The 1 Day I Didn’t Cover My Hair

The 1 Day I Didn’t Cover My Hair

Before I got married 22 years ago ago, I didn’t know if I would cover my hair after the wedding or not.

On the one hand, my husband-to-be and I had been religious about 3 years already. But was I actually cover-my-hair religious? Hmmm, I wasn’t sure about that.

So I bought 3 hats, just in case. A white hat, a hat with flowers on the fold-up brim (ahh, I loved that hat! What ever happened to it?) and a navy-blue felt hat for Shabbat.

Josh and I got married on a drizzly Thursday in March and the day after our wedding I didn’t cover my hair.

Maybe wearing a hat, I feared with every ounce of my being, would mean people would see me as an oppressed victim of the patriarchy, my husband’s property etc. etc.?

I wanted to be religious, but I also wanted to be strong and feminist and independent and smart and successful. Like a regular modern woman who also kept Shabbat, and Kosher, and other important Jewish stuff. A religious woman, but not the oppressed kind, thank you very much.

Then came Shabbat, and I decided I would cover my hair for Shabbat. Since even married women who aren’t ultra-religious do that.

And then, that Saturday night, our dear friend, David, was having a party to celebrate the expansion of his restaurant, Tmol Shilshom.

Before we left for the party, my husband of 48 hours said, “Do you want to wear your hat to the party?”

“No, I’m only going to wear my hats on Shabbats and holidays.”

“That’s OK. Whatever you want. But maybe for tonight you could wear one? Like, when we go places together? To social events?”

“But I want to be consistent. If I’m not going to cover my hair, I won’t. And if I’m going to cover my hair when we go places together, I’ll do it all the time.”

So I wore my hat that night to David’s party, and have ever since.

And when I walked around with a hat on my head for those first weeks of marriage, I noticed something remarkable, something completely unexpected.

On the one hand, I walked around feeling as I assumed people all around would view the hat-wearing me: an oppressed victim of the patriarchy, my husband’s property, etc. etc.

But I discovered, to my shock and amazement, that storekeepers in the market and neighbors and coworkers, and everyone, for that matter, were treating me with newfound respect…Reverance, even!

All of a sudden, I went from being a 24-year-old American pipsqueak in the eyes of Israeli society to a full-grown Geveret.

And the way I was being treated reminded me of an incident I witnessed once when I as a girl.

One day, I was on a Baltimore city bus coming home from school when a nun got on the bus. But, it turned out, she didn’t have enough money in her little purse to pay the whole bus fare.

This happened over 3 decades ago, but I still remember clearly how the driver said to her, “Don’t worry, Sister, it’s OK. But next time please try to remember the fare is 50 cents.”

As a child, I rode the Baltimore city bus thousands of times over the years on the way home from school. And I know that any other man or woman who tried to get onto that bus without the full fare would have been kicked off mercilessly by the driver.

But this nun, I saw, was treated differently. Her black outfit gave her special honored status. The way she dressed meant, in the eyes of those around her, that she was a good person, with integrity, a holy person, a woman of G-d.

And the week after I got married, wearing that hat with the flowers on the turn-up brim, I realized that putting on my hat, that integral part of a Jewish woman’s uniform, similarly, elevated me in the eyes of society.

Wearing it, I grew to feel, and still feel to this very day, that my hat is my crown.

In the eyes of those around me, and in my own eyes as well.

21 comments

  1. This is one of the most beautiful things I have read in a long time. Thank you !

  2. Roberta Carasso

    Picking me up from Ben Gurion, my son said that his rabbi suggested that I cover my hair. I had come a long way in my commitment to being a Jewish woman and covering my hair would be the next step. I checked my suitcase and found a scarf, tied it around my head and off we went.

    Much like you Jenny, I did not expect what I would be feeling next. It was a sense of holiness, commitment, and doing what was right and needed. From that day, I began to cover my hair and purchased several lovely berets, which I wear all the time.

    Wearing a hat does make a difference. It completes the total being and tells the world — Here is a committed Jewish woman.

    Thank you very much for Jewish Mom.com. I read it everyday and learn so much,
    Chaya Rivka Carasso

    • JewishMom

      beautiful story! I feel the same way:) and thank you for reading jewishmom.com

  3. Everything you write is true.
    And yet I am thinking of someone else.
    The older single. The girl who became woman who became older woman, still unmarried.
    If you were given extra respect because you were married (and it’s true, and I understand it, and have experienced it myself), imagine what it is like to not be able to attain that status in the eyes of society, through no fault of your own.
    It’s rough!
    (No, I’m not saying we must fight the system or change anything or enact any laws… just pointing out the flip side.)

