My name is Ruchi, and I wear a wig.
Wow, that felt good.
So I do have hair, and it HAPPENS not to be gray (hardly). It’s not shaven. I don’t actually know anyone who shaves her head. It’s kind of pretty. I think.
I wear a wig because I cover my hair since getting married.
I cover my hair because I follow halacha.
I follow halacha because I believe passionately that this is what God wants me to do, and also because I have seen that following halacha is a really smart and systemized way to live an incredibly meaningful life.
But I do not like wearing a wig.
It’s not very comfortable, it’s not cheap, and it feels disingenuous.
Different halachically-sensitive (how’s that for a label?) Jewish women cover their hair in different ways. Some partially, some fully. Some all the time, some sometimes. Some with a wig, some with a snood, some with cool, colorful, ethnic scarves or wraps, and some with demure black thingy-doos.
Why do we young women with pretty hair cover it once we’re married?
It’s NOT because we think it looks better, although some women’s wigs are nicer than their hair. It’s because Jewish tradition teaches that a woman’s hair is the most alluring, sensual, make-a-statement part of her whole face. And if you wonder if I’m right, take a look at any magazine and study hair product ads for women.
And therefore, once she is married, that alluring, sensual, make-a-statement part of her face is visually and tangibly reserved for her husband, not to mention a constant reminder to herself that she is married. If you are wondering why men don’t have to cover their hair, maybe this was what God was thinking when he created male baldness.
There are some communities that don’t believe that wigs fulfill the spirit of the law. That believe that hair should be covered in a way that no one is fooled. My community does not follow this way, but I like it. I get it. I feel it is more genuine to wear a scarf or hat instead of a pretty wig.
Also, wigs can be more alluring and sensual than your own hair. Just sayin’.
But I do wear a wig, because this is the cultural norm in my community and I get a nice one because I, like you, like to feel that I look “normal” and pretty.
But as I wear my wig, I alternate wondering the following:
1. Is my wig too nice?
2. Is my wig nice enough?
3. Can people tell it’s a wig?
4. Do I want them to?
5. When can I get this thing off and put on a comfy bandanna???
What do you wonder?
Glossary: Shaitel (pronounced SHAY-t’l) – Yiddish word for wig
Halacha – Jewish law. Literally, “walking the walk”
I just discovered your blog and I love it!! What a fantastic idea! I have so many questions myself (even though I'm Jewish). Love your honesty. I can't wait to read more!
"wigs can be more alluring and sensual than your own hair" = totally!
it would be interesting to hear what the husbands think… I have a wig, scarves and snoods. My husband prefers scarves so he can see my forehead as I don't have a fall (wig that you wear with a headband – sort of 3/4 of a wig)…totally weird 😉
I don't cover my head for religious reasons,except when I am hanging out in the sun, or in places where the community standard is to do so, (like Lakewood!) I do cook for a living and I cover my head to do that, so I often end up covering my head anyways, just because I have bad hair from my cooking coverings.
People often see me out in a bandanna or whatever- I don't own a wig and think I would look silly in one, but many people assume I cover my head because I am shomer shabbat and kashrut.
In any case, i realized an advantage in this past week for me covering my head with a tichel or even a hair band- when i don't my forehead breaks out more from my hair being on it! Nothing a ponytail could not fix, if my hair were long enough either!
I have no particular leanings toward approving or disapproving of how people cover their heads in any fashion. Most of my friends seem to do it according to how they look and feel best and I totally respect that!
I've got a few but the sweat and itch and time spent washing them factor along with the kids getting peanut butter hands on them factor makes me mostly wear a snood– it's just so much easier. Generally these days I save my wigs for special occasions. When I bother to put on makeup and jewelry (once in a blue moon!), THAT'S when I opt to put on the hair. 🙂 Sheer laziness on my part and I hope to get back into it more as my kids get older (read: easier to manage). Your headband fall is super pretty.
