Nov 7, 2010

The Chavi and the Hair

Tuvia and I were married May 31, 2010, which means that on November 31, while we're gallivanting around Israel, we'll celebrate our Six Month Anniversary (cue loud, booming voice and doomful music). That will be six months of tichels, hats, scarves, and a sheitel (that's really a fall meant to be worn with headbands and hats). That also will be six months of an experience that seems to entertain or captivate the likes of blog readers the world-over. My posts on hair and hair covering are some of my most well-read and most talked about. Most days I wonder why that is, but I usually come to the conclusion that it's because it's 2010. It's the 21st century and the idea that there are women out there willing to cover their hair in a bounty of ways seems foreign, if not archaic or unsensible, to probably 90 percent of the population. Women, after all, are liberated, right? We're proud to share the right to vote (in the U.S. anyway) and equal opportunity for jobs (even though we still make less than men for equivalent work) and those with house husbands are free to work their tushes off without worrying about raising their kids full-time. Women are free, free to do whatever they want, which to most means wearing pants and letting those locks fly freely in the dirty, NYC wind.

When I first posted about hair covering, I got a lot of comments that my sentiments would change. I'd grow weary of it quickly, my head would itch and I would throw off my scarf in rebellion, embracing my awesome hair and the liberation that uncovering can bring. I'm not being flippant, but there were people who expected me to give up on covering. So we're only six months in, and maybe there's still hope that I'll go back to my awesome 'do next year or in ten years or moments before I kick the bucket ... but don't count on it.

I've got drawers and nooks and crannies stuffed with scarves of every color and size, headbands for my fall, and now that winter is upon us, boatloads of cute knit winter hats. I'll admit, hair covering in summer sucks. It's hot, no matter how thin your tichel, and with my style -- homegrown bangs -- it's an even hotter mess. Thus, thank G-d for winter ... I can wear my knit hats with or without the fall, and look like a cute ski bunny in the process.

My hair has finally grown a bit to the point where I can comfortably leave a bit less than a tefach out of my knit hat without feeling uncomfortable. The look, I think, suits me. Of course, I was concerned about meeting the criteria -- being covered and being bound. My hair is short enough that I can't bind it, so the rim of the hat tends to keep it bound in place (that is, it doesn't move), so through executive decision, I've deemed it both stylish and legitimate as far as kisui rosh goes. My knit hats are blue and gray and brown and black and one even has a big ridiculous bow on it. I've discovered that K-Mart is an excellent locale for knit hat shopping, and even my super sequined sparkly black hat from Target gets the job done. Winter, for me, is without scarves and tichels for the most part, although we're going to Israel at the end of the month and Israel is a place where wearing a scarf is more comfortable than a hat or sheitel. I intend on packing a few necessary scarves and to buy up Israeli ones while I'm there.

I can't say that I'm any more comfortable in my sheitel than I was a few months ago when I got it. To be honest, I probably went a month without even wearing it, bringing it out this Shabbos for a schlep to family in Monsey. The weather was up and down, and, feeling perpetually warm, I opted out of the hairy option. I keep toying with the idea of getting it chopped, as sometimes it feels bulky and annoying. I see so many women with cute short 'dos, and I have to wonder what would work for me. Sure, long hair is sultry and sexy, but that's not exactly the point of it, nor is it what I'm going for. Functional and comfortable are the key words for hair covering in my book.

Overall, hair covering ain't no thing for me. I wake up, I throw on a hat, I run out the door. If anything, it's made my life loads easier. I've almost mastered cutting my own bangs (okay, not really, but I try), and I look darn cute in a winter knit hat. It might push me to move to the Great White North so I can rock this look 24/7/365. I'm still coping with the bangs + tichel/scarf look. I feel like it looks weird, where I once thought it looked awesome. Would I get rid of my bangs? Probably not. They're my signature. People usually ask whether they're homegrown or fake (yes, you can buy clip-on bangs). The question I'm sure most are wondering is whether if it "ain't no thing" if I'm getting anything spiritual or religious out of it. The answer is a resounding "of course." I walk a certain way, talk a certain way, dress a certain way, and it all starts at the tip-top of my head. It allows for a full and embodying sense of self-awareness that I strengthen with each day I cover my noggin and hair.

What about you, readers? For those of you who cover, does it get easier, harder? What has really pushed you to reconsider or reevaluate your own hair covering? What keeps you trucking and what trips you up?


