Aug 23, 2010

Taking the (Hair) Plunge

Before I got married, people told me that I would be unrecognizable with my hair covered. Why cover your beautiful, spiky, unique hair? people said. That hair, after all, had been my signature since nearly the turn of the millenium. A friend once recognized me in a crowded Washington Heights synagogue -- purely by my hair. Women at synagogue described me as "you know, the one with the hair," complete with hand signals to describe the way my hair looks (imagine jazz hands).

I like to joke that I was born with bangs. I've had these bangs since forever, and when I started covering, I vowed to keep them there, and I have. Everything else covered up, I've discovered that I love covering with scarves (okay, I knew I would), with one small caveat: I miss the volume. I miss the shape of my hair. I miss the way my face and my head look with the hair all up and out like it used to be. I miss having a "look," that made random strangers in random stores ask me if I'm a hair stylist.

Do I miss it enough to give up hair covering? Of course not. I miss my hair's shape and body like I miss putting 70 buttons on my purse and wearing tons of colorful bracelets on my wrists. It's nostalgia. It's a "moving on" kind of nostalgia. A choice that I'm 110 percent okay with.

My hair is still there, of course. No, I didn't shave it. It's funny how long it's gotten, but it's still not long enough to put into a ponytail (grrr), and it's at that obnoxious length that makes it hard to really do much of anything with it under a tichel or outside of it in the privacy of my own home. I pin it, tuck it, pin it some more, band it, and sometimes, I stare in the mirror imploring it, "GROW! GROW DARN'T! JUST GET LONG!"

I haven't wanted long hair. Not since I cut my hair. Long hair, contrary to how I feel about my former 'do, is not something I'm nostalgic about. Having had bangs and the same haircut since, I dunno, kindergarten, I really loathed long hair. It didn't fit my face, my physique, my anything. It was what everyone else did, and I didn't do that. I would have missed the ease of putting it up in a ponytail, but let's be honest: my spiky 'do took me about 2 second to do.

But then I got married, and I moved to Teaneck, and I realized that there were options for how I was going to cover my hair. By that I mean tichels, scarves, sheitels, hats, you name it: there are options. I vowed, from the time I started discussing hair covering, that I would not, I repeat would not be buying or wearing anything that consisted of someone else's hair. Never, ever, ever, ever. Period. Stam. No conversation. Zehu!


But living here, living as a hair covering woman in a hair covering world, well, I saw the allure. So I bit. Last night, my fashionista friend and I took off to a sheitel sale, with the agreement that there would be no pressure to buy. I was looking. We walked in to a table full of hair, women doing each other's hair, asking each other questions, and my friend knew exactly what she was looking for. Then, it came to me, "So, what are you looking for?"

Um. Newbie here. Fake hair that's real hair? I haven't a clue. I don't know what I'm looking for. I wasn't really looking for anything. In truth, I was initially there for the experience of blogging it. Imagine it, me at a sheitel sale. What a riot!


But then, after some attempts at matching my hair color (no, I don't have blonde highlights), and some guidance from my friend, there I was, standing in front of some stranger's dining room mirror, with long hair. I was staring at someone I didn't know. So I grabbed my cellphone, took a photo, and emailed it to Tuvia. "Who is that?" he responded. I replied with how much the piece -- a headband fall, which is sort of a half-sheitel (aka wig) that would thus allow my bangs to do their thing, with only a headband between my bangs and the fall -- cost. "That's not bad, it's up to you," he responded. Then, conveniently, my phone died. 


I showed the conversation to my friend to verify that, indeed, it was up to me. A seriously look-altering item was up to me. 


I inquired with the seller if I could maybe take the piece home and wear it around for a few days, see how it feels and whether I like it. After all, it was my first one. "No," was her response. Thus, I had to decide whether it was worth it. Would I wear it regularly? Only on Shabbat? Maybe in the winter when I can blend in. Would I cut it? Would it be a "special occasions only" sheitel? What would my parents think, my friends, my ... husband? 


I bought it. As my friend said, if it ends up being a mistake, it's the cheapest mistake in the sheitel department that I can make. But, I've put it on a few times. I've put it on and smiled in the mirror. Taken photos. Sent them to my mom, "Did you get a wig? Your dad and I like it!" was my mom's response. Tuvia's response was, "Just don't wear it all the time, okay?" 