    • That was my thoughts exactly! Thank you for saying it better than I could. I also found that as soon as I got engaged and again when I got pregnant suddenly I was so much more respected. Whereas my still single or childless friends would just sit there and be left out of the conversations on marriage and kids and instead be expected to help (while I got a pass since I was the kallah/pregnant/whatever). And many of them are amazing pillars of the community who spend most of their waking time giving to others while I have a husband to support me when I need to rest or anything like that. I’m also not saying fight the system but just made me think how what really matters/deserves respect can be hidden in so many ways and it’s so good to be conscious of that.

      • Of course this is not to say that the woman who has committed her life to one person and to Hashem and wants to show this by covering her hair ISN’t worthy of respect, she totally is!

      • JewishMom

        definitely

    • JewishMom

      definitely, I agree with you completely

  4. Sorah berger

    I totally connect to this story but on a different level!

    I used to wear wigs but decided I wanted to upgrade to scarves after reading the amazing books The Unique Princess by Rebbetzin Abramov and Adorned with Dignity by Chana Toby Friedman. When I switched I experienced this unbelievable feeling that I was wearing a crown and making a statement as an obvious orthodox married women- a feeling I never had in my natural wigs (as most people couldn’t tell that I was covering my hair in them, particularly non Jewish people)
    Suddenly people were treating me very respectfully and many women that were not Jewish or religious complimented me on my beautiful scarves and it sparked many conversations about modesty and the mitzvah of covering the hair.
    Men treated me differently me too! Before men were flirtatious and always a little too friendly for my taste, but now they treated me very respectfully and I feel safe and protected in my hats and scarves!

  5. Elisheva

    I’ve gone back and forth on the covering issue. On the one hand, I’d love to cover. I have some nice scarves and things I bought fron Tznuis.com that I’ve worn outside while doing yardwork. I really like wearing them and I feel right wearing them; kind of like wearing a crown. On the other, I don’t live in a Jewish community (unfortunately). I’m not entirely sure what to do. Our Rabbi lives in Oklahoma. I guess I could ask him. Anyone here have any helpful advice?

    • JewishMom

      hi elisheva, just curious…wear do you live? besides wearing a scarf, you could try wearing a beret, a hat, a wig. You are amazing to be living as a jewishmom so far from a jewish community:)

      • Elisheva

        I live in the midwest and felt drawn to keeping Shabbos and eating kosher 14 years ago. Then observing Pesach came next. Soon the other Jewish Holidays followed. I underwent a conversion under our Rav in Oklahoma. My husband and one of our sons followed later. At first, my family wondered why I did these things, but later started to as well. I started looking in my family tree and wondering if I was Jewish. I thought maybe Sephardic because of my Italian family, who arent Catholic or religious. I had dna testing done and found out I’m Ashkenazi Jewish with roots in Poland. My family never said anything about this and no one will tell me anything. I have relative matches from my Father’s and Mother’s side. Those matches are all I have to go on to piece together my family tree.
        Sorry for the book😀
        That’s my story in a nutshell,
        Lisa

  6. We also didn’t live in a Jewish community, we were out of the eruv and didn’t have Jewish neighbors (about 10 years). I felt that it made our family bond stronger and my relationship felt closer to Hashem than I feel it now, living in a Jewish community. Before I didn’t have a problem with loshon hara, jealousy, or giving benefit of the doubt. Because we didn’t have neighbors. But now, Hashem decided it’s time for me to stretch my spiritual muscles and work on those middos, being surrounded by Jews Baruch Hashem.

  7. I think there is a story of the son if the chafets haim who didn’t speak at all because he was afraid he would sin with his speech. He didn’t want to risk it. So the chafets haim said that’s not correct and we do need to use our speech, in the right way. So the same for me, I felt it was better for me spiritually to be secluded. However that’s not the case. My ben Adam leMakom was very much strong and being worked on, but I didn’t have the ability to work on my ben Adam lechavero since I didn’t have Jewish neighbors around me.

    • JewishMom

      this reminds me of the times when I am not with my children–all of a sudden I feel like I am such a perfect person, with such elevated character traits. But an hour with my kids brings my ego back down to size…

  8. Interesting you say that because this week I was thinking how good I felt about myself before I was married and had kids. I felt I was a very nice person and was able to control my temper, davening was so simple for me, etc. And now, I can be a MOMster.

  9. I think the point is that if we look upon our tzniusdig garments and our head covering as our livery or uniforms that signify whom we serve and in what capacity, then we will stand tall and everyone will give us respect.
    Someone who is not yet married is serving Hashem at present in a different capacity than her married friend. No one has a higher rank, just, at present, different jobs.

  10. The women who deserve the greatest applause (at least in my opinion) are those who did not succumb to the temptation to stop covering their hair when they were no longer married,especially those living among non-chareidi neighbors.

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