• Tiye Naeemah Cort

My Loc Journey: End of Year Five

You briefly read about my hair and how my locs became a journey for me.  I received a bunch of texts in response to my last post (for some reason, people don't like to just post comments to the blog...), and I figured I would share how the whole decision/journey/process went down. Although I couldn't care less about the "journey" involved and my intention was simply to do something different with my hair, I must say that it has become so much more than that over the years. Follow me...

During high school, my best friend started her locs. Her hair was thick, it grew very fast, and I loved playing in it. While she was growing her locs, I had a perm, cut that off and went natural, moved to Atlanta and re-permed my hair, added in an 18-inch weave, cut my hair again, rocked braids and twists, then moved back to Boston and rocked natural braid-outs and twist-outs for a while. Phew! During that time, I went back and forth about starting locs. My friend refused to start them for me, knowing that I was fickle and loved a quick hair change, but I loved my natural texture, so I let it be for a while.

December 2011... I went to Guyana for a few weeks to join my father while he was on sabbatical. Between people watching from our balcony and traveling back and forth to visit cousins, uncles, and the market, I saw so many people with beautiful locs. They were thick and long, some were freeform, some more manicured. People called me "rasta", mistaking my twists for locs, and I realized that I was in a cultural mecca where locs were a very beautiful thing, especially against dark skin. 

December 26, 2011... I scored tickets to see my favorite reggae artist, Jah Cure, live in concert, and I was super excited about the possibility of being spotted and having my dream Rastafarian ask me to marry him on stage in front of everyone (wishful thinking, since he was already married). We got to the outdoor concert, and after a couple of hours, I decided that I definitely wanted locs. Maybe it was the fact that I was surrounded by Rastafarians singing along to Jah Cure's beautiful lyrics, maybe it was the contact high, but when I got home from the concert, the first thing I said to my father was "I want dreadlocks." He nonchalantly responded "Then just do it." Fast-forward a little more than a year to an almost a blood-contract with my best friend that I would stick it out through the process, and I started my locs on August 31, 2012.

... And I hated them. Anyone who has started locs with their own natural hair knows that the beginning stage is when you develop the most character. My friend washed and deep conditioned my hair, then parted and coiled it into little "starter locs, but to keep them from uncoiling over time, she then cornrowed the coils straight back (Set It Off style). Now, I have what most would consider to be a five-head. It's huge. And wearing my hair straight back like that only highlighted my dome. But I rocked the style and there are pics to prove it. I kept hope alive by remembering that soon my hair would lock and I would be able to wear my hair out, and it would hang down to my shoulders, and Lauryn Hill would call me like "girl, come make an album with me", and we would be best friends.* It took about 6 months for my hair to lock completely. In between braided styles that continued to show off my forehead, I kept dreaming. One day L-Boogie would send me a Facebook message like "Tiye, let's do this."

The first few months were rough. I couldn't wash my hair as often because every time I did, the coils would unravel. I had to remember to wear my head scarf at night to keep my edges laid because a big forehead and dusty edges ain't nothin' nice. I wore cute earrings and other accessories to take attention away from my burgeoning locs and bring the attention back to other things about me- my smile, my eyes, my nail polish- anything! I thought the braids made me look a bit boyish, and as a girly-girl, that took some adjustment.

By the end of year one, I thought I was really doing something when my hair was able to be worn loose. I did braid outs, securing the braids with rubber bands at the end on a nightly basis, and taking them out in the morning to sport wavy locs. By the end of year two, I had a little more length and added some color. By the end of year 3, I had some more length, and did the drastic brownish-blonde home dye job- my most favorite to date. By the end of year 4, I felt official. I learned which products and oils worked best for my hair, I could do most of the styles I saw on Youtube, and I was completely comfortable with saying "no" when people asked if they could touch my hair, "yes" when people asked if my hair was completely mine, and "OK, girl" when people said "I'm thinking about starting locs..."

And here we are closing in on the end of year 5. My locs are healthy and my hair is about mid-back length. It still surprises me to feel it against my back or my arms when I move. I have to tie my hair back when I eat. Things like forgetting a ponytail holder during a Soulcycle class are real issues now because who the hell works out with their hair down? People always sneakily touch my hair and say "It's so long!", and those who are just starting the loc journey tell me "I can't wait until mine look like yours!" I remember thinking the same thing about my friend's locs years ago.

Now I realize that, although it's just hair, sometimes it is part of a journey. My locs have been with me through thick and thin (literally), makeups and breakups, smiles and tears, confidence and doubt, blonde, red, purple, blue, green (freak accident with cheap at-home hair dye), and therefore jet black (it corrects all mistakes). It's a journey through the growth, learning to love and nurture your scalp and hair, and embracing your texture in a way that is ethnic, artistic, and intriguing. Locs helped me secure my self esteem in something beyond the physical through the awkward short phase to the longer and more luscious phase by helping me remember that it is just hair. Cool, good, magical hair

*Sidenote: Lauryn Hill still hasn't contacted me for that album, but we did meet a couple of years ago and she told me that she liked my outfit (which I'm assuming included my hair). So, there's that.




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