In the end, I'm still a tichel kinda girl. But a sheitel gives me something that a tichel doesn't right now, and that's body, a 'do, something to work with. I look forward to wearing it on Shabbat, with cute winter hats, and for special simchas and events in cities and locations that, well, are perhaps a little more sheitel appropriate. It gives me something to play with, to do like I didn't do once upon a time when I had long, irritating, thick hair. And, as my real hair begins to grow long, I look forward to taking it to a special place: growing it, cutting it, donating it. Repeating. That, it appears, is what the awesome gals in my complex do, and I admire them for doing that. (Of course, first I wondered why people don't get their hair cut and turned into a sheitel, but then I realized how silly that was. *wink!*)


So here it is, folks. Here is what Chaviva, nee Amanda, looks like in a sheitel. Here's what a Missouri-born, Bible belt bred, Nebraska grown girl looks like when she takes hair covering to a new and interesting place, with a mop of someone else's hair. I'll admit. I feel pretty ... pretty glam. Like a whole new and different person. Do I like that person? I think so. 


Don't get me wrong, folks, it's still really really really weird. 




50 comments:

Erin (e_rizzle) said...

I think it's rather chic! And, speaking as someone with short spiky hair who is in the process of growing it out for the first time in AGES, I totally *get* the feeling (although I'm not covering).

BakerGirl said...

I love this on you! The whole wig things totally wigs me out (I'm sooo funny). I've gone to services with J's more observant family members, sat with the women and tried to guess who was wearing a wig while they all talked to each other.

I'm not sure I could wear a wig even if I did take up covering my hair... It's too associated with cancer and sickness for me.

Risa said...

It looks cute on you. I don't wear a wig but I did try it for awhile when I was younger. I had a wig at my son's bar mitzvah (I was 40 at the time) in which I looked just like the picture in my first passport (which I got when I was 18, to come to Israel). It was rather pleasing but in the end it just isn't me and finally ended up in the Purim box.

Holy Hyrax said...

AAARRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH

Sell out!!

Chaviva said...

@HolyHyrax ... did you READ the post? It's a "When in Rome" wig. Not a "I'm wearing this everyday to fit in" kind of wig.

Leah said...

It looks so good.

Can you change the headband or will it always be polka dots?

Chaviva said...

@Leah No set headband -- I can use scarves of headbands or a hat or anything!

TMC said...

Awww! Very retro!

Anonymous said...

Please I mean no offense, but since it looks really good on you and actually really suits you, is it not counter productive. I think that if the wig make one look attractive, and in some cases better than with original hair, it defeats the persons of covering the hair in the first place.

But people must do what they think is right, appropriate and what makes them feel more comfortably, both physically and spiritually.

If you decide to keep it, I'm all for it. Just have a good reason to.

Chaviva said...

@Anon The wig will never be my real hair. My actual hair style and hair look nothing like this wig. Those who have seen a single picture of me before I was married know that this wig is not what I really look like. So, in that sense, I don't think it makes me look better, but different. People will be AWARE that it's a wig, no doubt. In that sense, those who know me, or are even aware of me, will know that I'm covering my hair, purpose solved. But, in truth, this is a very contentious issue and it is largely why I was very hesitant about even CONSIDERING a wig or half-wig. I recently asked my good friend Hadassah about this, and she has a really great blog post and a lot of lively conversation about it here: http://hadassahsabo.wordpress.com/2010/08/12/how-are-wigs-ok/

In the end, it's about me knowing that I'm covering. And, again, this wig will be a once a week, if not less, item. But in some circumstances, in some places and instances, a wig is better than a scarf.

Elianah-Sharon said...

OMG OMG OMG I so love it. I know what you mean because I have two falls...one in long (you and Tuvia thought it was real, remember?) and one in chin length. If I were near you, I'd wear it all the time but I get the weirdness. I feel like people are staring at me. I also like the bangs being my own...but then I get paranoid that the drapes don't match the ceiling paint you know? You are empowering me though. At first I was a pre tied girl and then a cap girl and I have a few snoods I love...but I also am now rocking the tiechel even though Rabbi T looked at me like I lost my mind when I pulled in wearing the dotted one! But I do have three sheitels looking at me and saying...if Chavi can do it...so can you :) Its funny when I am asked why I cover, I say "all my friends do" and by "all" I mean you and Dass definitely.

Holy Hyrax said...

>@HolyHyrax ... did you READ the post? It's a "When in Rome" wig. Not a "I'm wearing this everyday to fit in" kind of wig.

Actually, I didn't :P

But thats irrelevant. You need to dunk your head in the mikva. A wig totally tame'afizes your head. Don't even wear one in Rome.

Leah Sarah said...

Objectively, I think it would look better if your bangs were fuller. I don't know if that's possible with your hair, but the sheitel is very full and would look better if the bangs were consistent with that.

Other than that, if you like the sheitel, go you. I personally don't think I will wear a sheitel, but I have considered borrowing one from a gemach(or buying a cheap fall) for passport and driver's license pictures, rather than jumping through the hoops.

