Headbands to Headscarves

As of this month, I have been covering my head in some fashion for five years! Those of you who have been paying attention are surely thinking “wait, Melissa hasn’t been married that long!” – and you are correct. Head covering was so important to me that I took the time to figure it out emotionally, spiritually, and physically in advance.

You see, I started the journey to covering my head once I knew we were going to get married. Though there was 18 months between the two, it was a very valuable time and growth experience for me. I always saw that one aspect of head covering was the visible distinction of being “off the market” for lack of better phrase. While no one would know that wearing a headband, ribbon, or wide headscarf  was for such a purpose – I did. The other driving factor was my propensity to headaches. I had to adjust to having something on my head and learn how to work that so that it wasn’t a headache trigger.

I started with cloth headbands and skinny fabric tied as a ribbon. Then I moved to wider pieces of ribbon and skinny scarves. Next was slightly wider scarves. Finally I reached the point where I was wearing scarves that mostly covered the entire top of my head or hats on a daily basis. The transition from that to a scarf which covered all my hair once I got my married was subtle, but vital. I had been building up my tolerance – emotionally, spiritually, and physically – over the past 18 months, and by the time I woke up and needed to cover it all, I was ready. I knew what I was getting into and was comfortable with my decision. Over the next 3.5 years. I experimented with how much hair I was comfortable having out and what sort of coverings worked for me. I’ve done chunky visible bangs to not a strand exposed, and everywhere in between. I wear hats, caps, berets, snoods, pre-tieds, scarves, and/or a sheitel. There is no one size fits all way to cover and my choice on any given day depends on where I’m going, what I’m wearing, and how I’m feeling.

I don’t know what headcovering will look like in another few years, but for now, I’m grateful for the past five years of experience and growth.

I now present a slideshow of a sample cross-section of my head covering styles over the past five years…

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I’m only going to say this once…

So listen (ok, fine, read) carefully.

I bought a sheitel.

Yes, you read that right. I’ll give you all a moment to catch your breath.
Proceed when you are ready.

I recently wore a horrible wig for a day (oh Purim) and I thought that ended my buried desire to have a sheitel as a part of my head covering repertoire. It was uncomfortable on so many levels, which I have already written about so I won’t recap. However, that Sunday, I had an opportunity to support a friend of mine who is a local sheitel macher (wig maker, seller, stylist extraordinaire) as she was hosting a large sale, and I knew I wanted to get a wig grip headband to wear under my scarves, as they have received rave reviews from many of my friends.

As I walked into my friend’s basement, the sight amazed me. There were wigs of every shape and color imaginable. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  A few friends were shocked to see me, though they were quickly appeased with the statement that I was just there to support the host.  After spending some time looking at the wigs on people’s heads and on the tables, my friend S encouraged me to try one “just for fun.” So I looked for a bit and pondered, and somewhere in my gut I was afraid to try on the wig.  Afraid to see myself with “real” hair. So I picked up a wig and held it on my hand for awhile, until S came over and again, encouraged me oh so lovingly to try it on and offered to help me since I clearly had no idea how this worked. S and I worked together to get the sheitel on my head, and her immediate reaction was a huge smile and pushing me to the mirror.  Everyone in the room reacted similarly, even me.

I couldn’t stop looking at myself. I felt like me, but with hair.  The color and cut (even before it was actually cut right) were very reminiscent of how my hair often looked in the summer before I got married.  It was beautiful without being too much.  Just a simple, classic Melissa look. I started freaking out.  I could see myself attending community events and weddings of non-religious friends in this wig.  I could imagine going to the fun young-adult events I have so often avoided because I didn’t want to deal with the inevitable awkward looks at my (often gorgeous) scarves.

The girls encouraged me to go upstairs and see it in the light, when I hesitated they reminded me that my head was in fact covered and we all laughed.

As I walked up the stairs, my good friend Talia had arrived.  She looked up from setting down her purse and with a shocked but happy expression she cried out “Oh! Its you!” You see, Talia immediately saw the friend she had met three years ago, a week before I got married. I made her take a photo which I texted to my amazing husband.  After texting back and forth, while I watched lots of women try on lots of fantastic wigs, my husband came over and met me outside to discuss the wig which I was rapidly falling in love with.

For those of you who are long time readers of the blog, you know that my husband is Sephardi and the idea of wearing a wig has long been a pipe dream I thought would never be actualized.  So the fact that he came to talk to me while wearing one was a big step.  Being the amazing husband he is, he reminded me that it is my hair and my mitzvah, and that while he doesn’t particularly like wigs, he understood my reasoning for wanting one and supported whatever decision I wanted to make. We didn’t dub ourselves Sephardekenazi for no reason – we each have things we cling to of our minhagim that the other doesn’t do (ie, he eats kitniyot and I still don’t).

