I shake my hair out in front of the mirror, and bountiful waves and curls greet me. I ruffle my fingers through the thick mane I’ve acquired thanks to pregnancy hormones, and can’t help but laugh at the irony. Here I am, nine months pregnant, really enjoying this crown I am waving on my head.
And yet, my hair remains hidden from all other eyes but mine and my husband’s.
I think back to my first three pregnancies that came close to each other, one succeeding the next. It was a years-long whirlwind of sleepless nights, toilet training, and anticipating first milestones. I don’t remember those days or those pregnancies.
They seem like one big mush in my head; so when, five years later, we are once again on the birthing train, everything seems so new, so different. With my children a bit older, I have the time and mind space to really enjoy each stage of this pregnancy. I am discovering things about myself that I never have before. It’s thrilling.
That’s why, along with my new head of wonder, comes a renewed desire to rediscover a mitzvah (commandment) that I connect to as a Jewish woman–covering my hair.
Now, I grew up with married people all around me covering their hair, so when I got married I practiced this mitzvah purely out of habit, and didn’t put much thought into the why. Yet, although I learned all the laws of hair covering, I never really owned it for myself.
As I continuously brush my hair out and enjoy the reflection looking back at me, it dawns on me that I need to dig deeper and learn for myself what inspires and drives me to cover my hair—especially now, as a woman, a mother, a wife.
I surf the web, read some books and I discover all different opinions and analysis. I gain deeper knowledge, but am also left with more questions. One of the contradictions, or may I say, confusions I have been thinking about was how it made sense for me to daily wear a beautiful wig (if I may say so myself), wavy and natural looking, when I display myself to the world.
What’s the point? I read differing opinions: some say a wig is more immodest than covering hair, or attracts more attention. I try to put all my thoughts in order and make sense of this mitzvah that I really want to perform with meaning.
After much reading and researching, I end up achieving some clarity. I may be “fooling” the world with my very natural looking wig. It may even be attractive. But, that is wonderful and beautiful, as mitzvot should be celebrated.
The truth is, if I want to adhere to the mitzvah of hair covering, I can cover my hair with anything…even a paper bag. But that doesn’t mean covering my hair and looking attractive while doing it a contradiction. No, it’s a proclamation, mainly to myself, how mitzvahs should done: beautifully, joyfully, and with a whole heart.
And then I come to a profound realization, another layer that opens perspective and deepens my faith in this mitzvah. When I associate with the wider world, be it for work, or pleasure, there is one thing that stands between me and every person that I encounter…a constant reminder on my head telling me, “You are all theirs, but you really are not.”
There is part of me, the most real and intimate “me” that there is, but, it’s not for the world. It is this clandestine reality that just me and my husband know of, sacred and special. I save it for myself and my equal, my partner in life, my soulmate. The wig says to all others: “You can reach me, talk to me, have fun with me, but, this part of me you can never see or ever have.”
This realization brings me to a place of wonder, and gratitude for the opportunity of re-igniting my passion for a mitzvah I never made my own before. As I look down at my growing middle, I feel the flutters and the kicks. I know that soon, as my body is tasked with the very holy mission of bringing another child into the world, my postpartum hormones will cause my hair to fall out.
A different glow will shine on my face, along with bags under my eyes–a different kind of beauty. For now, as I glance again at my reflection in the mirror, I smile shyly at myself. It’s true, it really is a beautiful head of curls. I’m going to enjoy it for as long as it lasts.