Thursday, November 10, 2011

History of (my) Hair

Straight- "stick straight"- hairstyles were in fashion when I was in ninth grade. On my trek from home to school I ogled the glossy photos pinned up in the local hairdresser’s windows- models with choppy haircuts, layers of varying length, all falling in perfect symmetrical lines.

My torturous attempts at blow-drying resulted in puffy, frizzy, waves. Straightness was out of my reach except for on those rare visits to the hairdresser for a cut- from which I emerged with glossy locks, content until I couldn’t drag out the days any longer, my hair needed to be washed, and returned to its natural wavy state.

I counted the years until I’d be able to wear a wig. I already knew which wig I would choose; it would be fall below my shoulder in beautiful straight layers.

I didn’t count enough years. Fast forward a decade, and I was still making do with my own hair. A lot happened in the meantime. I discovered the wonders of the straightening iron, and finally straight hair could be mine. Then fashions changed, wavy was “in”, and I decided my hair wasn’t too bad after all.

Now I had a new challenge, proving that my hair was my own, and hadn’t been shaved of the head of an Ukranian peasant girl. Because I was a frum female in my twenties. And everyone knows that all women of this advanced age must be wearing a wig.

When I pulled back my hair in a headband, the Yeshiva-guy-I-didn’t-marry told me it looked like I was wearing a fall. When I cut side bangs, full bangs, again that was the latest Shaitel trend.

I stood on the roof of a hotel, watching my friend’s Chuppah, the wind blowing my fresh-from-the-hairdresser hair in all directions, and I was glad, because maybe now it would look messy enough to be obviously non-Shaitel. Then I trooped down the flights of stairs with my friends, and sat around a satin cloaked table with them, looking from one to the next and envying their glossy, perfectly set, “babylissed” curls and what they represented- lifetime membership to a fraternity I was locked out of.

When I was miraculously granted the key to the club, I was too busy with planning a wedding to give much thought or time to my soon-to-be-mandatory head covering.

I tried on a Shaitel. It looked OK. I bought it. It cost a packet, but then so does everything else that goes with getting married. I didn’t think twice until after the wedding.

Suddenly I stare in the mirror and see a stranger looking back at me.
The straight hair I once envied now feels fake, and flat. I long for my own natural curls, with all their messiness and lack of discipline.

Maybe I should buy another Shaitel, a curly one. “If that’s what you want, you should get it.” TCO tells me.

But looking at the price tag, from the viewpoint of a newly married, it seems like a horrible waste of money. More than a dining room set. More than wall to wall bookshelves. More than an extended honeymoon in Europe. Just so I can look less married, more “like myself”.

Wearing a wig does save time, I plop it on without a thought to what’s underneath. Wearing a wig does symbolize something I’ve been waiting a long time for. But wearing a wig, well, it’s wearing a wig.


  1. still trying to decipher TCO....

  2. I am also curious about the acronym. Wonderful post.

  3. Glad to see you're writing again lately! I say forget the shaitel and spend the money on a honeymoon to Europe :)

  4. I got a curly fall when I first got married, trying to simulate my own hair as much as possible. I hated it. I mean, I would have hated any wig, not being a very wiggy person (I lean towards scarves and hats), but I hated this more. To me, it fell into the uncanny valley of hair - close enough to my own that I rejected it as creepy. Four years later, I deliberately got a wig that looked nothing like me at all. It's a shade lighter than my hair, stick-straight, with heavy bangs, something I've never had in all my life. I still wear it as little as possible, but somehow, I feel better looking at myself, seeing me wearing a thing on my head rather than the equivalent of a mask of my own face covering my actual visage.

  5. And let's not even talk about what the hair looks like after the wig comes off. Sigh.