Rasta Love: How Dating a Natty Changed My Life

His eyes are closed and he looks like the most beautiful dead man I’ve ever seen…except he’s not dead and I haven't kicked it with the dead in, never.

Is he sleeping? Meditating? Resting? Jah Rastafari-ing? I don’t know, but he looks peaceful doing it.

A gentle breeze caresses my naked baxide, a timely reminder to return to Earth. Shit. It’s 2am.

His dreadlocks have fallen out of its topknot and look like a sea of 40-inch chocolate sticks melted across his chest and pillows. I reach to touch it, but stop. Am I conjuring up some intrinsic Delilah? Are we allowed to touch their locks? Will they lose their superpower? Will I violate some belief?

He’s sleeping, I’ll risk it for the biscuit — or ital stew.

I reach for the thinnest lock and slowly work my way to his curly, dark roots. It’s so soft, his eyes are still closed. Perfect.

“You can touch it if you want,” he said.

Raas. He caught me.

I obliged, and reached deeper.

In that moment, with marijuana clouds fizzling out in the night air and coconut oil seeping into my cuticles, I felt the transferral of the sweetest peace and stillness from his vessel to mine.

Is this what Capleton meant when he said, “real fyah man she want inna har heart?”

People say you fear what you don’t know and that must be true because Rastafarians scared the heck out of me as a kid.

I recall walking with my mom and seeing what I thought was black Jesus in a cape, in all his ‘behold He cometh’ glory on a shiny, black horse. But it wasn’t Jesus; it was a Rasta man in a black cloak on a variegated bicycle loaded with buttons of Emperor Haile Selassie and a formidable flag saluting the red, yellow and green.

He frightened me. I didn’t know what he was, and his black cape didn’t lessen the villain I immediately conceived courtesy of blockbusters.

The mid 90s saw a more rootsy turn in Jamaican music with Buju’s ’Til Shiloh album, and a clique of Pan Africanesque singers like Luciano, Tony Rebel, Capleton, Garnet Silk and Everton Blender rising to the fore. Yasus Afari was also a key player in this black consciousness movement, though his primary work was rooted in dub poetry.

My first encounter with Afari was via his 1999 funky track, Put it Een. My confusion ensued. What is he? Why are these Rastafarians huddled around a pot by a river? Is “yam and dasheen” some secret code for setting Babylon ablaze? Why does his van look like that?

I needed my questions answered but I was also terribly afraid to ask anyone, let alone a Ras.

I grew older and embraced the little Natty in me, musically at least, thanks to figures like Damian Marley, Richie Spice, Queen Ifrica and Sizzla. But I was still wary of speculations.

“Rasta scorn dem woman when she deh pon her period, dem seh she dirty during that time.”

“Rasta nuh wear deodorant.”

“Dem have plenty children and nuff woman, look at Bob Marley.”

And the one I heard the most.

“Rasta nuh eat pumpum.” Classic.

I never became invested in these alleged doctrines as I had no intentions of becoming involved with a Rasta. Then life intervened.

“Nubian black woman, when am I seeing you again?” his WhatsApp text read. He was consistent in his adoration and respect for me, and I was here for all these titles to be honest.

He entertained my unstructured and arbitrary questions about his Rastafari faith, be it 10pm or 4am, and never damned me for my ignorance and curiosity.

“As a Rasta it’s not so difficult to compromise with certain things, if they can’t do that they’re just selfish, that has nothing to do with Rasta,” he said after one of our talks.

Interestingly, I had fancied a Rasta months prior who was not as radical. He didn’t believe in having established relationships or committing, he was possessive and wanted me to wear conservative clothing, and he was quite fine with impregnating a woman without being active in the child’s life. Needless to say, baby girl ran for the hills.

This man was different, this Rasta man was different, and I hereby present some gems I inherited from my Rasta love.

Self-preservation

It’s a concept we hear often in songs but may discard as soon as the next track comes on.

I wasn’t as big on this energy business until I started sharing mine with him. Before we became intimate, he said, “Mi haffi preserve myself more while.”

“Are you poultry? What’d you mean?” I asked.

He said he loves sex, but abstains sometimes as a spiritual, restorative process of sorts. He explained how energies interact and can potentially overcome another, and how important it is to preserve one’s energy, light and person. After all, you’re all you’ve got at the end of the day, right?

Morning meditation

He didn’t call it meditation, but he had a daily routine to purify his energy. Starting his morning at 5 or 6, he’d watch the sun rise and bask in the morning dew before making a cup of tea and having some fruits.

You see, the outcome of our day is connected to how we start our morning, and for him, ridding bad energies and embracing the newness of each morning isn’t a bad way to start. After nourishing the mind, he achieved balanced by eating natural, healthy foods, quite critical in getting the body energized for the day.

A soft answer turneth away wrath

Being with this Ras provided a mirror of my most unappealing traits. He was always calm, respectful and reasonable if we had any disagreements or issues, while I would often take a more sassy route, responding with a tat of logic stifled in emotions. His good-natured constitution inspired introspection on my part, and I learnt how to communicate more sensibly.

There were other factors at play too, he was older than me and more experienced in several ways. However, his Rastafari principles, much rooted in love and respect, were vital to the sort of exchanges we had and made me reflect on my exchanges with others.

Leave all judging to God

Had I absorbed the chatter of who Rastas are and what they practice by people who don’t even know how to spell Selassie, I wouldn’t have learnt all I did through this union.

FYI, not all Rastas are Bob Marley, and I mean that in the most innocuous way. Some Rastafarians practice safe sex and believe in family planning. I give you one more, this Ras honoured his word and used protection every time, I never experienced that with a baldhead (no shade).

He also smelled divine from his hair follicles to his feet, and deodorant, baby oil and cocoa butter were all he used for the most part.

This experience concretised the fact that regardless of your affinity or association, each person leads his own life and should not be judged because of his group. He should not be judged at all.

Be open to unbolting the doors that nourish the fears of the unknown. Ask questions, listen with intent, and give people blank pages.

Happy Extra Love Day,

Blessings!

Bald-headed, freelance entertainment writer. Pro at burning eggs.