‘How long have you had your locks?’
‘Did you cut them?’
‘You hair doesn’t grow?
These three questions always came in this particular order when people asked me about my hair. I had locks (most people call them dreadlocks, but they aren’t worn to be dreadful anymore- so I just consider them locks now) for about 15 years, and then earlier this year, I took a scissor to my hair and chopped them all off (to be very precise, Martin chopped them all off, despite his horror).
My mother has had locks for over 20 years. I feel like she’s always had them and I can’t remember a time when she didn’t. Now, they are very long- all the way down her back. Growing up watching TV, I always wanted hair like that. Long and shiny (and later, long and kinky like mummy’s) and beautiful. But long was always a criteria for beauty. I could never achieve that, my hair is wispy and light and not very strong. It breaks at the slightest and doesn’t ever grow past my shoulders. I have made my peace with that. It’s other people who still have a problem.
Now, I have this daughter that I’m raising and people have started to ask me about her hair.
‘Oh, her hair is just like yours, don’t get mad’, one person told me. I was so confused, I just stared at her. We weren’t even talking about hair at that time. Anyway, being the meaning- making machine that I am, I took that to mean, ‘Kendi’s hair is just like yours, if it doesn’t grow long and beautiful as everyone wants their daughter’s hair to grow, don’t get mad, you made her like that’.
‘Wow!’ is all I could summon. After she had left though.
And that’s not even the half of it. There are people who think I should start thinking about what I’m going to do with her hair. ‘Are you going to lock her hair’, ‘maybe you can blow dry it’ and so on and so forth. I just think I should let her be a baby as long as I possibly can. Before she starts to understand that the world is going to judge her, harshly, on how she looks.
I have a cousin whose hair is so long (she’s about 8 years old), and every single time I see her at a family gathering, there’s a group of people telling her how beautiful her hair is. I find this situation potentially harmful to her self-esteem. But that’s just my world view.