1. Can I touch it?
Ok, I won’t be completely inconsiderate. Some people are curious and are physical experiencers. But to the staggering majority, my hair is not a petting zoo and no one likes to be treated as a spectacle. This also puts me in a quite uncomfortable predicament when I have to tell you “no.” Though some people may be okay with it, dreadlocks mean something different to almost everyone that has them and to some, like me, they are a sacred adornment. Besides, it’s kind of weird to ask random strangers if you can touch their hair, not to mention a subtle violation of personal space.
2. Do you wash it?
I almost feel inclined to be a little satirical when I’m asked this. I really feel urged to go on this elaborate tutorial on my anti-washing regimen. “Of course not! What I do is take a weekly visit to a barn and collect the mud from a pig’s pen. Then I generously apply the debris and manure to my hair and let sit for 30 minutes, rinse and repeat. Sometimes I even stick particles of food into my hair to allow a nesting grounds for birds, who will pick at my hair and help intertwine the strands to create a dreadlock.” And then I would conclude by giving them my best Kanye West expression.
3. How do you wash it?
Satirical double? To be honest, however, it’s actually more entertaining to see their expression when you’re actually very literal and honest: “with soap and water.”
4. Are you Jamaican?
Although I am, I can only imagine how annoying this is for people with dreadlocks that are not Jamaican. This question is annoying for me because it’s such an article of misinformation. The most grievances that I get about my hair are from Jamaican people. Yes, Jamaican people. Jamaica is a pretty Christian and conservative state. Rastafarians in Jamaica are viewed as the black sheep of society. I’m understanding that people think that dreadlocks are glorified in Jamaica because of figures like Bob Marley. Furthermore, it’s indicative of your lack of intelligence to ask every person with dreadlocks if they are Jamaican — the dread spans way past Jamaican Rasta culture. Spiritual Hindu leaders do it. Tribes people of West and Central Africa do it. Hippie-spirited people do it. It’s a hairstyle that is not tied to just one sect of people. It’s like asking every person with an afro if they’re apart of the Black Panther Party.
5. Dreads are dirty, no?
I’m not sure when combing was officially deemed the same thing as washing with soap and water. Because it’s combing — and not washing — that dread-wearers refrain from. In my personal defense, I wash my hair as regularly as when I had loose non-locked hair. If anything, I wash my hair more frequently and thoroughly than when I did not have dreadlocks for the simple possibility that there is a greater possibility that hair products may build up. Though I’m sure there are some people who are not cleanly with their dreadlocks, I also know that this is equally as true for people without dreadlocks. And frankly, it’s ignorant to stigmatize all people with a certain look into an insulting category.
But ultimately: let’s try to have some humanity here. We know it’s not okay to say insulting things to someone who is overweight. We know it’s not okay to say insulting things to people with different religious backgrounds. So why would it be okay to insult someone with a hairstyle that you haven’t taken the time to understand? Be conscious of the power of your words.