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In Which I Ruminate on Head Coverings

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Well, it’s a boring week, in my head. I came up with and discarded many blog topic ideas. Which means it’s time to root around in my brain, dust off some thoughts that have been rattling around and put them on virtual paper.
 
This week: Hair covering
Disclaimer: If you strongly believe there is only one right way to cover your hair, and that one right way is yours, this post is not for you. But then, you probably aren’t reading anything I write, anyway.
 
Here is my bottom line, something I have learned after 13.5 years of hair-covering-marriage. It’s a bottom line, actually, that permeates a lot of my thinking: Do what you like, be comfortable with it and be okay if and when others choose to do differently.
 
Hair covering is a fraught topic. (Here are some of the hair covering questions our JVO panel has received.) There are so many different reasons for how and why women cover. Is it because uncovered hair shows a lack of tzniut, modesty? Is it a sign to show that you are married? Should you cover all of it, some of it, lots of it, none of it, or all of it twice? Should you wear wigs, hats, scarves or headbands? This article, from My Jewish Learning, offers an in-depth, but readable explanation.
 
I think about it like Oreos. You can at them whole, break them in half, lick the cream first, dunk it in milk, only eat double-stuffed or avoid them entirely. There are many different ways to interpret, “Eat this Oreo cookie.”
 
Hair covering, too, has many different interpretations and approaches. Someone who does not observe Shabbat and kashrut would be considered by the greater community as “not Orthodox.” And they would probably consider themselves not Orthodox as well. However, women who firmly identify as Orthodox range from those who never show their hair to those who wear nothing on their heads.
 
So, assuming that hair covering is not as black and white as “no cheeseburgers,” here are some things I have learned over the years:
  1. You can change. You’re not married (haha) to the method of hair covering you pick when you get married. Start, stop, cover more, cover less, switch to hats, switch to wigs. You made a promise to your spouse to stick with him forever. Your hat fall received no such oath.
  2. It’s your mitzvah. Feel free to discuss it with your spouse, friends, rabbis, rebbetzins, neighbors and the wonderful world of Facebook. But in the end, it’s your head, your mitzvah, your decision.
  3. Be comfortable. You need to be comfortable, spiritually, emotionally, etc. Be at peace with what you are doing. And also, you need to be comfortable, physically. There are so many ways to cover—find one that feels good on you.
  4. Don’t resent it. Don’t grumble about it. While sometimes mitzvot can be difficult, (see: fasting on Yom Kippur; cleaning for Pesach; serving soup in a sukkah), the message we should be sending out to the world shouldn’t be “Oh my god what a pain when will this be over.” Do we want our children—especially our daughters—to see us resenting this mitzvah? 
  5. Hair covering can (should) be pretty. The whole “How can it be tzniut if it looks pretty” argument is not how it works. Tzniut is not and never was about lowering your attractiveness. “Covering up” does not have to equal “wear a dust rag.” So if an expensive wig is how someone chooses to cover their hair, there is nothing wrong or hypocritical about it.
  6. Don’t make it about other people. Articles periodically crop up on my Facebook feed from Angry Women Who Used to [Insert Orthodox Things Here, Usually Hair Covering] and Now Do Not. I have no problem if people want to stop doing X. But don’t make it about anyone else. Don’t say, “I’m not covering my hair because this mitzvah is so outdated/degrading/old-fashioned!” Don’t say, “I’m not covering my hair because it’s so hypocritical that people think they are being tzniut but wear sexy wigs.” Don’t say, “I’m not covering my hair because Judaism is really more about being a good person and not covering your head.” You are free to stop any time. But don’t blame the sexy wigs and don’t blame Judaism. It should be about you, not anyone else.
  7. Do your thing. Your way of hair covering isn’t better or more righteous than anyone else’s. (Again, unless you think it is, in which case you should have stopped reading a long time ago). During my first year of marriage, I was in an experimental hair covering mode and came to register for classes at grad school wearing a straw hat with a purple ribbon. Also, I was wearing a purple shirt. The admissions’ clerk noticed my purple-themed outfit and commented on it. “Your hat matches your shirt! Do your thing, man, do your thing.”
And that is my message to you. Do your thing, ladies. Just do your thing.

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