The Day the Dreadlock Died

I had forgotten about this story until a few weeks ago, when I went out to lunch with a group of people and ended up sitting next to a guy with a really, really nice head of dreadlocks.

I love a good set of dreads, and have considered getting them myself, but the experiences of a few of my friends have convinced me that doing dreads correctly requires a lot of time and effort that I’m simply not willing to spend. I’m a wash’n’wear kinda girl. Except for the times when I’m a powder’n’wear girl, but that’s another story. (On a side note: three weeks ago, two people told me separately within the span of two days that my hair is ‘almost dreads.’ Um. . .thanks?).

My ex-roommate and current friend Julia has sported dreads off and on for several years now, and while she’s gotten better and better about taking care of them, there was a time when she. . .um. . .didn’t. You see, dreads can be relatively low-maintenance once they’ve been established, but they need to have a chance to “lock in” first, and depending on your hair texture, this can take years. During that period of time, it’s important to apply your sticking agent of choice* nightly in order to encourage your hair to become the carefully arranged mess it’s supposed to be.

Julia, as a college student who doesn’t like fuss, tended to wax her dreads once a year, give or take, and when I got back from a semester in LA (during which, lacking my watchful eye, Jules had shamelessly neglected said dreads), I insisted that the time had come to give her a good waxing. We set up a station with her sitting in front of me and me surrounded by a variety of dread-encouraging implements.

Rolling dreads is the easiest thing in the world, at least if you aren’t too particular about the end result; dab some wax on your palms, put a dreadlock between them, and rub them together vigorously, focusing especially on twisting down the root. I took on the job with gusto.

Jules’ dreads were in rough shape, and I have to admit that I was somewhat cold-hearted in laughing at her throughout my task completion. Some of the dreads had mashed together to form a united conglomeration, while others were anemic to the point of obscurity, and it was quite the interesting job to separate the enmeshed dreads and try to find enough loose hair to bolster some of the pathetically skinny ones. I was nearing the end of the process, still giggling to myself over Jules’ pre-waxed state, when I suddenly felt a horrible ripping sensation between my fingers. The dread I was working on was really thin at the root, and it apparently couldn’t handle the rolling sensation. One moment, I was vigorously rolling a dread attached to Julia’s head, and the next, I was vigorously rolling an orphan dread between my suddenly-face-level palms. I had literally just ripped a chunk of hair from my best friend’s head.

“Um. . .Julia?” I stared at the knot of headless hair in my palms, then at the tailless nub of hair still attached to that section of her scalp.

“What?” Jules looked up at my stricken face. “What’s the matter?”

“Um. . .” Maybe you shouldn’t tell her. Maybe she won’t notice. It IS on the back of her head, after all. I tried to subtly close my hand around the dread, but Jules’ sharp eyes caught it.


I proffered the hair fatality with a sickly smile. Words were inadequate. De-dreading is a serious offense, punishable in some circles by friendship death.

Julia grabbed her dread and cradled it gently in her hand. “My dread,” she moaned, and I looked on in solemn silence, giving them space to say goodbye. It was a dark moment.

Our friendship recovered after some hard work, but Julia has not allowed me to come near her dreaded head since that fateful day.

*You can buy dread wax (my personal favorite brand being ‘Knotty Boy’), but you can also use such fun sticking agents as honey. Honey, while a cheaper agent, has the unfortunate tendency to lure interesting critters to nest in your head, and I once  heard of a guy who cut off one of his honeyed dreads and split it in half to find a nest of maggots.

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