I went back inside and had a small breakdown. I just couldn’t believe this was happening. I couldn’t believe that I, the girl who doesn’t wear wigs, was thinking about buying a wig.  My friends were extremely supportive without being pushy and in the end, they said some very inspiring and true things which helped me make my own choice.  Options are never a bad thing, so while I intend to still primarily live in scarves, I am excited to have another option.

I didn’t have buyers remorse at all, just a lot of shock and awe and I found myself saying “I just bought a sheitel” to Talia a lot the rest of that day.  Over the last two weeks I have slowly told a few friends who I knew could understand and be supportive, and eventually got to the point where I was ready to share this news with you all. Getting it cut and styled also helped make it more real, as did wearing it out for the first time.  I am slowly learning to love this look and get excited to have it as an option for the times where having a scarf feels more immodest as it draws significantly more attention than the incognito factor a great wig provides. I am also happy to announce that it did not irritate my head at all! Being pain free after 7 hours of wear and not having to futz with it at all is also pretty impressive.

Oh, and I suppose you want a photo huh?

Post by Melissa

Please be nice, this was a very difficult decision to make and I’m still in shock, though very happy. If comments are nasty, I will not approve them. Its my blog and I’ll moderate if I want to ;-)

Talia wore a Tichel!

As I mentioned in a recent post about my Purim wig wearing experience, my good friend Talia got to be me for a day – headscarf and all. While I was wigging out (ha!) about the feeling of hair and interesting reactions, she too had an interesting reaction.

Here is just a brief excerpt:

I arrived at Mel’s house at 7:45 am. She was dressed as me and I was dressed as her. Her husband had a good chuckle at us and we went to work. We picked out jewelry and then got down to the good part. I had to pick out a scarf to wear and she had to get her brand new wig situated. Yes wig. My dear friend, who hasn’t had hair graze the back of her neck in more than two years, purchased a ‘lovely’ (read: cheap) red wig to mimic my hair. We dissolved in giggles and I helped her position it. Then it was my turn. We picked out a lovely plain brown scarf and then a fun, silky giraffe print scarf to top it off. She put it on my head and tied it for me…

WOW.

I went from wacky single to mature married lady in one quick tie! It was a complete change for me… I felt different. Modest. Amazing. We drove to work and stopped at a fruit and veg mart to get some goodies for our co-workers. I felt funny… oddly conspicuous and inconspicuous at the same time. For a minute I wanted to shout… “THIS ISN’T ME! I’M NOT MARRIED YET!” but I also wanted to revel in the respect people paid me. More than anything… I started getting a crick in my neck! I felt like I had a work of art on my head and I couldn’t move.

Its funny how different reactions can be. For more of Talia’s – check out her full post on Talia, She Wrote.

I’m wearing a wig!

Yes, you read that right – Melissa, the woman who doesn’t wear wigs, is wearing a wig.

Luckily, its just for a Purim costume and I shall return to the world of scarves tomorrow, but for today I am be-wigged – and its weird! Aside from the obviously very different look, it feels weird physically, mentally, and spiritually.

@thdpr and @melschol - but who is who? (Post by Melissa)

The first question I’m sure you have is – what were you and what did the wig look like? Well, thats simple.  My dear friend Talia and I decided to be each other at work. We wanted to celebrate but also be work appropriate, and so a brilliant idea was born.  We wore outfits that were totally how the other dresses (and each other’s work name tags just to clarify), but the crux of it was clearly our “hair” – my be-scarfed head and her beautiful red hair are quite distinct. So today, I am wearing a wig. I’ll be back later to reflect on the experience!

***

Ok, it is now motzei Shabbat, and the wig has been packed away and I can take a moment to reflect on the experience.

Overwhelmingly, I just didn’t feel like myself.  Maybe it was that the color was so far from my own, but I think it was more that it just didn’t feel true to who I am and my ideals at this point in my life. Plus, I was super freaking hot! I honestly felt like I was over heating all day, and while it was unseasonably warm, it was still only  ~65′ – I can’t imagine having it on in 85′!

The biggest shock to me though was number of comments I got about how pretty/beautiful/etc I looked with a wig on and subsequently “why don’t you wear a wig.” While I so know that our society values hair as beautiful, it was still striking to see how much it really affects people’s views of each other.  That having on a (very cheap) wig made such an impact on my appearance that people felt compelled to comment as amazing to me. So, while my vain inner voice said “what, so I don’t look pretty normally?” my rational voice reaffirmed the sephardic reasoning for not wearing a wig, and my overall non-sheitel status. (Though ironically on Sunday I am attending a Sheitel Sale, though that is primarily to support the friend hosting it and to get a WiGrip which I have heard such amazing reviews of but would love to try on before committing to.)