Mama H said...

it's become second nature to me - but I have been doing it for so long. The only time when I find it difficult to cover is when I have washed it, and blown it dry - it looks awesome. and then I have to pin it up and under a tichel / hat/ wig - then I get a twinge of "I wish I didn't have to cover my crowning glory" (Note to self: do not blow hair dry EVER again)

Miriam said...

This January will mark 9 years of covering for me and it is easier every day. There was a point in my pregnancy when I was ginormous (how else are you when carrying triplets?) and felt so huge and ugly and got very close to not covering so I started wearing a wig. (We're Sephardic and hold with Rabbi Ovadia Yosef that wigs are not acceptable.) I love my scarves though.

From experience I'll tell you to bring the minimal coverings to Israel because you will be buying more. And more. And a few more. They are cute and the price is right.

Talya said...

I've been covering my hair for 5 years now. I'm an FFB, always assumed i'd cover my hair, and I have to admit, I definitely have my ups and downs about it- constantly, since the day I got engaged. I do love covering it in the summer though, so I never have to deal with the frizz-humidity factor. :) but on a day to day basis, i'd have to say it can be somewhat of a challenge for me.

This beautiful compilation of essays always helps me gain some positive perspective on head covering:

Batya said...

OK, I've been covering my hair all my married life, yes, before you guys were born. I always hated my hair. It demanded lots of work, so it's a great freedom to cover it. The trick for you would be to have it cut in a frum place where it won't be all gussied up for view.

Rivki Silver said...

I generally like covering my hair. It's nice to be able to throw on a sheitel and feel put-together without the time it takes to actually prepare a "real" hairdo. I also enjoy hats and tichels, though I'm don't like the way the little wispies peek out, so sometimes I wear my fall under my hats. The main drawback is that I miss the freedom of variation that real hair allows. When you cut a sheitel, it doesn't grow back, so I feel limited in my choices of hairstyles.

Sarah Likes Green said...

i got married in march so also quite new at the hair covering. it wasn't an easy decision but i found a solution that works for me. i have an abundance of hats which i coordinate with outfits and so far my whole collection probably adds up to the price of one good sheitel. i don't have a wig, both my husband and i do not like the idea. so hats it is, some hair out. most of the time i don't mind the head covering, i make it fun. but i do miss my hair and have days where the hat or scarf is the most annoying thing in the world!

Anonymous said...

I've been married and wearing something on my head for 32 years - and I'd rip off my hat/scarf in a second if it wasn't such a big sociological part of belonging to a certain community!

Mari said...

Chaviva- As someone who stopped covering her hair after my first 7 months of marriage, I feel that I made the right decision for me. It was sort of like something I was 'trying on'- ultimately, it just didn't feel right for me to keep the scarf on. I still wear it on Shabbat and in shul. And like 'Anon' depends on what the people around you and what they would say. I didn't suffer any real consequences from uncovering my hair, not from friends, family or husband. It's not worth listening to others who expect you to keep it or not, it's your hair and your connection with G-d, your decision to make each day. My advice to you is, make your actions YOURS! That will leave you happiest.

Elle said...

I've been married 11 yrs but I didn't start covering until maybe 4 or 5 yrs ago. I say it does get way easier. What I find hard is that I am the ONLY person I know in my state that covers. (long story involving a move for work and a conversion) THAT is hard. always being the only one. but you know? I got used to even that. so what. I'm different.

I probably will always have days (or weeks) where I just want to cut my hair short and die in jet black or blue again (the old punk ways!)... but then again there are days I find an impulse to run around in mini skirts and get another tattoo. But we are more than the sum or our whims. So I don't. Because, this is the life I choose. or it chose me? and i aim to do a damn good job at it if at all I can ;)

I will tell you this -- every time I get so bored of covering that I can't stand to look at another one - I find a new covering type. so far I have many a scarf, kerchief, knit hair and snood. and I never cover at home (as a mom I'm home a lot) so I get lost of hat-free time too so my head can breath.

Ambaa said...

There is nothing more obnoxious then people who say "you'll see" in that sing-song way.

They laugh at you for thinking that you'll keep covering your hair (or that you'll do any host of other things, like breastfeed your children, cloth diaper, love your dog, etc. etc.)

Why do people do that? Why do they make fun of each other for wanting to try something? And what if you did change your mind and decide not to cover, would you then face all kinds of laughing "I told you so"? That's reason enough to stubbornly keep doing things that you don't even want to, just so obnoxious people don't say "I told you so"!