Interestingly enough, I stopped wearing a scarf (my husband's not ready for me to get a sheitel yet although my bad hair days often have me wishing for one) because Minneapolis has a very large African Muslim population that dresses in a tznius manner (see Ruchi's glossary from a couple of days ago) and covers their hair with a colorful scarf, drawn tight and bunned in the back— just the way I liked to! I didn't like being taken for a Muslim woman, so now I wear a hat or crocheted snood-type covering. I sure miss my summer-colorful scarves- they were the coolest option.
Ilene, cool as in temp or as in fashionista? 😉 Would love to hear from more non-hair coverers or sometimes/recent hair coverers : what motivates you? What's hard?
I had posted and then accidentally deleted my post. But I'm glad it was deleted because I re-write my post and attempt to answer your question.
The main point in my deleted post was thanking you for beginning to ask these questions in a public forum. I think that asking questions (such as do people know that I'm wearing a wig) are wonderful ones to ask. The answer is: If people know that you're wearing a wig and have the courage to ask you about it, then it is time to start having the conversations that can bridge the frum and non-frum (or even frum and frum) worlds together. Asking these questions are what it's all about.
I was brought up very traditional and took it a step further by becoming shomeret shabbat about 5 years ago. I have always kept kosher, brought up very traditional. I was brought up in a way that meant that I could choose what I was/am comfortable with doing. Thankfully, my husband agrees and so I cover my hair at shul, when out in the community on shabbat and chag, at some simchas (mainly at my husband's families simchas) and at times where the community norms dictate a certain fashion. What motivates me to cover my hair outside of Shul (the only place my husband said that I had to cover my hair) is the community and the fact that I feel left out (even though most women near where I live wear sheitals and I do not) of the community when not following norms. However, despite those that I know who wear a shetail, I will not. I don't want to be uncomfortable. I also have short hair and I wouldn't know how to style a shetail so it looks like my hair (I know the conundrum is right there!). I would want to always wear the comfy bandana or hat and so that's what I chose to do. What's hard about wearing hats when I do, is that the community is dictating that shetails are the norm. Therefore, I ask myself: Do I fit into this community? How can I be myself and still fit into the community? It's a struggle – I also wear pants on a regular basis. And t-shirts. I am often asked about tzniut because of that (and the not covering the hair thing) by my friends who have taken on wearing or have always worn only 3/4 sleeves and skirts. My main answer is if I'm hot I need my arms uncovered because I can't bear it. I wear pants because I was brought up doing so and I don't agree with the beged ish argument – my pants will not and will never fit my husband, they are tailored for a woman's body. Now, I love my skirts. I feel lady-like and professional when wearing a skirt, but just like covering my hair, I don't feel that I need to dress a certain way all the time. Do I struggle with that since the community is pushing in from one direction? Yes. Absolutely. I wonder what those who see me walking to the subway down my street who see me on shabbat dressed one way and then during the week dressed sometimes another think but in my head and my heart I want to push back until we can accept that there are different ways of being Orthodox and that dress/hair covering is just one way of expression. I believe that conducting oneself with integrity and knowing your beliefs and connections with Hashem is just as important as dress, but to me dress does not dictate my thoughts on Hashem or my halachic way of life. I still live that halachic way of life, I just don't dress like it and I know I'm judged for it.
What do you think?
Hilary, I don't know where you live, but if it is a large Jewish community, you might like seeing what it is like to live in a smaller Jewish community. I know in our community we accept all kinds, and every Jew, no matter where they are on the derech, counts.
Ruchi…U Rock at explaining things PERFECTLY fore sure could not have said it better myself 🙂
I guess both, Ruchi! I still remember asking you about your sheitel in the bathroom in Jerusalem– you were so gracious and kind. I hope someday to move up to a Sheitel- I see it as some sort of pinnacle.
I am an Orthodox Jewish woman, Married with 10 kids. (Don't go into shock – they all came one at a time. G-d also presented me with courage. inspiration and strength needed to raise them well, I hope)
Ruchi – I just love your upbeat yet down-to-earth outlook. It's about time we had a safe place like this for all of us to interact.
I like how I feel more "incognito" with my wig, on those occasions when it's just nice to blend in a little more. However, I totally agree with the disingenuous thing. And then when I'm wearing my wig, and I see a lady with her hair covered with a tichel, or a Muslim lady, I think to myself, "hey, I'm doing it too! Me too!"
