It’s all about the Hattitude!

One of my biggest pet peeves of late is when people explain away not covering their hair because they “don’t look good in hats” or tell me “well, it’s good you look good in hats” – that is so not it.  It is all about finding what style of hat (or any head covering really) works with your head and style, and then wearing it with hattitude! (If you don’t get that, say it out loud =) )

For most of my life I avoided ever wearing anything on my head, I have had migraines since I was 10 and just have a funny shaped head – the combination of which was never fun for hats, headbands, or any other fun hair accessories.  When I started learning about the tradition of married women covering their hair and decided I wanted to take that on when D and I got married, I knew it was going to be a process.  I began by wearing ribbons as headbands, which slowly evolved into thin scarves, and they grew wider over time.  When we got engaged, I made the commitment to wear a hat or scarf covering the whole top of my head until we got married, then I transitioned into full coverage by a scarf and a different sort of hat wearing.

I attended a women’s event at the local Modern Orthodox synagogue a few months before my wedding with a local milliner (hat maker) and some lively conversations about hair covering.  I tried on almost every hat she had brought with her, trying to find my dressy hat style. I got so frustrated and was convinced I wouldn’t be able to have nice hats for Shabbat, Holidays, and special events.  However, I finally was urged to try on the hat I had been avoiding, and it was perfect! The style was just what I needed, and so I embraced that style and now know it is what works for me.  I know my hat style, and I wear it with just the right amount of hattitude for any given occasion.

I love hattitude.  The aforementioned milliner introduced me to the word and the idea – and I embraced it whole heartedly.  Hattitude is the attitude needed to wear a hat well.  It is not just putting it on your head and being done, it is knowing when it needs a little tilt, or how to position the flair on it so that it reflects who you are.  I even wear my scarves with hattitude, I find ones that are fun and reflect some of who I am and that I can tie in a way which works with my super short hair.  Hair coverings are an accessory, just like shoes, purses, and jewelry – own them as such and have fun!  With hattitude, anyone can be a hat person and find the hat they look good in.

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26 thoughts on “It’s all about the Hattitude!

  1. It’s fantastic that you’ve found a type of hat that fits comfortably and suits your style. Mazel tov!

    That said, I’m not sure whether your pet peeve is with the reason they offer for their failure to cover their hair (viz. style and comfort), or whether you dislike their not covering their hair per se.

    If you dislike the excuse itself, well, isn’t everyone entitled to her own comfort and style? It’s commendable if you try to help them find hats that fit their comfort and style, but if, in the end of the day, they still aren’t physically or stylistically comfortable with hats, isn’t that their prerogative?

    (If nothing else, they might prefer a tikhel in lieu of a hat. As for snoods, I think they just look awful and yucky in terms of fashion, but I guess to each her own. As for sheitels, I think they’re disingenuous and make a mockery of halakhah, as I will explain later, so in my book, covering your hair with an attractive wig is no better than not covering your hair at all.)

    If you’re bothered by their failure to cover their hair, then you might be interested to learn that there are views which understand all the laws of tzniut in terms of what causes hirhur (sexual thoughts) and hana’ah (sexual pleasure), rather than as abstruse technical laws. According to this view, the laws of tzniut command a person to cover up whatever is customary to be covered up in that time and place, almost as a sexual subset of the laws of minhag ha-maqom. The assumption is that whatever is ordinarily exposed will not cause hirhur or hana’ah, and that therefore, its exposure is permitted, even if the halakhic codes say otherwise.

    Now, I’d personally say that for this to work, the women must additionally lack intention to cause hirhur or hana’ah. For example, if women wear bikinis precisely to attract sexual attention, then we cannot say that bikinis are ordinary and therefore permitted. The fact that their intention is sexual, negates the possibility of men’s becoming sexually habituated and inured to them, and therefore, they remain prohibited. (Assuming a mixed-sex beach with men in the vicinity; in an all-women’s beach, they might be permitted. Am I implying that mixed-sex beaches might be permitted given proper garb? Indeed I am. Mixed-sex swimming is prohibited only if one will pay attention to the opposite sex there instead of to the water.)

