To be d(r)ead honest, I can’t remember exactly why I decided to knot my hair. I am just about a year into my journey and I have given countless reasons to inquisitive enquirers thus far. I find it difficult to satisfy my interrogators with a succinct sentence that summarises the thought process that lead up to the great dreading decision. Yeah, I didn’t want to brush my hair anymore and sure, I wanted to experience what it felt like but ultimately I would say it was because of curiosity.

I was curious as to why people would do it, why they would want to knot their hair. I was curious as to why each and every dreadhead that I had met, had a similar (and an oh-so attractive) vibe to them. I was curious as to how it is done, how it feels on your head, how it might look on my own crown.

My curiosity is now quenched. It is definitely a great perk to have such low maintenance hair. Another perk, one which I doubt will ever become mundane, is the feeling of flipping my hair to the side. I can feel the flight and crash of each individual dread and it is such fun I sometimes get lost in the experience. But on this journey I discovered so much more than what my curiosity had asked for.

Two weeks in I was on the verge of giving up, and it wasn’t the only time either. My head was a ball of fluff. I had sectioned my hair with elastic bands and combed and teased and rolled but the image I saw in the mirror was nothing close to the images that flashed before my eyes when I thought of the word ‘dreadlocks’. I was almost convinced this just wasn’t my thing. Almost.

Commitment. Lesson number one from the wonderlocks. I persevered through my hideousness, and subsequently the universe provided a solution for my not-quite-dreads. The straggly tufts of hair got woven into a proud mane. Alas, I had another bout of doubt if this really was the path for me, for my hair was so tightly woven I might as well have been bald. The locks coming off of my head seemed separate to the head it was attached to, like some sort of ghastly hat.

Patience. Lesson number two from the wonderlocks. For with time came progress which slowly lead to compliments, but I was humble in my acceptance thereof. There is one rough ride between where I began and how I appear to new acquaintances. With every awed “I wish I could do that too!” I was unsure if it was my place to inform them of the behind-the-scenes effort. What you are looking at when you look at me is neither the beginning nor the outcome, it is an isolated moment in my continual journey.

Upon transcending the internal dilemmas of my decision, I entered into a space of enjoyment. I developed a relationship with the furry tufts that edge themselves into my peripheral view. Despite constantly brushing a few stragglers out of my face every couple of minutes, I actually enjoy the incessant interaction. I was finally on good terms with the extensions of my body, but the next stage of my journey was awaiting. In the initial decision making I had failed to factor in other people and on what terms they may be with the extensions of my body.

I could no longer blend into the background, if I walked into a building I could feel everyone in the room take note of my entrance. Sometimes it’s very obvious, as people unashamedly stare as I innocently go about my business.

There is that side of things, where I get treated like the dirty hippie that I portray, and there is also the other side. Where I am confronted with a chorus of “Rasta womb-man!” as I walk down the street handing out fist bumps left, right and centre.

Lesson number three from the wonderlocks – humility. Sometimes strangers regard me highly, but this is unfair because I have done nothing to warrant this respect and now I am left with the shoes to fill. Other times people simply disregard me. In both circumstances I have to remind myself that their reactions have nothing to do with me. I cannot take my hair off, I cannot pause this role-playing. All that they see is the image they project unto me.

The most unforeseen aspect of my journey was this role that I had unknowingly assumed. How people treat me is a result of their perception on dreadlocks, rather than on how I behave or who I am. Sometimes I wish they could see Anja instead of dreadlocks, although regarding my hairstyle as an expression of who I am as a person has been advantageous. It has functioned both as a filter and as an attraction. It has brought me to people, and brought people to me, that I deeply connect with, leading to wild, exhilarating turns in my life. Conversely, it keeps people who are not open to my way of life at bay.

Lesson number four so graciously delivered by the locks of wonder – awareness. While my hair is a hurdle in each and every social interaction I engage in, there will be a gap between appearance and understanding in every meeting anyway. You will be categorised no matter how you look or what you wear, I just made it easier for everyone. The dreaded journey has magnified my awareness of this image versus reality life we live in. With this increased awareness I can choose to play the pretentious games of folk, or slip through the unnoticed doorway into unrestricted territory. Last lesson of the mighty mane (thus far) – freedom. Time for the next leg of my journey.

Published by Anja Cronje