So, sometimes I prefer to wear a scarf or other obvious hair covering, 'cause it makes me feel all proud and Jewish identity-y.
Love your blog, Ruchi.
I've been living in pretied tichels for most of the summer, come to think of it most of the year. If I'm just working at home or doing local shopping, I see no reason to don a wig that is far less comfortable and far more high maintenance. But for some women, hair is an intrinsic part of their self-image. I recall a neighbor we had years ago who would even wear a wig with a robe. (Nearly all other women wear a snood or tichel with a robe.
The funny thing about this is that the Chabad position advocates wigs as the ideal covering — better than hats, etc. But the thing is that the position was first advanced when few women in America covered their hair, and it was assumed that a woman with a wig would keep all her hair covered. I don't think the idea of wearing a fall with your own hair brushed over the front for a completely natural hairline was what the rebbe had in mind.
An article I wrote about sheitels was published by a journal a few years ago. It's now at http://kallahmagazine.blogspot.com/2008/11/sheitels-hair-to-stay.html
Thanks Rivki! I remember one time I was shopping "incognito" and a salesgirl was paged to her register. "Ronaina, to your register. Rohaina, to your register." Rohaina shows up in full Indian regalia. I remember thinking, She's proud of her heritage and ethnicity. Why am I incognito??
Hilary: I really appreciate your honesty and thoughts. I think that each of us has to be growing. Sometimes "what others think" brings us to a better place, but sometimes it brings out negative or bad feelings. If that's the case, it's an obstacle to growth and ought to be ignored. Also, people aren't always thinking what you think they're thinking. Although… sometimes they are!
Rena: when I first read your comment I thought you wrote, "They all came at one time." I'm like, WHO IS THIS MOM??? Then i reread. 🙂 I'm so glad that there is finally such a place. So often the blogosphere is characterized by awful behavior and MY blog will be immune to that, please God!
Ariella: fascinating article. I look forward to perusing it at length!
All: thanks for interacting and sharing!
I've been covering my hair for nearly 5 years. I just personally don't "get" the wig. It seems like it's usually nicer than the hair. Or more time is spent grooming it than one would one's own hair. I have many good friends who wear them and I still don't get it really.
But truth be told, the biggest reason I don't wear one (okay aside from the fact that my husband flat our doesn't like them) is that I couldn't stand the way someone else's hair would feel on my face. I can hardly stand my own hair in my face! lol SO scarves and hats it is for me. Besides, I've grown to love hats and scarves 😉
Thank you for your wonderful blog! I just discovered it this morning. I've been married for over a year, but I just started covering my hair three weeks ago. So far, I'm only covering on weekdays/at work. As soon as I get home from work, the pretied or snood comes off. I've been allowing myself a "break" on weekends and haven't covered then. I feel that with work, once I've started, I better keep it up. I bought a sheitel, kind of spontaneously, but I haven't had the courage to wear it yet. It's colored differently than my own hair, and I feel it'd just be too obvious. Why that bothers me when snoods & pre-tieds are just as obvious- I have no clue. But, it's a step at a time..
Tzipporah, and Melissa, welcome to OOTOB! Thanks both of you for sharing your experiences. If I could stick with scarves/hats all the time, I so would! I think feeling pretty is really important too! And Melissa, mazel tov on starting this mitzvah! Love the way you're getting your feet wet with it… so many people have an all-or-nothing attitude that really gets in the way of movement.
hurrah for those of us who display their Jewish pride with a scarf or a hat, for those of us who display their connection with the Lubavitcher Rebbe by wearing a wig, as well as to those of us who are just getting their toes wet. May we all continually grow.
(to Ariella: yes, it is true that the Rebbe first advocated wearing a wig at a time when nearly no women in the US covered their hair at all, but I have never heard of a change of opinion on this, on the contrary. Personally, my wig is my badge of honor and a sign of my Lubavitch connection. I am so not a wig-person – 100% synthetic low maintenance for me. But I respect other women's need for a nicer look.)
btw, I know lots of women who shave – they tell me it's much easier than having to deal with hair that nobody sees anyhow. (I'm still too chicken to do it myself.)