    Additionally, I’d say that even if men become habituated to the sexuality of hair (which I think they definitely are today), nevertheless, I’d say that perhaps, there is still a minhag ha-maqom for a woman to cover her hair. That is, hair-covering is no longer a question of tzniut, but it is now simply a question of minhag ha-maqom in general, of being poresh min ha-tzibur. Similarly, if women had a minhag ha-maqom of wearing green, and one woman wore blue, then this would violate the minhag, even though she was not violating tzniut. (I don’t believe in minhag avot, and so all minhagim must be based on your locale, not on your ancestry. If Sephardim in a given locale can eat qitniot, then so can Ashkenazim. Rabbi David bar Hayyim has a similar approach to qitniot, except he speaks of Israel specifically, while I’m more general.)

    But despite all this, it’d be my basic contention that the laws of tzniut depend solely on what causes hirhur and hana’hah, and not on what the halakhic codes say. There is a story (related in Rabbi Marc Angel’s book about Rabbi Haim David Halevi) of someone asking his rabbi whether he should make aliyah, and his rabbi quoted the Terumat ha-Deshen that Israel is a wasteland with no population or infrastructure or livelihood. Rabbi Haim David Halevi replied indignantly that you cannot quote a 16th-century work about economic conditions in Israel to arrive at a ruling for today. Likewise, I’d say we cannot start asking 16th-century works for sexual advice. Heck, according to the Mishnah, women are not allowed to be schoolteachers because of tzniut!!!

    So to return to sheitels: I dislike any interpretation of tzniut that turns the laws of tzniut into abstruse technical laws with no basis in sociology or sexuality. We can treat kashrut or shofar as technical laws, but I think the laws of tzniut are meant to affect sexuality, and so time and place are more relevant than whatever the halakhic codes say in this area.

    You might complain that men do find women’s hair pretty, but I’ll retort that men also find their eyes and faces pretty. If you think women should cover everything that is pretty, then you’ll have to be awfully mahmir!!! I think hirhur and hana’ah are talking about what makes men go “hubba-hubba”, and not what they simply find pretty and attractive. So if men once found hair to be sexually provocative like a woman’s private areas, I do not believe this is true anymore.

    My article on kol ishah (here) applies this entire philosophy of tzniut specifically to the laws of kol ishah, but see specifically note 15 regarding hair-covering, and also the post-publication addendum citing Rabbi Irving Greenberg. Rabbis Yosef Messas and Moshe Malka of Morocco are especially well-known for permitting women to abandon the custom of hair-covering, while the Arukh ha-Shulhan is especially notable for disagreeing. (I say “notable” and not “well-known”, because many misunderstand him to be agreeing with Rabbis Malka and Messas, whereas in fact, he is diametrically opposed to their position.)

      • Dude, that comment was like 2 pages way too long. It’s like a blog! Did you think of maybe just posting it as a blog post on your blog and then linking back to this piece?

      • Aliza,

        Is that preferred? I didn’t think of writing my comment as its own blog entry. I rather figured that since my comment was a direct reply to what was in this present blog entry, that it ought to be on the same page.

        I know that I personally prefer it when people write longer comments, because it gives me more to read. I’m always frustrated when people are obviously curtailing their thoughts for the sake of brevity. (Have you ever seen an author remark in a footnote that he could say more had he the space. I hate it when they do that.)

      • I agree with Aliza. We write very short posts here, so then comments are much longer than a post, maybe posting your own post with a link back to the inspiring piece may be better. You can then comment with a link to your post as well if you are inclined to insure the follow up happens accordingly!

    • I have many close friends, including Rebbetzins, who make a choice not to cover their heads and I totally respect that. My issue is simply with the quib response of not looking good in hats. That women write off the entire observance because they have not found a hat style that they enjoy, or an alternative method (I wear tichels significantly more than hats on weekdays) – is what gets to me. Its a pet peeve, like I said – nothing major, just a little something quirky that bugs me that I thought was fun for a quick post to get people thinking.

      • What did you say to these women when they told you this? I’ve never heard a woman admit to not covering their hair because it doesn’t look good! I think my mouth would probably just hang wide open. And I live in a community where hair coverings vary much more than any other community I’ve ever lived in. I sit in shul next to women in sheitels, tichels, headbands, berets, fancy hats and such.