I think it's funny that Tuvia says "just don't wear it all the time," because my guy also would definitely prefer if I didn't wear a sheitel, and if I MUST(if it were detrimental to my career to wear a tichel or hat), not to wear it all the time. Haha :)

Chaviva said...

@LeahSarah Good idea with the bangs. I think I have the ability to do that. I have a lot of hair (even with it still short). My hair is naturally thick, so I try to keep my bangs thin so they don't weigh down my face, and they're really hot in summer, too :\

And as far as the license/passport ... no biggie. I didn't really have to jump through any hoops. The State Department is kosher with wearing a hat in your passport photo (someone sent me their policy).

Yeedle said...

http://twitter.com/Yeedle/status/21963759929

Mama H said...

Chavs, you know what I think. You and I have talked about this at length. to everything there is a purpose - and the wig suits a specific purpose. I do not wear mine every day, in fact, some weeks go by when i havent worn it at all. I rock the tichels and the headwraps - but sometimes you need the finished look, and that is where the wig comes in.

You are not a sell out - sometimes it is more tzanua to wear one, than to wear a polka dotted tichel which will garner you some strange looks.

You rock that hair!! Now - does it have a comb in to keep it in place? How are you storing it? Did sheitel lady give you tips on care?

Mama H is here for you.

ByTheBay said...

Looks really, really cute! I'm not a bit sheitel fan, but i have to say you rock this fall.

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Suburban Sweetheart said...

Wow. You look SO DIFFERENT! But lovely - & I think it's a fun option to have.

Phyllis Sommer said...

i think you look adorable. (and different, but in a good way) good for you!!!

Mottel said...

-Chavi: I'll leaving the commenting on how it looks to my wife :) But suffice to say, I'm all for the sheitels.

-Anonymous 8:50 PM: The purpose of a lady covering her hair is NOT to make her ugly or less attractive. Just the opposite, it is halachically problematic for a lady to make herself unattractive . . .

Mottel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mrs. Mottel said...

Looks like I've been summoned. Chaviva, it looks absolutely fantastic! I would never have been able to picture it, but it really works. ;-) Can't wait to see more pics - and to see it on you in person!

Holy Hyrax said...

>You are not a sell out - sometimes it is more tzanua to wear one, than to wear a polka dotted tichel which will garner you some strange looks.

You mean like the strange looks you get while wearing tsitziot?

Mottel said...

-Hyrax: I'm not quit getting you - what's so wrong with a sheitel that it "tame'fizes" the head?

InfantofPrague said...

As Leah Sarah can attest, I was very anti-sheitel, but then I was around them more. Now...I would probably consider them (especially since I'll be a lawyer in a year). And having options sure sounds fun! I'd really like to see a "Sheitels for Those of Us Without Yiddishe Mamas" introductory lesson :) I'm very curious how they stay on, the care of them, and how you can change that headband!

I have to say that I love yours! Particularly with such a cute headband!

shavuatov said...

Ooh, tres chic!

Seriously, it looks great - if I hadn't seen pictures of you before, I doubt I would have realised it wasn't your own hair!

The whole covering your hair thing really intrigues me, given that I am outside the Orthodox world, as you know. I still struggle with the real hair wig thing, but I'm sure that's partly down to my lack of knowledge. I do think if I turned up to shul with my hair covered, it would more than raise an eyebrow... *sigh* sometimes people can be so rigid, especially in an environment where there are supposed to be less 'rules'. I understand that I am one of those people who push the boundaries, hehe!

Good luck with your hair covering discoveries!

rachel

reinventing_gana said...

I really like it, actually. My problem with a lot of sheitels is that a lot of them look fake to me. I think "knowing" what your real hair looks like from pre-married photos, and knowing that it looks nothing like that is really interesting. I think it's a good look for you :)

balebusta said...

OMG! It looks great! Beautiful on you. Wear it in good health.

elisabeth said...

wow -- it looks GREAT! go you!

Holy Hyrax said...

>-Hyrax: I'm not quit getting you - what's so wrong with a sheitel that it "tame'fizes" the head?

It's evil. I am writting a book right now that most evil that has infected this world is directly correlated with wigs

Mottel said...

I think that it takes a little bit more than 'it's evil' to justify the demonization of a Jewish practice followed by dozens of communities, endorsed and encouraged by many sages and clearly permitted in Shulchan Aruch! Please.

Chaviva said...

Geepers, y'all. Thanks for the kind words.

Now I just need a sit-down with Mama H on how to take care of this bad boy!

Devorah said...

It looks great on you :)

Mama H said...

Chavs - come on over, we will wig out ;)

Suburban Sweetheart said...

Wigs... the root of all evil.

Now I've heard it all.

esther said...

Would it be kosher to cut your hair before marriage and have it made into a wig to wear after marriage?

