My (Often) Naked Head

post by Jessica

When I was little, my mom used to lament that although I looked much better in hats than she did, I didn’t like wearing them, while she did. I never really gave much thought to the idea of wearing hats or anything on my head full time. In anticipation of our wedding, I bought my first hats and scarves in Israel and brought them back with me. However, as you can see from the picture at the left, my collection has grown somewhat from what I could carry back with me on the airplane. I’ve noticed as we get closer to rabbinical school that the pace of of the increase in my scarf and hat collection has increased, as I try to figure out exactly how I want to approach hair covering.

Initially, when we were engaged, R had mentioned that he would like it if I covered my hair, but that it was my decision to make. However, while we were in Israel we attended a bris that made us reconsider a little – at 21, I was the oldest person there who wasn’t married, didn’t have children, and wearing a long sleeved shirt and long skirt, I was also the least modestly dressed. They were college-educated women, and yet they seemed to disappear into their clothing and their roles in the community. It was a profoundly disengaging experience, and we’ve had to work our way back from it to try to find a balanced understanding.

A friend of mine says that her skirt is her kippah and her hair covering is her wedding ring. While that works for her, I think I understand hair covering as something that signifies that I am a married Jewish woman. Still, I am still working on the practical aspects of it. I cover for Shabbat and holidays, even just larger social gatherings. Still, it’s not full time, and I can’t seem to make that decision at the moment. I recognize that I’m on a path, but I haven’t determined the destination yet. I have been working to become more comfortable with hair covering, and doing it more often, but whether that will translate into full time hair covering still remains to be seen. I still haven’t fully grasped the halachic aspects of it, and that’s something I want to work on. I find that, at least in this case, I don’t just want to conform. I want to understand, and so we’ll see what happens in the future.

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8 thoughts on “My (Often) Naked Head

  1. I’m a little bit confused by your second paragraph. Could you please clarify exactly what the other women were wearing, and what your reaction was? Your clothing sounds to have been perfectly tzenua, so I’m not sure in what way you were the least modest there – what were these other women wearing? You say, “[i]t was a profoundly disengaging experience”, but I don’t know what that means. I’m guessing that you’re saying that being the oldest unmarried woman and the least-modestly dressed made you recoil and made you determined to preserve your sense of egalitarianism and feminism, but I’m not sure. That’s only my guess based on what I know about women and tzniut and egalitarianism and feminism in general, but I don’t see it evinced in your own particular words.

    In any case, on Melissa’s It’s all about the Hattitude!, see two of my comments (numbers 1 and 8). The first is on the halakhic aspects of hair-covering, and the second is a link to a friend of mine’s blog post about hair-covering, both of which I think you might find interesting

    All the best!

    • Hi there – I will try to clarify as best I can.

      They were wearing what I guess could be loosely defined as dresses, but they were devoid of any shape or even really resemblance to more modern clothing. I guess they totally accomplished their goals because you couldn’t really tell what anyone looked like but it also meant that it just seemed like the women faded into the background.

      The interesting thing about being disengaged was that it was that way for both myself and R. It was unsettling for him to see the extreme this had taken with someone we knew relatively well in a “before” life, and to feel as though they were choosing to raise their children in this environment (especially the older daughter) in this environment in which she wouldn’t really have the choices that her mother had had before she had joined this community. And for me, it was something like what you said, in that it made me want to cling to my individuality and not identify with that group at all – but the hair covering aspect was strongest in my mind, because they were also very strict about that as well, and I felt incredibly out of place with very long blond hair on display (even though I wasn’t married yet).

      Hope that is useful and I will check out those links you mentioned.

      Best!

      • Which community was this? If at 21 you were the oldest unmarried woman, then I imagine this was a quite Haredi community, yes? Not a dati leumi one, it would appear, correct? (Litmus test: were they wearing sheitels or tichels?)

        I’ve seen criticisms of Aish and the like, that they set up as their poster-children ba’alot teshuva with PhDs and say, “See, you can be Orthodox and learned!”, but they hide the fact that no one born within that community could do the same. They take women who had PhDs before they became frum and advertise them as the norm, which is horrendously disingenuous. So your husband’s fears have been represented before.

      • o_O

        Oookaaay … queue the “Twilight Zone” theme and get me the heck away from them!!! At least with the Haredim you know what to expect! But I’ve never heard of dati’im all being married by 21 and dressing themselves in giant formless bags. (Next you’ll tell me they each had three children already.) Even the Hardalim (Haredi-Leumi, the Zionistic Haredi-wannabes) are not that Haredi-ish!!!!

  2. I of course know neither of you, so I’m not informed enough to really say anything, but I do find it rather ironic that the wife of the JTS-nik is being stricter in this than the wife of the YCT-nik. ;)

      • Touche.

        But in my defense, my having then read only the “about” page and not the several posts on how you and Jessica each got to where you each are today, meant that I didn’t know much at all about your backgrounds, and so all I had to judge by was your husbands. I’m not saying this was correct, but my error was insufficient information, and not sexism.

        Now, having read those several additional posts (as well as comparing your respective posts on skirts as well), I see exactly how each of your respective positions compares, and I’m not at all surprised anymore by the fact that you (Melissa) are more conservative in some of your positions than she (Jessica) is.

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