I may have talked about this before, but I think I will mention it again. Often I get questions or comments about my hair saying "Does your husband like it?" "What do the people at work say about your dreads?" "Man, I couldn't go [to church, the supermarket, some other public place] with my hair looking like that. People would look at me like I was crazy." "My mom tells me that she doesn't like locks, and that they're dirty, so I took them down." and I could go on and on.
Of course I am aware of possible perceptions of me because of the dreads. However, I'm not going to let those perceptions rule my life, I just keep them in mind, depending on my objectives of certain things in my life. For example, my job. I'm a software tester for a large computer company. I don't interact with customers. I just interact with other testers, developers, project managers, my management, etc. My look is not a part of my job there (I'm not a model, after all), so who cares what they think. Some people walk around in shorts in the summer (with their pale legs and varicose veins). These 40 something chicks trying to recapture their youth are in short skirts (which I think is a bit much). I know a dude there with a mohawk (yes, a mohawk). One biker dude wears entirely too tight jeans with his leather jackets. Combovers abound here. Bad perms and weird hair colors are not unknown. There is actually a girl that I always instant message, email or call instead of going to her office because her office actually stinks. And I'm supposed to be concerned because my hair is in freeform locks? No, I am not. When I see someone that looks a little different, I may laugh to myself, then do whatever work I have to do with them and/or keep it moving. And I'm sure others do the same with me. Now, if my look were somehow a part of my performance, that would be another thing (i.e. I'm a salesperson in HickTown USA, and I can't get any sales because people look at my hair, hold their nose, then slam the door in my face). But then again, I don't see myself working in that kind of job because control over my look is important to me. And when I have to search for a new job in the future, they're going to be seeing my hair in the interview because I want to know that they won't have a problem with it.
As far as my husband liking my hair or not, that's a funny thing, because I do want to feel attractive to him. Luckily, he likes my hair. Or maybe not so luckily, because when I met him, I had natural hair, and he told me that he loves natural hair, and wouldn't want it any other way. That's part of the reason I dated him in the first place. And while we dated, before we got married, I did different things with my hair (cornrows, twists, and even freeform locks) and he didn't have a problem with any of it. So I knew for sure that he wasn't blowing smoke when he said he loves natural hair. Natural hair is very important to me, so I chose someone that loves natural hair, so my hair isn't an issue in our relationship. Now, if I had a relaxer when we got married, then later decided that I wanted locks, then maybe we would have had an issue. Thankfully, that's not my situation.
Social situations are another time when people sometimes care. It's interesting. For me, my friends may not think it's the best hairstyle I've ever had (I've had compliments when I wore small twists or small box braids, but no compliments on my dreads). But they are still my friends. And it goes both ways. Two close friends I have here in New York have relaxers, and I still love them. I'm not saying nothing on anything I'm sure they did on purpose regarding their look. And if I'm at a party or something and some idiot I don't know turns up their nose at my hair, well I really don't want to be around them anyway. But then again, I'm not really a social person anyway, so I don't have to deal with that either.
And you know what? When I want a professional look, or don't want my hair to be distracting, I can do that with my hair. I think a headband ties my look together nicely. I can't wait until I can do 1 ponytail or a bun, because I think those are good looks as well. And if I'm in a situation where I really don't want so show my hair, there's always a headwrap (although I don't know what kind of situation that would be, and it hasn't happened to me yet).
I really have the feeling that I am in charge of how I look, and I'd be really resentful worrying all the time about what other people have to say about my appearance. That's not to say that I don't take pride in my appearance. I do. I groom myself, dress, etc. But I have the final say on how I want to look.
Here's an example about caring too much about what someone else thinks. I recently saw my mom. Why, oh why was I trying to hide my nose ring from her for the first hour? I was making sure she was on one side of me, and talking to her without looking at her. Ridiculous! First of all, I am 31 years old, and out of the house, with a husband and child of my own. Second of all, this is not the first piercing I've had, and I've done other things that I know she wouldn't care for (not going to church, tattoo on wrist, etc). The crazy thing is, I know she saw it, and she didn't even comment (she probably realizes by now that I go my own way).