As a married Orthodox Jewish woman, I cover my hair. With either a wig, beret, or colorful scarf, I always have something on my head. It is a mitzvah for women to do so, as our hair is a source of beauty, which should be reserved for our husbands.
Now, before you stop reading because you think it is oppressive, I just want to point out some of the many benefits of this practice.
1. Hairspray and gel be gone! Yup, that’s right. I have significantly saved on my hair products since I first got married. No longer am I walking down the aisles of the local CVS trying to decide if I want my hair to smell like almond breeze (almonds pass gas?), or citrus flowers. I no longer worry about washing an abundance of sticky substances out of my hair—the same hair, I may proudly add, that back in the day never moved regardless of wind current. (I’m from Jersey—I know how to do hair.)
2. Options! Options! I have straight brown hair. The kind of hair that made me jealous when I would see my curly-haired friends. When I got engaged and I went to a sheital macher (a woman who makes wigs), I was stunned at the choices I now had. I could go blonde, red, auburn, or jet black. The possibilities were endless, and while in the end I stayed with my basic shade of brown, the brief moments I got to be a red head were some of the most humorous.
3. Channeling my inner artist. I can’t draw. I don’t know how to build anything unless there is a 10-page illustrated instruction book to help me. When I go shopping, I look for the outfits that the store puts out on display. If I like it, then I get the whole thing. No out-of-the-box thinking necessary. So, one place where I do get to be creative is when I wear headscarves. Colors abound, and perfect matches aren’t mandatory. The more colorful the better.
4. Bad hair days are a thing of the past. And yes, I don’t have to worry about bed head, an unfortunate haircut, or those days when my hair just won’t do what I want it to. Wigs are pretty obedient. And, if it isn’t, then I can just take a scarf and go.
5. It fills those awkward silences with women whom I don’t know. Ever go to a wedding where you don’t know a soul? So you find yourself smiling uncomfortably and fiddling with your silverware? Wigs are always a great topic of conversation. We all have our horror stories, our bargain finds, and various other stories to share. It’s a great ice breaker.
6. Shocking people. OK, so this is a bit sadistic, but I still remember the shock on the resident dermatologist’s face when she was doing her exam and wanted to check my scalp. I asked her to wait a second as I removed my hair. I still don’t think this poor woman knew what happened.
7. I outwit my DNA. Thick, gorgeous hair is unfortunately not in my genetic pool. No worries, no one ever buys a wig with a bald spot.
8. I can take the compliment sincerely. When someone compliments me on my hair, I can honestly say thank you. After all, I did pick it out. I have never understood the social nicety of thanking someone who comments on a specific feature. It’s not like you ordered it. You came out the way you did. And, if you had plastic surgery, well, there’s a doctor to thank for that. My wig. My choice.
9. I can pick out another sheital wearer a mile away. Well, maybe not a mile away, but pretty darn close. It’s especially helpful if I am in a place that I am unfamiliar with. What if I need to find a kosher restaurant? What if I want to know where the local Judaica store is? If there is another sheital sister, we will find each other—just a slight nod, like, hey, we’re in this together.
So, yes, there are those naysayers out there who believe this is oppressive, keeping us women down. But, I heartily disagree. Ever since I started covering my hair, I am no longer a prisoner to bed head or my unfortunate DNA. My expressions of creativity are boundless.