Thursday, June 24, 2010

Adventures in Covering!

Yes, it's as exciting and thrilling as you think. It's Chaviva, your hair-covering newbie, and her wacky adventures in name changes and hair covering! Today's adventure begins in the Poconos at 5:30 in the morning (yuck) and ends, well, back in the Poconos at 6:30 in the evening (yawn!).

I got up at the you-know-what-of-dawn today in order to make it to Danbury, CT, today for a new driver's license. Yes, I know what you're thinking, we are moving to New Jersey in about a week, but you see, for ease of transition, it's easier to get myself in order in Connecticut first. This meant a visit to the Social Security Administration for a new card (where I discovered that my mother's legal maiden name is spelled differently than she thought ... according to the feds, anyhow), to the DMV, the bank, and to the post office for a new passport!

Whew. There was also some packing up of gigantic notebooks full of notes and papers so I can tackle my graduate exam in a few weeks after we're settled, as well as oodles of other things from the slowly emptying Galatz house in Connecticut.

Passport, Here I Come!
So what's the adventure? Hair covering. At two locations today I was required to have a photo taken -- the DMV and the post office (for the passport). At both locations, I was asked to remove my hat. What!? Remove my hat!? I played it cool, said politely, "I wear this hat for religious reasons." At the DMV it got a blank stare, so I replied with "I'm Jewish." It took the woman about 10 minutes to find the necessary paperwork for me to sign regarding my hat, and the paperwork merely said something along the lines of, "I vow that I must cover my hair for religious reasons, if I'm lying, you can throw me in the clink" followed by my signature (which, of course, is a whole other thing because I never know when to sign A. Edwards and when to sign C. Galatz). So I signed the paper, gave it to the woman, took my picture, and I have to say I was pretty pleased with the photo.

Then, a few hours later at the post office, the postal worker asked me to remove my hat. "Well, I can't," I said, "I've got to keep it on for religious reasons, I'm an Orthodox Jew." Another blank stare. "Um, well, I don't know what to tell you," he said. With my vast experience in this field, I asked him if there was a waiver or something I could sign, and he, once again, stared blankly at me. Inevitably, he pulled out a piece of loose-leaf paper and said, "I guess just write a note or something, to whom it may concern, explaining the hat thing." So I wrote the following:
To whom it may concern:
In my passport photo, I am wearing a hat. This is because I am a religious, Orthodox Jew, and am required by bible and law to cover my hair.
Thank you,
Chaviva Galatz
Hopefully my mention of "law" will play to their heartstrings. If they decline my passport, you can bet I'll raise a ruckus.

Overall I wasn't left with a sour taste in my mouth from either experience, it's just a long, grueling process this name change and getting married is. I'm forever going to be known by the non-Jewish public (and some of the Jewish public, unfortunately) as CHA-viva. As in, the "ch" of cheese. It gives me a nice Latina flare, right? I'm so diverse. Except not.

So my question for the readers is: Do you have a passport in which your hair is covered? A driver's license? Any other legal ID? How did you deal with having to cover your hair (or how did your wife handle it)? Is it a big deal? I almost think it'd be harder for a muslim woman in a full covering to get her driver's license ... how does THAT work?