Chaviva Gordon-Bennett said...

Note: It's funny that no one has corrected me on there not being a November 31. Proof that people get focused when it comes to hair!

@MamaH I get that. Especially with my hair being longer now. I haven't had long hair since 2001, hah. Sometimes I wonder "what if?" But then I dismiss it. The pull isn't strong enough.

@Miriam Good advice re: minimal scarves. The thing is, I feel okay in scarves in Israel and less so in the U.S. I dunno why. Norms, I guess. I told my husband that if we move to Israel I'll burn my sheitel and only wear scarves :)

@Talya I really enjoyed Hide and Seek. Dismayed to hear the author stopped covering, however. What does that say about hair covering?

@Batya I enjoy covering my hair for the ease, too. I hated waking up Saturday morning with my hair all mussed up. With the pomade I kept in it to keep it up, it was always disgusting by the end of Shabbos. No more muss or fuss :D

@Rivki That's a huge thing about the sheitel -- when you cut it, you must commit to it. Otherwise you have to buy a new one. Not a fan of that ... they should make re-generating sheitels!

@Sarah The sheitel fall I have didn't actually cost that much and it's high quality. Compared to what most cost, this was a TJ Maxx special, lol. I don't wear it that often, but sometimes, on some days, in some situations, I feel more professional in it than I would a hat or scarf.

@Anon But it shouldn't be the sociological thing that keeps you covering. Shouldn't it be a commitment to halakah?

@Mari Amen!

@Elle I've actually joked about dying my hair bright pink, but I'd have to leave my bangs their normal color. I'd look ridiculous, but it would be my own hilarious little secret! Glad you've found what works for you, too. It's good advice that whenever it starts to get burdensome, change it up -- buy a new hat, a new scarf, etc. It'll make a huge difference.

@Aamba Luckily, I don't let the "I told you so" or "you'll see" people bother me. I've always been defiant, believe me. The moment I make a choice, I go with it. If I some day decide to stop covering, it'll happen. :) But I wouldn't count on it!

Anonymous said...

Regarding your comment on my comment - it's hard to be committed to this "halacha" when what the halacha actually requires is very unclear and arbitrary. I have learned the sources and remain unconvinced that in our time, it is necessary for a woman to cover her hair. However, whether you cover, and how you cover has become part of how you identify with your own particular Jewish community (mine is dati leumi in Israel). So that - plus shalom bayit (it's very important to my husband) is why I've compromised and wear something outside (but not in the house, no matter who's around). Also, I'll never say I cover my hair - I cover my head. That's also why I have no philosophical problem with wearing a wig, on the rare occasions I do it - I think it's fine for people to see my real hair, so there's definitely nothing wrong with them seeing my fake hair!

leah said...

Your point about the acceptance of hair covering in the general society is interesting. A couple of days ago I submitted an article to a professional online publication and they asked me for a head shot to go with the article. In the end, they ran the story without the photo, most probably due to the head covering.

I found that annoying.

Sheva said...

I have been covering my hair for many years now, and only with a full sheitel, no fall, no tichel , no hats. I also cover 24/7 even when i am sleeping, and i have to say in the beginning it was hard. I had long curly thick beautiful hair, I even did hair modeling as a child, but in time not covering my hair would feel so weird. It becomes private, because when something is covered and private for so long it becomes very private and the idea of ever uncovering my hair would be like running down the streets without a top on. It is all in perception like how it is ok to wear a bikini on the beach but not to go to the movies in one ( i always
found that to be strange). Anyways it is a beautiful mitzvah and a woman brings brachas into her home by covering her hair. May you have many many brachas in the merit of keeping a kosher and tznius home.
There is a website that sells clip on bangs, just a little FYI

Elle said...

re: your comment to my comment--

there was a time back when I had what we used to call a Chelsea cut that I have pink hair and blond bangs... so hey - it could work lol

I think my kids would flip though. My daughter still freaks out when she sees pictures of me with all my piercings (you know, before it was terribly popular and so therefore still counter-culture lol). my kids think of me as straight laced and super modest... but truthfully, sometimes I just feel like a punk disguised as a Jew.

Bootzey said...

I've been covering my hair for 3 years now and I would be lost without it. What I find the most interesting is how folks react to it. Outsiders refusing to understand why I do it and insiders are mad because I follow all the traditional rules of the Culture. In the end it more for me than any one else.


Dorendera Gjogjo said...

There is no November 31.

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