        I’m in my late 20s and most married women my age do, but I find many married Modern Orthodox women in their 50s and above don’t necessarily cover and they find it abhorrent because their mothers didn’t. I know many that cover for shul but don’t otherwise. It’s easier to make that choice in areas where people won’t distrust your kashrut level based on your head covering.

        I might be hanging around mostly rabbi’s wives who are much more machmir and stringent. I can count on my hands the ones who are less so. While I know many who’ve admitted that they hate covering their hair, I don’t know many who would stop because it doesn’t “look good.” I know many more of them who’d argue over how much hair they could show. And wait, now that I think of it, I know very few who DON’T look good doing it

        Ah, forgot to link to this book. I took a class with the author and she mentored me via email for a couple of months after: “Hide and Seek: Jewish Women and Hair Covering”. I wish there were more articles on the subject. Also, JOFA Journal recently had a great issue which touched on hair covering.

      • Somehow this post wound up in the spam filter and I just saw it… I always tell women who say it doesn’t look good that they haven’t found the right style for them and offer to help them shop. I feel that focusing on a positive and engaged approach has better potential than berating them…
        Great book/articles too…

      • I have a friend (a real-life friend!) who doesn’t cover her hair, but her reasons are far more than “it doesn’t look good on me”.

        She’s of a decidedly intellectual bent, and so her reasons for not covering her hair are more intellectual and focus more on cognitive dissonance and the reasons for covering her hair: see her blog post here.

        She’s expressed to me similar sentiments about qitniot; while she’s definitely frum, she’s not afraid to call a certain custom or practice senseless or idiotic when she feels it is.

      • Intellectual (and pain!) reasons I think are totally legitmate – I do not believe every woman should cover her hair, I just think she should have a real reason if she is going to talk about it. Your friend clearly has those, the women I spoke of, do not.
        Now, if you want a controversial post: get me started on kitniot….

      • Oh no… Not quite… I think this may be its own post soon, so I’ll prevent myself from the diatribe here 🙂

      • Well, in any case, you’ve reminded me of something very important. Before I leave Israel for America this coming Rosh Hodesh Nisan, I need to buy myself some kasher l’pesah tehina!! Thanks for reminding me!! You simply can’t find that stuff very easily in Maryland (where I’ll be), and even if you do find it, you’d better darn well buy it before Pesah begins, because the Capitol-K hekhsher forbids a store to even carry qitniot – even when it (the qitniot) has a kasher l’pesah heksher!! – on threat of the store’s heksher being revoked. Apparently the prohibition of bal tosif has been revoked.

  2. Ah, but a story about head covering is never less than controversial.

    If you click on the “hair” tags on my blog, you’ll see. When I recently wrote about hair and the mikvah and issues with having curly/kinky hair, I was overwhelmed with the amount of people that had to comment. I even got hate mail from close friends.

    I am just as opposed to those who are militantly anti-hair covering (It’s misogynist! It’s stupid!) as the people who offer to straighten my hair (ON SHABBOS!) so it will fit under a sheitel or tell me to shave my head for the same reason.

    It’s a very touchy subject with people. People have such a visceral, hardcore crazy response based on their own issues with the subject. I wish someone had told me this before I converted because it would have saved me a lot of pain and suffering.

    I know women who have severe migraines from head coverings who have been told to “suck it up” by other women. (I was told someone similar when I told a fellow kinky-hairedI know women who wear sheitels and complain about hair loss. I know others who simply love, love, love covering their hair.

    Funny enough, blogger Chaviva is having a fun giveaway through Coveryourhair.com in honor of her impending nuptials: http://www.kvetchingeditor.com/2010/02/yes-ill-cover-now-cover-your-hair.html I love the reasons why she mentions that she’s looking forward to it.

    Some women in my area talked about having a party where they exchanged and tried on each other’s hair coverings. I thought that was a cool idea. I’m sure I have hundreds of dollars worth of head coverings (okay, nowhere near the cost of a sheitel!) stacked up in my closet that I slowly realized didn’t work on me for pain reasons, style issues, hair texture issues, hair mass issues, etc.

    My favorite look is the Rastafarian beret or the thick headband. People would totally freak out when I went from a beret to a tichel (scarf). As if somehow my observance level had changed. (“OMG, you’re looking REALLY frum today!”) And I’ve had some pretty crazy responses to the beret and the very thick headbands (you’re hair’s not really covered!).

