I am Jewish. And I am mad.
Not mad at being Jewish, but mad at the culture that we have created, per say. We should judge others favorably and encourage personal decisions. When I got married a few months ago I covered my hair with scarfs and hats, much to my husbands dismay. I wasn’t the same girl he had married; I looked different. I should look different, Im married! But, don’t I have a ring, my values and actions for that? What I learned is that wearing a hair covering reminds myself and others that we are married. It’s beautiful, but a hard and expensive thing to keep up.
I loved wearing scarfs in the beginning — I looked bohemian. But soon I found myself with headaches and the constant burden of them falling off this way and that. I had to match them to everything. I began not to care.
Most people in my community cover their hair. They wear sheitels (wigs) or hats and scarfs. Some learn to love it. After 7 months of covering my hair every day, I slowly began to wear thick headbands. I had to buy a kippah fall (wig that covers most of your head but you can wear your hair out under it) so I wouldn’t feel out of the ordinary. My hair didn’t turn the golden brown that it used to in the summer. It began thinning. I was unhappy with it. I admire ANYONE who can take on this task of covering their hair…I truly do. I just didn’t feel like myself and I didn’t feel good about myself.
Before I got married I asked my Rabbi what I should do. My mother and sisters cover completely with wigs and hats, and no hair showing. My husband’s family covers with scarfs — or not at all. They are sefardi. My Rabbi said it depends on the community, and you should have something on your head but you don’t have to cover it completely. But if you want to fit in to your community, look around. Do what they do.
A wig can cost upwards of $1000 dollars. A “good” one, anywhere from 2-10k. Part of me wanted a sheitel. Everyone in them looks glamorous and beautiful. But I just didn’t feel it was me. I bought a fall for shabbat so on shabbat I feel some what put together and like myself. It was $500.
NO one told me or explained to me how hard it was going to be to cover my hair. No one. It’s not just the physical act of covering, but the societal pressures that come with it. As I stopped covering my hair during the week, I was faced with my own anxieties of what people would think. I sometimes brought my hat just in case I felt “uncomfortable.” I had to sometimes explain myself that I was still married but just stopped covering my hair.
I feel that this is a beautiful thing for people who want to cover their hair, along with their husbands wanting them too as well. However, why should I feel anger and discomfort in who I had become? Where does it say in the Torah that we MUST cover our hair? And if so, why didn’t my Bubbe cover her hair? Who did cover their hair a few decades ago, or hundreds of years ago? Where did this idea and tradition take flight?
I am mad that I was led astray. No one told me that I COULD find my own way to do things. I looked to my friends who chose their own ways after I got married. I finally found a way I can be comfortable after exploring what other people do, people I look up to as Jewish role models, and my close friends who opened up about their own journey.
But I just wish that it was talked about — how hard it may be, how there are options to do one thing or another. For some reason, our generation has taken on this task as one we must follow. When I entered the workforce and was tired of looking unprofessional, that’s when I hit a breaking point. I stopped covering my hair. I know, I could have gotten a sheitel. But I tried wearing my fall to work, and it got tangled in my head set and I often had to take it off because It was very uncomfortable. And sheitels were so expensive, I couldn’t rationalize spending the money. I didn’t want to feel like I let myself down, because I didn’t cover my hair. My heart wasn’t in it.
It doesn’t change who I am religiously. Although I know others may think that. It allows me to be happy with my Judaism. I still cover my hair in Shul (Temple) and on shabbat. When I light the candles, when shema is being recited by men in shul. Perhaps after I have kids my feelings will change, or next year I’ll find some meaning behind covering it that wins me over. Why does it have to be black or white? You cover — or you don’t? I dont know. I know that to work in certain Jewish organizations I may have to cover it. But I don’t have to feel guilty. The guilt is the worst.
I am not encouraging anyone to do one or the other. I just want others to know that I am with you in this struggle.
See my response here: To Cover Or Not To Cover