For so long, having an active lifestyle has been bad news for my locs. Since I've long ago decided against going the Marley route with my loc growth, love, care, and attention (and obsession) are required for my hair to maintain its glorious splendor. Six years in, and I am at a very comfortable, accepting place with sweat and maintenance issues.
As a dancer, I see very few working dancers and choreographers with long, "natural" hair. Hell, I now see fewer and fewer as of late with long braids. Perhaps the sleek look now prevails. And that is totally fine. I've concluded that I do not want my locs to grow beyond my lower back. For one, they DO get heavy and cumbersome at times. I just discovered that I could, contrary to what I'd told myself for years, that I could wear fitted hats. Now, finding my size (which shall remain between me and Saint Damita Jo) is another story. Add to this the fact that cutting my locs OFF is reserved for a major life event, and I've had quite the interesting experience with my hair.
In general, those of us with natural hair, specifically locs, do honestly feel and acknowledge a connection to one another. I'm sure obese people and women with abnormally deep vaginas share this same connection, but don't get me going off topic here. We tend to notice, admire and compliment one another more frequently than you probably get praised for that bold, luscious weave you have glued to your scalp. The decision to "go natural" in a world of blonde weaves, perm-addicted sisters, and late acceptance of "unique" or "ethnic" styles, plus a gumbo of other racial identity issues is commendable as far as I'm concerned. We're often drawn to one another in a crowd and can fall into conversation easier than with others. There's a level of respect and camaraderie in the exchanges that I appreciate.
As it relates to my active lifestyle, I have shed my obsession with the "clean" look. For years, my hair always had to appear freshly twisted and "acceptable." Now, new growth means that I'm still alive and kicking. Living with Lupus, completing chemotherapy and still having ANY hair (in addition to being aliveto write this) is cause for constant celebration. In six months of chemo, I lost about eight locs total when my roots thinned from Cytoxan treatments. Knowing all of this, again, it would take a MAJOR life event to make me start over.
Working out several days a week and dancing intensely is not great for those in search of the freshly twisted appeal. I totally understand this, as I've been there. Luckily, I need not pay $50 or $100 to a salon since I've done my own locs since 2005. To avoid the task of obsessing over appearances, I've come to accept my hair as is. Though it often looks unraveled just days after washing and twisting, I'm okay with it. Hell, this gives it character. And its still glorious and magnificent.
Contrary to popular (misinformed) opinion, locs are not dirty. Barring how other races not necessarily intended to wear the style (I'm looking at YOU, MaryBeth.) locs can be washed and as beautiful as your relaxed, straight hair. Personally, the health benefits of an active lifestyle and the low maintenance far outweigh any concerns stemming from vanity. I'm busting my ass in the gym and am accomplishing goals dance-wise, and "fresh" hair just doesn't seem to matter as much as overall progression. Let me see YOU get up, shake and go with that fried and straightened situation on your head. Thought so.
I say all of that to say that although I've long felt this way, I was just able to verbalize how I feel about my hair. I fully accept that my hair currently looks the fool just a week after an intense beautification session. That it no longer thins and breaks at will, snaps off during washing and is full, present and healthy is more than enough reason to love it. Even though my Grandmother refuses to believe it is all mine. Even though white people call them braids. Even when women ask to touch it.
Those times make me even more thankful for life. And glorious, magical hair.
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