Growing up the social world was a mystery to me. I just didn’t know how it worked and couldn’t use my usual method (i.e. watching from the sidelines) to find out. The only way to learn was to get IN there and see for myself. The only problem was that I didn’t know how to get in. People generally didn’t notice me or include me and I lacked the skills to include myself in the absence of a direct invitation.
I was slowly learning these skills, but even once ‘in’ I had no idea what to do next. Everyone else was so experienced (or so it seemed to me). From the outside social situations seem so unstructured. How do they work? What do people expect from me? I soon learned that bluffing was my best strategy. Others would be completely unaware of my inadequacy. By the time they found out I would have already obtained crucial information to help me get further next time.
I needed a way to hide my inadequacy. Dreadlocks were the perfect solution, the perfect disguise. In this sense my dreadlocks were often a free ticket. The just got me in. They got me both noticed and accepted, and crucially, the persona I chose was not one that was required to talk. No-one would suspect that a tall, seemingly confident, potentially intimidating guy with dreadlocks, was ‘quiet’ because he had no-idea what to say or do. I used this image of confidence as an excuse to literally say and do ‘nothing’ if I wasn’t sure. I could almost be ‘too cool’ if I wanted. It allowed me the freedom to sit back and not participate, for no other reason than I didn’t ‘feel like it’. I don’t ‘feel’ like talking. I don’t ‘feel’ like dancing. I don’t ‘feel’ like smoking or doing drugs or whatever someone might be trying to pressure me into doing. I was the guy who was SO confident I never did anything I didn’t ‘feel’ like and never bowed to peer pressure. I demanded respect for this. In reality I was likely declining to participate out of ‘fear’ of the unknown, but no-one else knew that. I soon learned to bluff my way out of any situation, and my physical appearance gave this bluff invaluable credibility.