Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Covering Crisis of 2011

Not that I needed a reminder, but thanks to Facebook, I was reminded that

On This Day In 2010

Chaviva Elianah Galatzis now a member of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Sheitel ;)

Ahh, memories! It seems like just yesterday that I went with my bestie Ally to a sheitel sale where I picked up my first hair piece -- a hat fall. I blogged about it (Taking the Hair Plunge), with pictures and everything, and to this day it is my most-read blog post. In that post, a year ago, I wrote,
I like to joke that I was born with bangs. I've had these bangs since forever, and when I started covering, I vowed to keep them there, and I have. Everything else covered up, I've discovered that I love covering with scarves (okay, I knew I would), with one small caveat: I miss the volume. I miss the shape of my hair. I miss the way my face and my head look with the hair all up and out like it used to be. I miss having a "look," that made random strangers in random stores ask me if I'm a hair stylist. 
Do I miss it enough to give up hair covering? Of course not. I miss my hair's shape and body like I miss putting 70 buttons on my purse and wearing tons of colorful bracelets on my wrists. It's nostalgia. It's a "moving on" kind of nostalgia. A choice that I'm 110 percent okay with.
Followed by,
In the end, I'm still a tichel kinda girl. But a sheitel gives me something that a tichel doesn't right now, and that's body, a 'do, something to work with. I look forward to wearing it on Shabbat, with cute winter hats, and for specialsimchas and events in cities and locations that, well, are perhaps a little more sheitel appropriate. It gives me something to play with, to do like I didn't do once upon a time when I had long, irritating, thick hair. And, as myreal hair begins to grow long, I look forward to taking it to a special place: growing it, cutting it, donating it. Repeating. That, it appears, is what the awesome gals in my complex do, and I admire them for doing that. (Of course, first I wondered why people don't get their hair cut and turned into a sheitel, but then I realized how silly that was. *wink!*)
Oh how the tides have turned, and oh have my opinions, needs, and feelings changed. To all of those people who said that it would get hard, you now can say "I told you so!"

The headband fall that I just can't love.
A year and a half after getting married and taking on the mitzvah of hair covering, I'm standing in front of a mirror hacking away at my own hair, wondering why I don't feel beautiful anymore. Twice in the past few weeks I have chopped off lengths of hair. Too long, then too awkward, and now? Well, I don't know why I look the way I do. And those bangs that I've had since birth that I've always loved? Also struggling with liking them these days (sorry to those of you who covet my bangs).

Have I worn my fall every day over the past year? No, but I've worn it plenty, and I've complained about it plenty, too. Falls are hard when you have bangs and have to figure out what to comb that fall into, which has left my head often aching. Likewise, the long-hair look just isn't me. It's never been me, and although I enjoyed having some length in the beginning, I ended up throwing it into a ponytail about seven months ago. And still? It hurts, it's too long, it isn't me.

I spend most days taking hats, tichels, and scarves on and off, trying to figure out what looks right. Over the past few months? Nothing looks right. Nothing feels right. But I still cover, it's a mitzvah that I can't give up because the act, itself, is part of who I am, and I believe firmly in everything it stands for. But how I want to do it has changed.

So a month ago I went online and bought a very, very inexpensive "fake" wig off a Chinese website geared toward "cosplay" (that is, people who are into Japanese manga and want to dress up, I guess). I bought a cute bob, short in the back, longer in the front, with side-swept bangs. I wasn't expecting to like it, let alone love it. I figured, for $25, I can't go wrong. If it's a bust, it's a bust. If I love it, maybe I can take it to a sheitel macher and say "this is what I want" and get it done, without winging it with a sheitel stylist.

The fake. Yes, it looks a lot better in this photo
than it does in person. Believe me. 
The "fake" wig arrived, and I was in love. The color wasn't really right, and it was incredibly shiny, but I loved it. I loved how my face shown through the frame of the shape. I didn't wear it for a few weeks, scared that someone might really spot it for the fake it was, but then, on a whim, I wore it out to dinner with some of my convert buddies, and they all loved it as much as I did. Filled with confidence, I wore it to shul a few weeks ago, but it was spotted -- it looked fake. It was too shiny, and no matter how much baby powder I've thrown on it to tame the gleam, it just hasn't worked. The netting is done poorly, there are no combs in it, and the hair already is falling out.

My response? Get a real sheitel in the style that I love, that frames my face, that makes me feel glamorous -- a feeling that I haven't had since getting married. But that, friends, is $500+, money that it's hard to convince your spouse is worth spending, especially when your spouse -- G-d love him -- doesn't dig the sheitel look, period.

And this is where I stumble back into that mirror and try to figure out who I am and why I can't feel beautiful as is. It's silly, and I never thought I'd be that person who couldn't pull that inside beauty out and just suck it up under a tichel and deal. But this is the narrative of many women who take on hair covering, who buy a sheitel or fall and months later need something new. First one's never the charm, that's for sure, and most women will tell you that. I was even warned that the fall would be short-lived, and although I scoffed at it, well, those who told me that were right.

So where do I go from here? How do I figure out how to either deal with the hand given me or to magically find $500 and convince my husband that it's worth it -- to me? Is it an investment worth feeling good about oneself?

From Sisterhood of the Travelling Sheitel to the Covering Crisis of 2011. If this is what happens after a year, where will I be in 10?