On Life and Love

A Return to Hair Simplicity

Three-something years ago (okay, okay, three years ago on February 25, 2008), I started growing my hair out into locs. I plaited my 2 inches of ‘fro and let it go. This was a month after I left teaching and the night before I started my first post-teaching job, and it was a big life transition for me. I was mourning having “failed” at being a teacher and wanted something personal to accomplish as I reentered corporate software development.

I tried latching once or twice, but my hair’s soft and it always came undone. Twisting was utterly useless; I would use no product to hold it in place.

So I washed it (in little circles, of course) and pried them apart at the roots.

Within about 4 months, I had teenaged locs: washing them out would have been nearly impossible, and I could wash and separate without fear of unraveling.

They were beautiful and fuzzy, and I loved them when they stuck up, when the tips hardened and matured, when they started to lay down, when I could do a little halfie pony tail that stuck out, and when I could do a full pony tail that brushed my collar.

A portrait of me from spring 2011, with long locs.

But I couldn’t put the significance into them that I initially thought I would. I wanted them to symbolize my journey and my own growth into myself after the beat-down of teaching. They were my return to the world. I wanted to be able to look at my hair like the rings of a tree, to see my life changes there. To be a rosary.

That didn’t quite happen, not in the “rings of a tree” way.

It was my hair, and although it does mean something nebulous to me, it became increasingly complicated on a practical level. By the spring of this year, I had two shampoos, a conditioner, a blow-dryer, and a real-deal regimen (?!) for when to wash with the harsher shampoo versus the low-sulfate shampoo, when to condition, etc.

It got caught. On everything. Seatbelts, bra straps, backpacks, purse straps, tree branches, shirt/dress collars, velcro, and headphones. It got pinned under my own shoulders or hands when I was getting out of bed.

People poked me in the ear with them. o_O

I couldn’t wear hats. I like hats, and my already-big head is enough of a problem, thanks.

It got in my eyes. It was hot and itchy on my neck. I couldn’t find a way to handle it that wasn’t either an annoyed yank or that vacuous-looking hair flip that just screams, “I have long hair and I love it!” Women shouldn’t feel a need to have long hair, and I never want to seem like I’m repping that.

I thought about just cutting down the locs themselves, but find me a length that won’t touch my face or neck. (Actually, um, don’t bother. You know where this is going.)

I knew going in that I hated hair on my face and neck–it’s why I kept my hair so short for three years before starting locs. Like teaching high school, though, I wanted to try something that could be life-changing and meaningful. I don’t regret either one.

As you might expect, Greg and I cut them last night with Dre (in spirit), who cut hers too, far away in Florida. It’s shorter than it ever was before:

Right after finishing the de-locing.

I feel… exposed. Bold. Black. Simpler. More open. Powerful.

I just shaved my damn head down to the next-to-lowest setting on my clipper guard.

A back view of my hair. It's short enough that scalp is visible.

At the moment, my scalp is sensitive from the tugging and vibrations and exposure, but that first shower… Water hasn’t hit my scalp directly in over three years. It was amazing.

I’m not going to lampshade it with big hoop earrings or makeup (which I didn’t even wear to my own wedding!). It’s okay if someone mistakes me for a man. It’s okay if someone finds it less attractive than the locs. I’ve always been a mixed bag.

Thinking on it as I write this, my locs served their purpose after all.