At the end of the experience, I am honestly so glad to be back to my scarves and hats, though I do have an increased appreciation for women who wear sheitels daily and there is still the lingering inside me to own one for fancy events.  However, I am sure all I will have to do to sway myself back to reality now is to remember how hot I was and how uncomfortable I was with people telling me how good I looked. For my physical, mental, and spiritual well-being – I really need to stick to scarves.

Life without a Sheitel

Post by Melissa (Photos c/o HeadAccents)

As mentioned in my post last week, I do not wear a sheitel (wig commonly worn by religious Jewish women), though I sometimes pine for them.  The first comment on that post was from a loyal reader, and fellow blogista, who wanted to know more about why I do not wear a sheitel, and since we here at RR like to indulge our readers, I readily agreed to write a post about it.  So without further ado, here are the reasons for my sheitel free life, in mostly no particular order:

a) As mentioned repeatedly on this blog, my wonderful husband is Sephardi and thus extremely anti-sheitel. Some of the greatest Sephardi Rabbanim (Rabbis) specifically outlawed the wearing of a wig as a means to cover your hair. Ultimately, this is the single most important reason why I do not wear a sheital.  If he really wanted me to wear one, despite all the following reasons I dislike them for my life – I would do it. {Luckily, D most prefers when I wear a mitpachat/tichel/scarf so I am actually growing my hair back out a bit so that I tie them in more styles instead of always having to fake a bun – its a win-win situation that way.}

b) Sheitels are freaking expensive. We do not have religious families who will help offset the cost, and are not in the place to spend the money on something I only “sometimes” wish I wore.

c) The whole fake hair over your hair thing kind of freaks me out, and real women’s hair (esp with the crazy stuff that happens to women in Indian over it) is even worse.

d) I have heard way too many horror stories about women losing their hair when wearing a sheitel full time.  Given that I already have a genetic predisposition to hair loss, I’d rather not tempt it.  {D has a serious fear that I, like my maternal grandmother, will loose all my hair during pregnancy – hers was with her third, I’ll have to get back to you if it happens to me at any point in my life.}

e) As much as I enjoy having short hair, I don’t think I am ready for it to be short enough to make sheitel wearing not difficult and painful. I had a pixie cut in college, and it did not work for me.

f) Hair coverings are an integral part of my accessorizing.  While I would likely wear a headband because I am so used to that look, it is just not the same. Yes, this is a totally vain reason, but they are my reasons and so be it.

However, I will state for the record that if you ever see me with my hair and a headband like in the photo on this post — you will know I am wearing a sheitel…

Sheitel wearers – I mean no offense to you by any of these statements, it is a reflection only of my reality! Want to set me straight or commiserate? Feel free! Just don’t try to persuade me to wear one….

 

(As this post remains one of the most read posts on our blog, I feel it is important to add that nearly two years after writing this post, I did in fact buy a sheitel for special occasions, and you can read about that experience here: I’m only going to say this once.)

Confessions of a hair-coverer…

Post by Melissa

I have a few confessions I feel I need to make to remain honest to you all, so here they are in no particular order.

1) Sometimes, I really wish I wore a sheitel. (The lack of sheitel wearing is a totally separate post.)

1.5) So much so that I almost bought a curly ponytail clip on thing today…. I just feel like this would make life easier when at community fancy events in a community where having my head covered is like a beaming light on the token religious girl.

2) How I chose to cover my hair, is my business only.  Maybe a little bit my husbands because he did acquire my hair after all. I’m pretty sure that its written into my ketubah ;-)

3) While I do find covering to be meaningful and wonderful, I also get crazy headaches, so if I have my scarf wrapped funny or what seems like an odd hat on, don’t bug me about it. I probably had to do the best I could today.

4) I hate having to put clips, bobby-pins, etc in my hair to hold on a scarf. It goes with (3) and only makes headaches worse. So my recent find of slip-resistant scarves from The Style Underground (as shown in the above photo) was amazing.

5) I have grown to love snoods and similar styled hats. They are fast and easy and awesome, and I don’t care what anyone else thinks of them!

5) That said, the first thing I do when I walk into my apartment is pull my scarf/snood/hat off my head. So if I am out and about and suddenly decide I need to go home {or sometimes even just to the bathroom}, you have about a 75% chance of that being because I need to get my head free.

Phew, I feel better now. Anyone have any confessions to add?