Know how Snoop Dogg does his hair in braids like a four-year-old girl? When I was in the sixth grade I read a book where the girls styled their hair in side ponytails. It seemed cool, so one day I did my hair in a side ponytail. The kids in my math class made fun of me, saying I was missing a pigtail. It didn’t occur to me to re-do my hair. I just withered, and swore off being different. Not that I’d figured out conformity, either, but that trying to be different was just too risky.
Snoop, though. You don’t see anyone making fun of his hair. And if they did — shit-talking is part of the genre — I don’t think it would seriously change the way he felt about himself.
I’ve done a bit of growing since the sixth grade. But I still have that same capacity to be awkward and uncomfortable, unwilling to relax into being different. I’ve always been introverted. I read a lot as a kid. Like, my mother would tell me that seven hours of reading in one day is enough, and it was time to go outside and play. The thing about reading is that it exposes you to more ways of being than you can glean from the hawkish way that you watch the popular kids. (One time in high school, two girls, I’ll call them K and L, ate a rotten orange from a trash can because they thought it might get them drunk.) There are all sorts of examples of how to live.
When I was 12, I didn’t have a good sense of who I was. What’s more, I had a rather nonexistent sense of it being OK to be whatever I was. That sense, call it self-confidence, doesn’t come from supportive parents, or understanding teachers, although I had both. Well, some of the teachers were understanding.
The thing about now is that I’m not 12 anymore. At 28, I still don’t have a good sense of who I am, but I’m starting to let go of that fear of being different. And if you’d told my 12-year-old self that I’d have bleached-blond dreadlocks, I’d have thought you were high. (Actually I probably wouldn’t have understood what “high” was, although I would have pretended I did.)
Snoop Dogg, for the record, is almost 40. Check out his video “Kush” for the hairstyle if nothing else.