Mottel said...

-esther: Yes - but you would need to save a LOT of hair - way more than on your head at any one time.

Leah Sarah said...

@Esther -- Nope, not kosher. I can't give sources, but this was a random thought I had(nothing I'd ever do, but I think of weird halachic situations...) and my Rabbi vetoed it basically instantly. I think it might be because, regardless of whether the hair was cut prior to the marriage, it still belonged to the married woman and is now ervah. If you'd do that, just don't cut your hair. :P

Glad Hatter said...

You're looking fabulous dah-link!

Since moving to America I'm definitely sheiteling more than I did in Israel, which is a-ok for hubsters who is more used to that look from his community and prefers it to the funky tichel look I'd live in otherwise.

I look at my sheitel as another accessory, some outfits need hair :) Or for those times I'm lacking the right color tichel (although if you saw my count on aMotherInIsrael.com you'd doubt that was possible)

tidchadshu!

Dunking Rachel said...

True Confession Time.....lol

It wasn't until I started studing for my conversion formmaly, that I ralized that not all the women had the same hair cut when I went to Super Sol and the Kosher emporium..

I"knew" married ladies wore wigs but in my niave state never put 2 and 2 together!

LP said...

Looks great!!!

Rivki said...

It looks really cute on you, and it completely matches your bangs. Nice. I also love the headband (I own one just like it)!

My full sheitel has bangs, and they do get hot in the summer. I didn't anticipate that when I cut them. I just wanted to look more like Zooey Deschanel.

Also, I only rock the tichels and snoods at home w/o the husband, but around him, and places like my doctor's office it's mighty convenient to have the hair.

David Tzohar said...

There are real halachic questions with sheitels. It covers up all of your hair, but as you see from all the commentators who said it looks good on you (it does)it is definitely against the spirit of the prohibition "seiar b'isha erva. We live near two chassidic communities.The Chabad woman wear sheitels while the Kretchnief Chassidim put up posters saying that sheitels are pritzut and the Chabadnikim will end up you-know where. My rabbanim R'Tau,R'Dov Lior, R'Aviner (generally known as Chardalim, are strongly against sheitels. I agree with them. The important thing is kisui rosh. One of the important decisions that my wife and I made when we got married was that she would cover her hair. It may seem like an external thing but it shows the world that you are an obsrvant Jewish wife, and proud of it. I must tell you though that when I see the young women outside of shul on Friday night all covered up but in high heels and fashion wigs down to their shoulders and heavy make up I think-who are they fooling? I know that I shouldn't be looking at them, but thats just the point.

Chaviva said...

@David I'll never be a "Hottie Chani," never fear. I don't wear heels and my skirts follow modesty guidelines as well as can be expected. I know the concerns about hair and looking "good," but as was mentioned before, the point isn't to look BAD.

Note to all: I just got a book called "Hide and Seek" about hair covering, and I intend to sit down with it tonight and tomorrow and come up with an intelligible post as a supplement to this blog post. So stay tuned. Hopefully the book will point out some hardcore and important points as far as what it means to cover your head vs. cover your hair (the Rambam, FYI, said to cover head AND hair, snap!).

On days like today -- when it's rainy and icky out, I wouldn't be caught dead in a sheitel. My tichel is like a rain hat :)

KosherAcademic said...

You look beautiful (and you know I'm not a sheitel kinda gal)! And it matches your hair colour very well! Im impressed!

reinventing_gana said...

Hide and Seek is a really interesting book. Let me know what you think.

Sheva said...

Love the idea that you are taken the sheitel on. I am a full time sheitel wearer, no tichels or hats for me,so I know sheitels. I just wanted to point out that if you ever feel like going a step more you can by "just bangs" or even a really cute full sheitel with funky bangs. Truth be told I have seen very funky arty sheitels done very similar to your old hair style. They've come a long way in the wig world. Enjoy your new someone elses hair.

Lady-Light said...

Just saw this post (don't remember seeing when you wrote it). I follow the "when in Rome" thing: I wear a sheitel while living here. When in Israel I wear a tichel or snood or keffiyah: it looks normal there.
Truth is, though, I'm starting to like the way I look in these sheitels; people think I'm ten years younger...ok, five...!

Leah said...

Not that you need it, but to add my 2 cents worth --

You look great in the fall and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. BTW R' Shimon bar Yochai promised a brocho to all women, their husbands, and their children, when they are very careful to cover all of their hair. Unfortunately, when wearing tichels and hats, etc. some hair inevitably shows.

And in this case, Mottel is not correct, Sarah Leah (I believe) is -- we cannot wear a sheitle made out of our own hair. But if you have a good friend, you can save for each other!

Good luck!

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