Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Taking the (Hair) Plunge

Before I got married, people told me that I would be unrecognizable with my hair covered. Why cover your beautiful, spiky, unique hair? people said. That hair, after all, had been my signature since nearly the turn of the millenium. A friend once recognized me in a crowded Washington Heights synagogue -- purely by my hair. Women at synagogue described me as "you know, the one with the hair," complete with hand signals to describe the way my hair looks (imagine jazz hands).

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.

My hair is still there, of course. No, I didn't shave it. It's funny how long it's gotten, but it's still not long enough to put into a ponytail (grrr), and it's at that obnoxious length that makes it hard to really do much of anything with it under a tichel or outside of it in the privacy of my own home. I pin it, tuck it, pin it some more, band it, and sometimes, I stare in the mirror imploring it, "GROW! GROW DARN'T! JUST GET LONG!"

I haven't wanted long hair. Not since I cut my hair. Long hair, contrary to how I feel about my former 'do, is not something I'm nostalgic about. Having had bangs and the same haircut since, I dunno, kindergarten, I really loathed long hair. It didn't fit my face, my physique, my anything. It was what everyone else did, and I didn't do that. I would have missed the ease of putting it up in a ponytail, but let's be honest: my spiky 'do took me about 2 second to do.

But then I got married, and I moved to Teaneck, and I realized that there were options for how I was going to cover my hair. By that I mean tichels, scarves, sheitels, hats, you name it: there are options. I vowed, from the time I started discussing hair covering, that I would not, I repeat would not be buying or wearing anything that consisted of someone else's hair. Never, ever, ever, ever. Period. Stam. No conversation. Zehu!

But living here, living as a hair covering woman in a hair covering world, well, I saw the allure. So I bit. Last night, my fashionista friend and I took off to a sheitel sale, with the agreement that there would be no pressure to buy. I was looking. We walked in to a table full of hair, women doing each other's hair, asking each other questions, and my friend knew exactly what she was looking for. Then, it came to me, "So, what are you looking for?"

Um. Newbie here. Fake hair that's real hair? I haven't a clue. I don't know what I'm looking for. I wasn't really looking for anything. In truth, I was initially there for the experience of blogging it. Imagine it, me at a sheitel sale. What a riot!

But then, after some attempts at matching my hair color (no, I don't have blonde highlights), and some guidance from my friend, there I was, standing in front of some stranger's dining room mirror, with long hair. I was staring at someone I didn't know. So I grabbed my cellphone, took a photo, and emailed it to Tuvia. "Who is that?" he responded. I replied with how much the piece -- a headband fall, which is sort of a half-sheitel (aka wig) that would thus allow my bangs to do their thing, with only a headband between my bangs and the fall -- cost. "That's not bad, it's up to you," he responded. Then, conveniently, my phone died. 

I showed the conversation to my friend to verify that, indeed, it was up to me. A seriously look-altering item was up to me. 

I inquired with the seller if I could maybe take the piece home and wear it around for a few days, see how it feels and whether I like it. After all, it was my first one. "No," was her response. Thus, I had to decide whether it was worth it. Would I wear it regularly? Only on Shabbat? Maybe in the winter when I can blend in. Would I cut it? Would it be a "special occasions only" sheitel? What would my parents think, my friends, my ... husband? 

I bought it. As my friend said, if it ends up being a mistake, it's the cheapest mistake in the sheitel department that I can make. But, I've put it on a few times. I've put it on and smiled in the mirror. Taken photos. Sent them to my mom, "Did you get a wig? Your dad and I like it!" was my mom's response. Tuvia's response was, "Just don't wear it all the time, okay?" 

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 special simchas 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 my real 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!*)

So here it is, folks. Here is what Chaviva, nee Amanda, looks like in a sheitel. Here's what a Missouri-born, Bible belt bred, Nebraska grown girl looks like when she takes hair covering to a new and interesting place, with a mop of someone else's hair. I'll admit. I feel pretty ... pretty glam. Like a whole new and different person. Do I like that person? I think so. 

Don't get me wrong, folks, it's still really really really weird.