Recently, I cut off my dreadlocks. It was time for a change.
But the truth is, I was terrified to do it. I was about to remove my most defining physical feature and I was scared that I would lose my identity. There's no doubt about it, when people see someone with dreadlocks they have certain preconceptions about what the person will be like. I know some of these preconceptions are negative, but many of them are positive, and having had dreadlocks for five years, I had become familiar with the identity people would project onto me.
The scary thing about cutting off my dreads was that I didn't know how it would change people's perception of me. (And by 'people', I mean strangers. My friends know me - to them I would look different, but I wouldn't be different). Would it make me more or less approachable? Would I become less attractive to people? Certain people were attracted to the dreadlocks because they were alternative and interesting. If you are what people perceive you to be - which, of course, you're not, but you might as well be - then what would I be without my dreadlocks? I began to have a lot of self doubt. Was my personality strong enough for me to interest people even if I looked normal? Was my physical appearance filling in the gaps in my character?
This internal debate culminated in one morning, sitting in front of a mirror, holding my front dread between the blades of a pair of scissors. I sat like that for quite a while until at one point, the blades came together, and the dread fell limp in my hand. After that, of course, there was no going back.
The dreadlocks were far too established to brush out or pick apart, so my only option was to cut them at the root. Remarkably, when I was finished, I still had some hair left. I was worried I would have to buzz it clean and start from scratch. But no, luckily there was enough left to work with. It looked ridiculous of course, but it could be fixed, so I put on a hat and went to the barbershop.
When the guy was finished, I was surprised by how much I liked the new cut. It felt good for a change to have short hair and my head felt light and free. It's much easier to manage now. Washing the dreads took forever because they soaked up the water like a sponge and took at least a day to dry out. Sleeping is easier now too. It was annoying sleeping with dreads because I would spend half the night pushing them out of my face or off the pillow. So practically, it's a lot easier, but I also like the look.
All those worries I had about losing my identity have disappeared. I'm still the same person. I like the way I look now and have experienced no difference in the way people interact with me. I was over analysing how different it would make things by cutting my hair, when the truth is, nothing is very different at all. After all, it was just a haircut. I've come to realise that people actually pay very little attention to the appearance of strangers, which I suppose is both comforting and a little disheartening.