Monday, April 18, 2011

My Life, My Hair, My Baby

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

Yesterday we took our boys swimming at this awesome indoor pool, not too far from our house. We went out for Mexican food afterwards, then came home and tucked our very sleepy boys into bed. I would have loved to collapse in front of the TV and then gone to bed myself, but I didn't. Instead, I stood up in the bathroom for almost two hours and twisted my hair. Yes, I'm growing a new crop of dredlocks.

For those of you who don't fully understand the process of growing locs, it takes a while. A person can't just walk into a salon with a healthy Afro and walk out with dredlocks. For most people it takes somewhere between 3-6 months for the hair to lock. In my experience, it takes about five months. So, there I am, tired as heck, because I haven't swam in a long time -- and I kind of overdid it to impress my sons who hinted that they thought I was too fat too swim -- lovingly twisting the hundreds of individual locs on my head and questioning my choice of hairstyle. And then it hit me.

For every one of my children, I've had a new head of locs. When I was pregnant with my first child, I'd been growing my locs for three years. They were long, thick and strong, falling way below my shoulders. I remember being so thrilled when my infant son would nurse and grasp onto a loc and hold it lovingly. As he grew, he would play with my hair, reach for it in comfort and play with it in boredom. Sometimes he'd chew on it too, but that was kind of gross for the both of us. Baby spit in your hair? Not so much.

When my second son was born, I'd cut my locs short. He was born in July. It was hot. I wanted a change. So son number two got me with freshly shorn, short locs. His birth coincided with our move to Philadelphia as well, so the new locs, new home, and new baby all felt very symbolic to me.

And now, here I am seven years later and I'm growing a new baby and a whole new set of locs. Initially, I decided to lock my hair because I figured as a new mom, I just wouldn't have time to "do" my hair every day. I needed a style with versatility and low maintenance. Trust me when I say, I've tried just about every hairstyle a Black woman can have -- except a weave -- and dredlocks by far are the easiest and offer the most style options. So I took the plunge. But last night, arms aching and legs cramping, I felt that there was a spiritual dimension to this decision. By my calculations, my baby girl and my new set of locs should both be "done" at around the same time.

So ignoring the pain (I'm exaggerating, the pain wasn't that bad, but I just would have preferred to be slouched in front of the TV) I found a new source of inspiration for doing my hair... besides wanting to be cute, of course. I want my hair to be ready for my daughter to play in, marvel at, grab onto and chew on if she so chooses. Now I know I'm growing them for her and for me.

Does that sound strange to you? Do you have a special relationship with your hair? Does it mean more to you than the strands sitting on top of your head? You know that was the question I wanted to answer when I wrote the book, Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America. So, tell me your greatest hair story.

I'm listening.


(p.s. the girl in the picture is not me. courtesy of


JBH said...

My relationship with my hair is not too complicated: I've learned to work with what I've got. My "poker straight 'asian' hair" was never happy to try to be curled or permed (only permed once). I was told by a hairdresser recently (he was Asian mixie, BTW) that "your hair is so thick, it's like molding cardboard."

While I don't have a profound connection with my hairstyles and my sons' births, my hair DOES mean more to me than the strands on my head. Getting a new hairstyle is a sure-fire way to boost my self confidence...

GG said...

I love this! My hair is very symbolic for me because I decided to grow out my relaxer at a time when I'd decided to go on a journey to figure out who I am and what my purpose is in life. I've written about how I viewed my new growth as a new me emerging. But it wasn't really new, you know? It was the me that was always there, but I'd chosen to hide it because I thought I needed to in order to be accepted. So, my hair will always represent my journey to get back to the basics of who I am and what's unique about me. :)

LT said...

I can't believe a stylist said that to you!!! Wait, yes I can. (sigh). Thanks for sharing your hair story.

Thanks. And I hear you. New hair often = new you symbolically. I've heard that many times before. Good for you!

luba said... My relationship with my hair is a continually work in progress. I just recently cut it short(ish) again after growing it for the last almost four years; since the birth of my first child and now I'm half a year into my second. I was thrilled when my hairdresser (who I've been seeing for almost 10 years now!) told me that this new hairstyle does not look like a "mom cut."

LT said...

Congrats on not getting a 'mom cut.' I think that now that I'm about to be a mom of 3, I'm seriously trying to not fall into the trap of mommy style.

Waiting for Zufan! said...

Love it!!! You know my little Zufi has locs now, right?