I am a black man in my mid-30s and recently began wearing my hair in dreadlocks. After a wonderful visit with my mom (she lives in Sac; I live in Southern California), she wrote me a lengthy letter about how terrible my hair looks and how she’s afraid that my hairstyle will keep me from succeeding in life because people will make negative judgments about me based on my hair. I was really hurt by her letter, because I am a successful, gainfully employed, financially competent, independent and educated brotha. I feel like my appearance is more important to her than the positive things I have accomplished in life.
I am not wearing jumbo-size Rasta dreads; my dreads are orderly. Mom is old-school, and I feel she is being very superficial. I have yet to respond because I am still pretty miffed. I would rather respond when my emotions have settled, so that I do not say something mean. I don’t want my hair to be a big deal when I visit my family. I’m curious—how would you respond to Mom?
Um, well, I may be no help at all because, personally, I think dreads are incredibly sexy. So, my first thought is that your mamacita is worried sick that, as a sex symbol, you’ll have no time for serious career pursuits. All those years of stability and financial success will be wiped out in a few months because you’ll be completely distracted by all of the attention you’re certain to receive.
Of course, there’s a lot more percolating beneath this (OK, I can’t resist) hairy debate. Your mother’s approval is important to you. While it is natural to want our parents to be proud of us, it is not helpful to attach too much power to a parent’s opinion of our lifestyles—as long as those lifestyles are healthy. Is it possible that you are extremely proud of your accomplishments in life but do not let yourself feel the depth and breadth of that joy because, in your opinion, it is not fully reflected in the face and words of your mother? Perhaps this controversy is not about hairstyles. Search your heart. Do you seek more from your mama than she is able to provide?
Your categorization of your mom as “old-school” is a revelation, too. Her generation advanced by fitting in. Self-expression was for artists only. I recall a San Francisco television station firing a well-respected and talented female news anchor in the 1970s for wearing braids. Now braids are widely accepted. I suggest you have a dialogue with your mama about the experiences behind her fear.
I have a comment regarding the column “Outcome seekers” (SN&R Ask Joey, July 6). While your hetero guy friends aren’t entirely wrong about their assessment of motivations, it would be a mistake to regulate that assessment to men. There are plenty of women who use the personals as entertainment. I post on Craigslist and make a point that my intentions are sincere, but I still receive responses from women who pay lip service and rarely ever follow through. By the way, I don’t always agree with you, but I appreciate your insight.
Here’s the concept of an advice column: Someone writes in about her or his personal problem, and I respond to that person. The rest of the world eavesdrops. I don’t include every variation of a situation in my response because I’m talking to one person, about one situation.
Regarding agreement, I just present my ideas. If those ideas conflict with a belief system you’re attached to and unwilling to investigate, you’ll disagree with me. And that’s OK.