Oct 10, 2011

The Hair That's There: You Can Never Go Back

So I know you're all wondering: What gives on the hair-uncovering, Chavi? My most-read posts on this blog are in the vein of hair-covering and mikvah and all things involving shomer negiah, so it must seem weird that I uncovered when we all know that even divorced women are supposed to continue covering their hair, right?

Also, I know that it might come as a shock to some that I uncovered so soon after receiving my get. Around 1 p.m. on September 21, the get was given, and I walked away an unmarried woman according to Jewish law. (I'll write about the ceremony itself, so consider this a "to be continued.") I know of some women who throw off their sheitel or hat or tichel immediately as they walk out of the room, but I couldn't do that. I was still undecided about my uncovering. I got a boost of confidence and support, however, from the rabbi who headed up the beth din (rabbinical court) of the get ceremony. After he shared some very kind words about me (which could go either way for boosting the convert's self-esteem -- ask me if you want to hear the story), I mentioned that I knew Rav Moshe Feinstein's ruling on a divorced woman's hair-covering, but I know that there are leniencies. My query was based on the following:

[Rav Feinstein] is concerned for the divorcĂ©e who needs to get on with her life. In one text, he gives a divorced woman permission to uncover her hair for dating purposes (IM EH 4:32.4). The young woman wants to be able to meet men for matrimonial purposes. She is afraid that a head covering will automatically indicate that she is currently married. Rabbi Feinstein is persuaded that her motive is legitimate and so allows her to remove her head covering. But, he warns, there are conditions. She must inform the man as soon as possible that she is divorced. He will not allow her to mislead a man just to dispel an incorrect first impression so that she might eventually marry. 
The rabbi, impressed with my citation of Rav Feinstein, said, "You're young, you have no kids, you're relocating to a new community, and you want to remarry, yes?" I responded yes to all and he advised to uncover as necessary. 

So here I am, uncovering my hair. It took me a few days, until that following Sunday, actually. After having hacked my hair off a few times during September, I was in need of a serious shape-up haircut. I pulled into Lincoln, Nebraska, checked into my hotel, and went to get a haircut. When I got up that day, I showered and debated whether to cover on the way to the hair-cutting place, but just grabbed a hat and shoved it in my purse -- just in case it didn't feel right. I walked out into the cool Nebraska morning, sun beating down on my freed tresses, and for a split second I felt a freedom, a release, like I was reclaiming my independence, my personality, my happiness. 

But it was fleeting, as all things are. 

I went to the cuttery, showed a picture of my hair from before I got married, and said, "Can we do this, please?" After she was done, I felt that feeling of freedom again. Like, I'm back to the old me! Huzzah! But again, fleeting. I went home to see my family for the first time since May, and I think they were happy to see the hair open and free -- I'm not sure they ever got the whole hair-covering thing to begin with. I toyed with grabbing the hat from my purse and covering up, just to feel a little bit like the married me again, but realized that just as mucha as I couldn't go back to my old haircut, I couldn't go back to covered, married me. 

Who am I? Maybe I just need a new 'do. 

It's funny how much our hair controls our feelings and who we are. It feels horribly wrong, too. It feels shallow and vain. 

So I wake up every day and look in the mirror and let out a huge, heaving sigh because I have to do something with this hair that no longer expresses who I am but that I have anyway. I want to grow it out, to get a cute bob or something, like my dream sheitel, but that's going to take time, and growing hair out when it's been short is a huge pain in the tuches. 

Or maybe I won't grow it. Maybe I'll give up and when winter rolls around go back to my most favorite knit hats that I sported all winter last year, when I was married. I do know several women who were uncovering for months only to start covering again after realizing the same thing I did.

You can never go back. 

G-d willing, I'll get married in the right time and get back to hair covering, a place that I feel is home now. Who woulda thunk it, eh? 

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Anat said...

I think a new hair do would make a big difference for you. It is true that you can't go back. I totally understand being weirded out by your pre-marriage hair (after all, so much has happened since, and you have grown so much), and by covering your hair (you are not married, right?). I think a new do would be the perfect solution.
Remember that sheitel pic you posted on FB at some point - short and funky? I think that would be perfect!

Rebecca Einstein Schorr said...

Thank you for sharing your journey. It makes the process of covering a dimension that isn't often mentioned.

Give yourself the space to find your way.

Batya said...

Chavi, I agree with Anat that a new hairdo may be a good idea for the new you, since you're not the same person you were pre-marriage. Good luck!

Redacted said...

I think growing your hair and getting it cut in that funky, "dream sheitel" cute would be a perfect way of reclaiming your hair and marking this new chapter in your life.

Plus...it looked cute on you! ;)

Chaviva Gordon-Bennett said...

I just want my hair to grow FASTTTERRRRR!!!!

Aliza "La Jewminicana" Hausman said...

Ask the hair stylist how you can get it to grow faster. They usually have some tips that aren't scams! :) That was a beautiful blog post. Your blog would have been a perfect response to something on Hadassah Sabo's blog where she posted about a divorced woman who didn't want to stop covering and stopped dating a guy who asked her to.

Aliza "La Jewminicana" Hausman said...

Also, as for vanity, I want to tell you that I've been judged most of my life because of my hair. My hair was the stick that people used to and still use to judge if I was one race or mixed race or another. As a kid, hair was something I had no control over because my Hispanic culture deemed women with long straight hair the most beautiful so I spent hours at the salon from age 3! All my hair fell out from relaxers. I finally got "free" when I was 16 and I said that I didn't care if my mother beat me to death, I was going to find out what I looked like naturally. People LOVED the real me. Some people (relatives, of course) still to this day hate it and still are amazed anyone could marry this afro.

I don't think it's just about hair. It's about women's bodies being such a loaded subject in any society, especially amongst women and how people judge each other. Think about what a sheitel, a tichel, a headband, a hat says in our community or more likely, what people THINK it says.

Anonymous said...

Seven and a half years after receiving my get and throwing my hat in the air, I still sometimes go outside and don't feel completely dressed. And then I remember why, and I smile.

Rachel said...

I am not yet divorced ( no get ) though I have the official divorced certificate from the court but since I am separate more than 4 years I have started since last year to uncover my hair but since I am still living among the orthodoxy community I put a beret on my long long straightened hair. Happy for your freedom as for mine.

Rachel said...

I removed my hair covering ( wig ) after separation of 3 years, no Get yet but official divorce certificate yes. Now I put berets on my long long straightened hair because I thought it would look less rude to the orthodoxy community I am still living amongst.

Rachel said...

I removed my hair covering ( wig ) after separation of 3 years, no Get yet but official divorce certificate yes. Now I put berets on my long long straightened hair because I thought it would look less rude to the orthodoxy community I am still living amongst. I can't describe the freedom I felt and still since I uncovered. Good for you, me and all our like minded.

Anonymous said...

Would widowed women cover their hair?

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