Thursday, March 26, 2009

To Wrap or Not To Wrap . . . that's the question!

When I sighted (came to the knowledge) of RastafarI some years back my life completely changed. At some point, I'll talk about how that came to be but today I want to talk about an outgrowth of RastafarI: my appearance. For many years now, I have embraced modesty as the ideal for a RastafarI woman. What that means is that in public my hair is always covered (and if we have non-female visitors at the gates), wearing long skirts exclusively, and putting on no makeup amongst other things depending on the Rastawoman you ask. The point is that doing these things, we declare our rebellion and separation from the Babylon system which emphasizes and exploits a woman's physical body and her sexuality.

I've come a very long way these past few years and while I still identify as RastafarI, I'm hesitant to place a label on myself. After all, trodding in RastafarI, you come to find that there are so many different interpretations and understanding of what the trodition is and of who His and Her Majesty are and of what repatriation and Africa represents, it's difficult to point to something and say, "Yup, that's RastafarI." It used to be that you could see a bredren with bongo natty and say, "One blessed Love" with a hand over your heart and be greeted in kind. These days, you might get a bewildered look.

In any case, it's fairly easy, generally speaking, to tell a Rasta sistren because of how she looks, particularly because she would have her natty wrapped up usually on the top of her head or have some other head covering to cover her natty. (She might be wearing red, gold and green buttons or pictures of His and Her Majesty too.) If you've been following this blog since I started it last year, you know the struggles I have had with my hair. It has been kind of traumatic in ways that I can't fully express but that have to do with not being able to physically manifest such an important symbol (to me) of my spiritual trod: dreadlocks. When I started to lock up after I sighted FarI, I was determined to have 7 big congo natty locks like Samson. (Babylon take that!) Never happened. Right now, I have not one lock. I wear a low boy (took it down from a caesar) and I can't imagine ever attempting to lock up again. It's difficult, to be sure. I so would like to rock a lovely wrap full of cascading, organic locks. I've crocheted so many lock caps and custom hair nets for sistren and bredren with waist long (or longer) locks. I've looked forward with sincerest anticipation to the day when I'd be crocheting my own. I chuckle because back when I was brand new to Rasta, I would stuff my wraps with fabric just waiting for the day, faking it till I made it. These days, I hardly bother with intricate wraps (although recently I've started making the effort again) and I'm finding it even harder to keep up a Rastawoman appearance.

In snow, it's much easier to wear pants when slinging around two kids, stroller, diaper bags, etc. It's easier to wear pants if I'm going to be sitting on the floor at story time or chasing my babies around the playground. Since I spend most of my time doing these things, it's easier to wear pants all the time (not tight fitting or form revealing--just comfortable, loose style yoga pants or wide leg style pants--I'm still not interested in letting everybody see what I've got going on--Honor).

While I don't wear makeup at all, I did go back to painting my toenails. It's something I was forbidden from doing as a child/teen but ended up loving to do. I like to keep my feet looking nice and polish on the toes seems to complete this. Newly sighting Chi-Chi would have frowned heavily on pant wearing, nail painting Chi-Chi. Her brows would have furrowed all the more because she's considering wearing foundation again, from time to time.

And this brings me to the main point of this post . . . I just cannot seem to get comfortable with going outside my gates (house) without something covering my head. Because of my scalp issues, yet unresolved, wearing wraps or hats causes me a fair amount of itchy discomfort. The hubby has even encouraged me to stop . But honestly, I feel bare. Naked. Strange without something on my head. I guess it just became a part of me, covering my head, and I can't give it up. Not to mention that I still am self-conscious that I might run into a bredren or sistren and they would see 1) I have no locks and 2) my head isn't covered. What would they think? (I know, I know, it doesn't matter what they think but in a trodition where it's important to "rep" if you will . . .well, it still kind of matters to me).

I mean, these days I'm equally as likely to toss on a beret or a skull cap instead of actually tying a headwrap. I mean, I have lots of headwraps, mainly cotton gauze and cotton printed African material, but lately I've been lazy about tying them (although since I know I actually look more royal with one on I've been making more of an effort of late). That means that even if I'm with my Kingman (aka the hubby), it's not likely that other Rasta people will hail (greet) me or even acknowledge me, I guess, assuming I'm the baldhead the Rastaman is dealing with. I've come to terms with that and it doesn't sting as much as it used to. Of course, I'm keenly aware these days that a headful of locks doesn't mean anything right off the bat . . . that locks don't confer any kind of spirituality or consciousness and neither does a big, colorful African headwrap. I know others have realized that too. Yet, I'm still not ready to cast off the whole head covering altogether though. I'm not sure if I ever will. Even though it's not the rebellious statement it used to be.

Oh, the hubby is a skilled barber and he keeps my hair looking neat. But I still have traction alopecia at the edges, I'm not comfortable all the way with short hair and, most importantly, I'm not at ease when my head is not covered in public. So you'll rarely see the hair cut. Heck, I'm not 100% comfortable rocking pants in public but I'm also practical.

Anyway, the issue of modesty for women crosses many religious and philosophical traditions and is especially interesting to me when considering the perspective of women whose appearance immediately indicates their trod (which is not necessarily the case in the RastafarI trodition).
Excellent reading:
The Benefits of Hijab
The Public Face of Our Nation


Raet said...

