Uncovering one’s hair is a really big deal. It’s like telling someone who has never worn a bikini to strip off and wear one.
Oh. And do it publicly.
It must seem strange to those of you who have never covered your hair for religious reasons that the analogy is stripping off!
But that’s what it feels like. Like you’ve left the house and forgotten to get dressed!
Throughout my childhood there was never the option of not covering my hair. It was more about which covering I would want. Would t be a snood, a bandana or a wig? A hat wasn’t something I ever considered.
Hair covering usually goes according to what your mum wears. So in my family it was a wig. My mum wore terrible wigs 😂😂 and I always hoped to wear something more natural.
As I became an older teenager and marriage was on the horizon I began to think about the day I would have to cut my hair. I had beautiful long dark brown hair to my waist.
Interestingly enough I never resented the fact that it would happen. It was just an inevitable part of growing up and getting married and then cutting your hair and wearing a wig.
If you consider that all the women I knew covered their hair with a wig it was no surprise that it seemed totally normal to wear one.
When I got engaged I started looking at wigs and kept getting told that my hair was too long to fit under a wig so I would have to cut it, even just to try them on. I resisted. I wanted to hold onto my hair for as long as possible.
After looking around I found two long brown wigs which I loved. They were similar to my hair. And I hoped I’d be able to wear the long one after my wedding.
Sadly my hopes were dashed when my ex saw them and agreed to allow me to wear it for my wedding only and I had to cut them short the following day.
A few days after my wedding he insisted I go back to the “sheitel macher” (the lady who cut and styled wigs) and tell her the side of my hair was visible and she has to make sure it’s covered.
He had told his rabbi that “my wife’s hair can be seen by the ears” and he said “even one hair that is visible to men is a terrible sin so she has to cover it up”.
Apparently wearing the wig itself wasn’t kosher enough!
So I went to the sheitel macher who told me the only option, which many women do, is to shave “your sideburns. Your hairline is low so just shave that part.”
I told my ex what she had said and he insisted I go ahead and do it.
It was awful.
Taking a razor to my hair was just the worst feeling.
I felt like I no longer had an identity.
Like all that mattered was whether one single hair could be seen.
And not how I felt about it.
I did continue shaving for about a year until I one day decided enough was enough.
And just like that I stopped.
Over the years I hated my hair. It was dry. Lifeless. Dull. Changed colour. The front part where I had to plait it became permanently bald. It didn’t feel like me.
17 years later and no hair cuts in between other than myself cutting my own hair in the bathroom mirror. And I wanted to uncover my hair.
But I was terrified.
This stage was making a big statement.
It meant I was officially “OTD”.
No longer religious.
Initially I would wear a hoodie and have my hair underneath. And when I was out the area I would take the hood off.
The breeze in my hair. The air to my scalp was just an unbelievable sensation. I hadn’t felt the air on my head for so many years. It was amazing.
I got braver and braver and after some time I would take the hood off partly. But this got me frustrated. I couldn’t understand why it was such a difficult thing to do.
One day my brother (also OTD) told me to just feel free and do it! There and then I took my hood off and he cheered! It was a magical moment.
I went to the mirror by the front door and told myself I’m a good person and religion does not define me. Wearing a wig or not doesn’t make me a good or bad person.
I haven’t done anything wrong. I was just following my dreams and my heart. And my truth.
I can do it.
I will do it.
I took my hoodie off and went outside.
My neighbours looked in shock and herded their kids inside.
Women peered behind their front doors.
But I was okay.
I did it.
I left the house in jeans and a vest top.
No hair covering.
And I whispered to myself
This Is Me.