For those of you who question a wig being "nicer than your own hair," it will never be YOUR hair. As someone who covers her hair with whatever the moment dictates (as a stay at home mom, I'm always in a tichel, but when I go out to teach, I put on a sheitel, etc.), it doesn't matter how it looks to the outside world as much as how it feels TO YOU.
Full disclosure time- I remember running into an ex-boyfriend after I got married (OK, I'm a BT…I had boyfriends before I became frum) and being sooooo glad that I was wearing a sheitel. Did he know the difference? Maybe. Maybe not. But the fact that I knew I had my head covered put such a distance between us in my own mind I didn't really care what he thought. I was "hiding out" in my sheitel, safe and secure in this new life I made for myself. It was for me. The fact that I cover my hair is for me. Not for anyone else.
Rena, I'm surprised to hear this, as it contradicts things I've learned about Judaism and marriage. I've always learned that we are not supposed to do anything to make ourselves unattractive, both for our husbands, and for our own selves, made in God's image.
Anonymous, this is an interesting perspective. Thanks for sharing it.
Ruchi, I guess your surprise just goes to show that any one of us can be guilty of lack of awareness of the wide variety of Jewish practice and schools of thought out there and practiced, even in this day and age.
My friends who belong to Polish & Hungarian chasidish sects shave, as tzniyus is placed above and beyond any other consideration – they can be 100% certain that no strand of hair shows. (Yes, some of them are even American born BT's!)
I have even heard that the Lubavitcher Rebbe's opinion is to leave just a half inch of hair, and I have Lubavitcher friends who do just that – and I really admire them for it.
Rena, when you said: I know lots of women who shave – they tell me it's much easier than having to deal with hair
I got the impression they were shaving for ease, not to follow a tradition. There's a difference. Now I see I may have misunderstood.
I know there are some Chassidish groups that shave but I don't know anyone who does. I mean, it could be I do but I don't know that they do. 🙂
Great post Ruchi, thanks for sending it my way! Its always interesting to see the questions we ask ourselves and each other on this topic.
I have to mention, that today I was with a woman who disclosed that while pregnant with her first child, one day she just reached the point where she couldn't handle her hair and sheitel so she shaved her head. Just sat down on the bathroom floor and let it go and was so very happy. She said she kept it up for a few years out of ease, but as he is now about to become a Bar Mitzvah I know that she has very short hair under her (almost always) wigged head.
Hello! Just saw this convo.
I have been married almost 5 years and wear a gorgeous wig. I am a nurse working in a hospital and have gotten to the point where I just feel that the wig is so pointless since nobody knows the difference anyway. It gets itchy, and annoying which is tough with my job. I feel as though I should stop covering my hair at all. We do keep Kosher and Shabbos and my husband wears a kippa. I think its mostly the shock from others in my community that stops me from actually taking it off. I feel like I will find relief in just taking this thing off of me and just being ME. I was not raised religious, however I have been Orthodox for the past 7 years (I am 24 now). Unsure of what to do, suggestions? Comments?
Hi anonymous, and welcome to OOTOB.
I can't really answer you without a few follow-up questions.
1. Why did you start covering your hair in the first place, and what prompted the decision to cover it with a wig as opposed to a scarf or hat?
2. Do you have a rabbi/mentor in your life that you discuss your Jewish journey with and that knows you well and that you trust?
3. Does your husband have an opinion on the matter?
I am a shiksa (sp) who was wondering why all the bad wigs in scenes from the original Fiddler on The Roof movie. After reading your blog I think I understand that this is part of Orthodox faith belief and women portrayed as poor Russian peasant Jews would not have access to good quality wigs.
Am I correct or was production trying to mimic hait styles of the time with low budget wigs. You lovely ladies would know.
I know this doesn't answer your question, but please don't call yourself a shiksa. It's a terrible insult.
Please don't call yourself a shiksa. It's a terrible insult.