Its all about YOUR comfort level. And when it comes down to the nitty gritty its about whats in your heart and actions. When people invested in Marcus Garvey's Black Star line. Many had straight hair, NO stereotypical revolutionary appearance. Most people WITH THE stereotypical revolutionary appearance today would not have invested.

Its funny yesturday, I felt like I was too covered up. I had on a long skirt and a long poncho. I felt stiffled and agitated. It was too much for me.

I dress the way I feel. I walk pass a stand sometimes that a Muslim man owns. Oneday I had on a pair of tights, top, and sandals. I heard the man say what happened to the long skirts. I had to laugh. No man or ism defines me. I am a goddess, I am the ism.

Trudie said...

Boy Chich, I feel guilty for some reason that my hair (locs) have grown so fast. I have always loved locs since I was in HS. Being of Jamaican parents, locs were never an option in the house. Even after college when I was still in the house, I attempted them again and got comments and digusted looks so I cut them off. When I found out I was preggers with my son, I decided, now is the time. I am starting my life anew and for me and my family. So, my locs symbolize a change in me. I am not sure why I went off on a tangent like that, I think I feel like I have to explain my locs and feel bad when I come over that you are having issues with yours. :( But, I also used to LOVE rocking a low boy. I would love to cut in parts, change the shape of the front lines and back. Heart, Square, round. I wish you could enjoy you hair the way it is. It seems so much easier to love what you have instead of carrying around so much baggage. I always wanted a small nose and little feet, but only a couple years ago, I have come to terms that I won't ever have those things, and I just work with it now. Maybe you can just do that and stop worrying about what others think. Hmm, have i contradicted myself now?????? Ok, im confusing myself. I usually do that as I have so many thought in my head and just like to spit them out and home them connect dots on their own.

Smokie said...

This is very interesting. I'm not a Rasta, of course, but I do not have any chemicals in my hair and I feel uncomfortable when my hair is straightened. I feel like I'm not me. I want to scream out to strangers, "This is just flat ironed. I'm natural!" lol but....

The headwrap in the pic was real cute; can't you just do that? Well, I guess not since you don't like the itchy scalp.

Keep us informed on what you decide to do. Maybe you can just let your hair/head breathe and wear the low bow -- maybe grow some dreads by just not doing anything to your hair?

Smokie said...

low boY

supremeultimate said...

Chi-Chi, I am going to dedicate a video just for you on the my Georgia Sunday Afternoon SupremeUltimate Boxing post and it goes a lil something like this..YOU DOH HAFFE DREAD TO BE RASTA, U NAH FE DREAD. THIS IS NOT A DREADLOCKS THING, ITS A CONVICTION OF THE HEART, YES...

@Raet, you speak the truth we are the God, we are the Goddess, we are the ism...Respect.


St Theresa lent me her halo said...

We were both on this tip around the same time on the same day. LOL!

I wish you peace in figuring this all out. Ask the Higher Power what to do...that's why I do! (Sometimes.)

Miriam said...

Hey, we must look alike when we go out! lol

And interestingly revealing one's hair in my religion is considered nakedness. But don't ask me why, lol!

Any way good luck on your decision.

I wish I could run surveys on folks who wear natural hair and their outlook in life, health, views on things, etc.

As I Cee It said...

Peace and Blessings
I was really feeling this blog. As an Earth (Nation of Gods and Earths) i was so feeling everything you were saying. So many similarities in dress and always that conflict of should I or shouldnt I, could i or couldnt i and it is not easy!!!! i feel you about the skirts (that i most often wear) when it come to the babies and being out, the headwrap, all of that... for me it is now such a part of who i am as i am a part of it so it is so hard to seperate the two for me. i wrap my head almost every day and the times i dont i feel the same "naked" feeling you are speaking of because it is such apart of who we have become as original women that when we dont do it we feel other than self. At times we do have to be practical and really look at what is best... what we see on the outside is a representation of what if going on inside... so my mind helps to keep me balanced and knowing that my hair needs the Sun to live and grow i do from time to time go out (mostly if i am with my God(king, husban) without it wrapped... and yes folks will act like you aint the same but it really is because of a standard we have set, that is beautiful. the sister that you are many expect to see that refinement at all times... so much to balance... same wwith my home... when a brother (especially one that is not as familiar to my God) comes to the home i wrap my head... it is all about what is a reflection of where we are on the physical and mental level


Chi-Chi, The Original Wombman said...

Didn't get a chance to thank everyone for commenting on this post. Thank you for your encouragement. I have actually reached a place of peace when it comes to this issue--peace and freedom.

Raet, I love your point about the Black Star Liner and who would have been on board. Truth!

Trudes, no worries girl! You're one of the folks who has helped me embrace the low boy. It's all good. :)

Smokie, I was a freeformer for years (just letting the year grow and lock on its own). I still encountered the same issues. These days, I'm rocking the lowboy and I will be for a long while to come. The hubby knows how to cut hair (put himself through college that way) and so it's relatively easy to keep my cut looking fresh. I still wrap though especially if I'm going to Nyabinghi Ises (RastafarI worship service).

SU . . . give humble thanks. :)

STLMHH . . . isn't that wild? I really enjoyed reading your post on the same topic. Modesty is a topic I love discussing and I loved your perspective.

As I Cee It--your post was really profound to me. Thank you. It is indeed all about where we are on the physical and mental level. I hope you keep reading this blog and responding. :)

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