Observations from a Dreaded Red Head

As many of you know, I dreaded my hair as a summer project this July. It was a long project, but well worth it looking back.

Well… in the spirit of remembering great transitions, I have another change, another new look rather, that I’d like to confess.

uh oh… I know, its a shame I couldn’t even wait until halloween to cut these off, but I just sensed it was time.

As I spent Monday night cutting my dreads down to dread nubs and combing out the sticky knots, I thought about how a simple change in appearance can change the way people see you. And this lead me to compile some observations about the way I feel people saw me.

Positive Observations: That which I will try to remember.

I loved having random people come up to me and ask me about my hair… marveling at how cool it looks, wondering if they could touch it, etc. I feel as though I was invited into a few extra conversations that I wouldn’t have had the privilege of being a part of, had I not had something “different” about me.

Sometimes I felt that being the only member on a conservative Christian college campus who had dreads, students would automatically lump me into some unofficial crunchy-granola, free-spirited, liberal category, and because I had dreads, they were a little more “ok” with that… I wasn’t shocking. Maybe I can explain it this way: Instead of students expecting that I’m just like them (their theology, their ideologies, their social awareness, etc.) they automatically assumed that I was very much not like them because of my appearance (whether I was or wasn’t…) Sometimes that expectation can be helpful. When people expect to disagree with you, and you find things on which you do agree, it is a celebration. When people expect to agree with you (on everything), and you find things on which you don’t agree, it can be heart-breaking. All, of course, depending on maturity level.

How truly amazing it is to have people in your life who will sit with you for four days of their summer vacation pushing, pulling, combing, back-combing, knotting, sculpting, and twisting dreads into existence… all the while risking the potential of an early onset of arthritis. As I’ve already blogged about, I hope to live up to the commitment level of my friend Consecrated in my meaningful relationships. It still baffles me that she sacrificed for me and then truly enjoyed the finished product with me just as much as I did. She does life with people well.

Frustrating Observations, or at Least, Laughable:

Earlier I said that I enjoyed when people, strangers really, would strike up conversations asking me about my hair… however I greatly tired of this one question: “what does your husband think of your dreads?” I realize that this is a valid question, and didn’t mind the inquiry when it was the 4th or 5th question somebody asked me. However, it if was the first of second question out of their mouth, it became frustrating. I think when a question like that is asked first, it communicates to me that Brandon is the only one that matters when it comes to my hair. Sometimes people asked with really concerned looks on their faces, as if to communicate even further that they might have been concerned for my poor husband for having a wife who no longer wants to be attractive. (I roll my eyes, these people clearly do not know us.)

And at least this is laughable: during Labor Day, Brandon and I visited his family in Rockford and we attended church with them. Their church literally had no idea what to do with me. They stared, made double and triple takes as I walked down the hall, and made faces to one another as I walked by. I strategically stayed pretty close to Brandon’s mom the whole morning. I thought if I walked around with an upstanding member of the congregation, I would make it easier for someone to approach me if somebody they knew was present. Sadly, not many people took advantage of this gesture. One lady was so curious that she pulled Brandon’s mom aside and inquired about me behind my back. Two people out of the whole church (and we were there for both services of roughly 250 congregants each) introduced themselves to me, both I must say, were very pleasant. I know there’s a difference between church attenders in a city like Minneapolis and a smaller town such as Rockford, IL, so for me it was pretty easy to laugh off. However, I will say that I love living in an urban area and I love my church for appreciating (and fighting for) urban culture and loving the people of Minneapolis and beyond. (Maybe a blog on that down the road.)

I know three months doesn’t seem like a long time to have dreads, but it was well worth it to me. I kept telling people that it was a bucket list item of mine and I encourage everyone to partake in bucket list items when the opportunities seek you out.

something new : )

5 Responses to Observations from a Dreaded Red Head

  1. Betsy

    Rae Rae,
    I LOVE your thoughts and I LOVE your new hair!!! I can’t wait to see it in person! Your courage to attempt your bucket list items astounds me. I know, I know, it might not seem like bucket list items should be things you’re afraid of, but mine often are…if they were easy to do, I’d probably already have done them! So, some day I’ll write them down, give you a peek and you can help me achieve my list check-offs as well. Thanks for inviting me into your amazing projects and I can’t wait for the next one!

    ps…this is my favorite part, “When people expect to disagree with you, and you find things on which you do agree, it is a celebration. When people expect to agree with you (on everything), and you find things on which you don’t agree, it can be heart-breaking.” Painfully beautiful…

  2. Claudia

    I like the new hair, Rachel, but I liked the dreads too!!
    It is interesting that people have preconceived notions about people based on how they dress, piercings, tattoos, hair, etc. Their notions can be totally wrong. I will try not to think a person is a certain way because of those things.

  3. Rachel

    Claudia – I think its completely natural to have preconceived notions about people based on their look or their culture or their occupation… whatever. I think it just becomes a problem when we let those preconceived ideas effect the way we relate to people… or don’t relate to people.

    And Betsy – you’re absolutely right, some bucket list items are much more complicated than simply experimenting with a new look… I actually should think more about what is honestly on my “bucket list” (ooo, maybe a blog someday).

    Thanks for reading… and commenting : )

  4. susan your mom


    I brought up this very subject of our church with my small group as half did not know you are my daughter-in-law. They were afraid/shy to talk to you but they promised to do better. One lady in our group shared how she would dress like a homeless woman and then attend church (she works for the Rescue mission). Most respond like our church did. I’ll tell you about her experiences sometime.
    I like the “new” hair too just don’t change your pretty color.


  5. Rachel

    Hi Susan,

    I’m glad you were able to start some discussions regarding the whole experience. I know you were finding it as interesting as I was : )

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