It’s been about seven weeks since that Tuesday afternoon in December when I finally went through the not-so-small ordeal of cutting my locs off. At eight years, maintaining my locs (also referred to as “dreadlocks” and the less attractive term, “dreads”) is the longest relationship I’ve been able to maintain to date (which is equal parts amusing and saddening, I guess). The one question that has been asked far more than any is why did I do it. There were multiple reasons behind why, but it wasn’t until I sat down to write this that I really had an opportunity to relive and document WHY this was so necessary for me. So…here we go:
The end for me began around year four, when my hair no longer felt as if it were mine. One day while having a conversation with an associate I casually mentioned that I had contemplated cutting my hair off. Looking at me as if I told her I planned to cut my penis off, she interjected, “NO!!! You can’t do that!” The aggression and fear on her face and throughout her response was alarming yet comical. You’re telling ME when I can cut MY hair off??? My frustration with someone implying control over my hair was something I struggled to articulate merely because of how ridiculous it sounded. Then something troubling started to happen: the more I mentioned cutting my hair to people, even when saying so in a joking manner, the more this ridiculous response was being repeated to me. It’s as if there was some unknown follicle common law marriage between people’s new found idea of me and who I actually was becoming. Somewhere down the line though, after hearing that enough times, I started to buy into the nonsense.
Another issue for me were the random hands. Apparently, locs on a guy are similar to big breasts on a woman who doesn’t own anything except tight low-cutting V-neck shirts and tanks tops: such a distraction makes it hard to look elsewhere. Even to this day, it’s been great watching people that I know walk past me and not even recognize who I am. Friends who have entrusted their secrets and insecurities now look at me as if I am a stranger until the “Oh shit! I know you!” lightbulb goes off in their brain. It has really shown me how lazy we can all be at times in regards to noticing certain basic features on people we interact with every day…like eye color. It’s amazing how people who have known me for years have complimented me on my eyes in this past month, as if I just bought them though Amazon a week ago. Was my hair Beyoncé and the rest of my face Destiny’s Child? It makes me wonder: If you weren’t able to pay enough attention to look at someone in their EYES, what else are you not paying attention to when they actually SPEAK? I never grew my hair for attention. At least I don’t think I did. I mean, I’d be a damn fool to not recognize the countless number of women who lustily gazed at this stereotypical image of a “poet”, asking to put their hands in your hair while they fulfill some fleeting fantasy as they moan and hug you for extended periods of time. Many had the home training to ask; others, however, just dove in hand first like that chocoholic kid in front of you in the self-serve lunch line on Pudding Day. (Note: Putting your hand in a man’s head is the equivalent of me grabbing your ass or breasts without you saying yes. I’d advise against it if you ever have the urge to grab a stranger’s hair, ladies.)
I want to share this random tidbit as well: my initial title for this blog was “To Pimp A Butterfly: The Butterfly’s Story”, because as I look back, I really didn’t care for my locs as much as others, or at least expect others to use them to define me as a person. It’s as if they didn’t merely become a PART of me to others, but they actually became ME. People would be so bold as to ask about my hair THEN ask about me. The whole time here I stood, allowing my image to be shaped in whatever manner people saw fit, instead of being whoever the fuck I felt I should be.
On top of all that, there were also health concerns. Not even a year into growing my locs, I discovered that I had some type of dermal condition that only occurs when my hair reaches a certain length. Simply put, the hair length, combined with the twisting required to maintain my hair, caused extreme flaking and created this funky layer of skin over my entire scalp. Some places were so extreme, it caused bleeding. I tried every shampoo, oil, natural remedy, and medical procedure you can imagine with ZERO effect. It became a part of an already cumbersome system put in place just to maintain this style. My entire scalp would have to be attended to with a small-toothed comb to scratch up this layer of dead skin sitting on my head for at about 45 minutes…and this was BEFORE shampooing repeatedly, sitting in a chair for over an hour, then sitting under a hairdryer for another couple hours. Many reading this now are saying, “I still spend more time than that getting my hair done!” Well, I’m betting your scalp didn’t have a health condition that required this type of treatment multiples times a week, meaning that any given week, I’d go through this two or three times. It sucked. It. Really. Fucking. Sucked.
Even with all of this going on, I still wasn’t ready to let go of my hair, which just goes to show you that we all can be consumed by fear at one time or another in our lives. It can be a job or relationship that you know you need to leave, or it can be something as silly as the fear of not being accepted. I finally had to convince myself that anyone who didn’t want to accept me because of my hair no longer being there isn’t a person that deserves my time any damn way. I had to TRULY accept me for who I am and who I am becoming. I had to embrace everything about myself, including wanting to let go of something others may not have been prepared to see gone. What they wanted didn’t matter though, even my fans. True fans want to see their favorite artists evolve, because doing so gives them permission to do so as well. We all have others that inspire or encourage us; this made me wonder how many people are just now freeing themselves from binds because I hadn’t been brave enough to free myself from the burden that my locs became.
But if there was a main motive behind the big chop, without question it was energy. Many believe that your locs hold energy, for better or for worse. Let me tell you firsthand…that shit is REAL. There was a literal and metaphorical weight lifted off of me when I made that first cut with scissors my barber Sean handed to me. I felt reborn (which is ironic considering I live in Phoenix), but more than anything, I felt free. Free from caring how others felt I should look. Immune to thoughts of my pursuits of making my dreams my daily reality. It felt as if all of the frustration from my days dealing with drama in Kentucky, from custody battles to feeling unappreciated as an artist, to negative energies from relationships past, and even the issues in Phoenix had fallen off of my spirit, now lying in a wooly pile on the linoleum floor. I felt like Uma Thurman in “Kill Bill, Vol. 2”, climbing out of the box many tried to nail me in with their thoughts, clawing through dirt and doubt, finally reaching the top to just…breathe. I wore a smile that day that hadn’t been pulled out of the closet in quite some time. It looked damn good on me, and felt even better. The sun shined a little brighter that day to me, because I felt like myself again. Not to mention that first shower I took afterward. The hot water caressing my scalp, its drops massaging and hugging my entire head, down my neck and back as the shampoo tickled every follicle. I tell you, some people don’t have sex that felt as good as that first shower. (Did I mention my hair weighed nine pounds?)
Sometimes you just have to start fresh. That doesn’t mean that things are over, it simply means that this particular chapter is closed. I’m never going to say that my days wearing locs are over, but at a little over a month in, I am absolutely enjoying this new look and new outlook on life. Truth B. Told is still Truth B. Told, because my locs weren’t some gimmick used to make my words more relevant. I am many things, but I promise to never again be who others think I am simply because it makes it easier for them to pay less attention. For the first time in a long time, I am feeling as I should have felt all along: at peace.
My head is no longer heavy, but the crown still remains.