s his way of teasing me and indicating that I should cut my hair. But this time, for whatever reason, he did not say anything about my hair.
My sons also have dreads. They are five and six years old, with beautiful hair that stretches down their backs. My dad does not like their hair either, but again he did not say anything about it during his visit. I think he is beginning to accept our hair.
When we lived in the United States, our dreads did not receive much attention. In 2016, when we moved to Mexico, our hair became the main attraction. When we walked down the streets, people often would ask my wife or me if it was okay to touch our hair. Now that we live in Antigua, our hair has taken on a new meaning.
When we are out in town, we often hear, “Rastaman.” Rastaman is a reference to the religious and social movement of Rastafarianism. For Rastafarians, the dreadlocks are a spiritual symbol of their connection to Hailee Selassie, also known as Jah Rastafari. I respect the Rastafarians’ support of Pan-Africanism and empowering underserved populations, but I am not a follower of the faith. Among other differences in perspectives, the beliefs some hold about the inferiority of women and the importance of marijuana do not resonate with me.
While I often smile and respond, “respect,” when others say Rastaman to me and my boys, I continue to wear dreads for my own reasons. My dreads symbolize love for my ancestors. They represent beauty, strength, discipline, and dedication.
I know I don’t need dreads to remember the struggle for freedom or the power within me to succeed.
Whether I have long thick hair until I am ninety or until next week, I have internalized the growth experienced since I began the journey to dread sixteen years ago.
With this post, I want to encourage you to be happy with the person you are today. It does not matter what others say about you or your physical appearance. We are made perfect and in alignment with a divine image. Start and end every day with gratitude and appreciation for the person you see in the mirror.
If this message resonates with you, but you don’t know how to develop positive self-awareness, explore the resources in my self-paced online course.
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Photo Credit: ivanoel28