    Like I said, weirdly touchy subject. And sadly, in the Orthodox community, a barometer people use to judge each other’s observance level or force other people to conform to hair covering standards (I actually DO know many women who have to straighten their hair for sheitels because wearing anything less than a sheitel every day would lead them to be ostracized!).

    • My problem with all this is that it has extremely little to do with halakhah. I guarantee you that Biblical Jews were not wearing a single one of what women today are wearing. Furthermore, the Rambam writes that a woman may leave her house no more than once or twice a month, and the Mishnah explicitly forbids women to be schoolteachers because of tzniut. So why are people selectively making an idolatrous issue out of hair-covering? See the statement of Rabbi Avraham Shammah about hypocrisy as quoted in my article on kol ishah.

      In any case, it amazes me that people think the halakhah of hair-covering is so much more important than the halakhah to guard your health and not be in constant writing pain. You’d think that they’d at least admit that two different halakhot are contradicting and that it is a serious question of which halakhah should overrule the other.

      • I am indebted to Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Berkovits’s observation on giyur that a “real” halakhic question is not when you can simply look up the explicit ready-made answer in a code. A “real” question, he says, is rather when two different prescriptions in the codes contradict due to the specific details of the case at hand. That, he says, and only that, is a “real” halakhic question. In the case of giyur, for example, he says that we have the principle of converting only those who are punctiliously observant of halakhah contradicting the principle of ahavat yisrael and the unity of am yisrael (which requires us to convert even the non-observant so that they’ll be Jewish according to Orthodox standards).

    • I actually first found your blog when someone had sent me one of your posts about hair when I started on my path. I still cannot believe someone would tell you to straighten your hair on Shabbat so that you can wear a Sheitel! I mean, I can b/c the sort of people who would insist that is the only hair covering have some interesting other points – but still. (One of the top 10 reasons I will never self-identify as Orthodox – my body, my life, my choice)

      Thanks for touching on what I feel is the most important part – you found a look that works for you. For your hair type and your health and your personal style. I have taken some new brides under my wing who want to cover their heads and just don’t know how to figure out their hat style. Giving them some local stores to go try on a variety at even if the styles aren’t right, to get an idea of what works and sometimes loaning out hats of scarves so people can play around and see what works. I guess its like the party your community has mentioned… Maybe we should have a virtual one! We can all share what has and hasn’t worked and why and offer to send the pieces we’ve relegated to the back of the closet…

  3. Melissa,

    I was a little confused about who was writing this post at first because it didn’t specify on the blog. Maybe you guys could come up with some kind of signatures for your entries?

    The whole issue of hair covering is interesting. Hardly anyone does it in most Conservative-type settings I’ve been to, but there are a few people who seem to be expressing an increased interest. I find the idea of covering my head after marriage somewhat attractive for a number of reasons. First, I like the idea of covering my head in some way in shul at least even now in my unmarried state. But I don’t want to wear a kippah, and if I wear a hat or scarf people are going to assume I’m married. Also, I like hats and scarves anyway and would probably wear them for aesthetic purposes randomly if people didn’t make assumptions about their meaning.

    • Naamah, we see our names as who posted, so thanks for letting us know! We will look into some sort of identification. Though for now, I always put the picture on the right and Jessica has the pictures on the left 😉 We also categorize them by our names.

      As for the hair covering, it is gaining interest in Conservative settings, from what I have seen – especially for Shabbat/Chagim services. I find it to be a very meaningful experience for many reasons. It can be hard to find a way to do it when not married, I got a lot of negative feedback when I first started wearing scarves, but I found ways to explain it and saw it as a “teachable moment” instead. I hope you can find something that makes you happy as both a single and some-day married woman =)

      • I second Naamah; other than by scrolling to the bottom of the page and checking the tags, there’s no way to tell who’s the author.

        Naamah, re: your desire to cover your hair were it not for the assumption people would make: when I visited Congregation Shearith Israel, I sat down for shaharit, and the sexton came over to me and said, “Excuse me sir, but here, all men wear a tallit. You’ll find one on the rack over there.” He didn’t care whether I was married or not, which also illustrates my thesis that we are bound not by minhag avot but rather by minhag ha-maqom.

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