Shear Frustration

I was sitting in the lobby of a local university waiting to start a presentation when someone breezed past and caught my eye. I looked up and stared after the passerby, trying to make out if she was wearing a skirt.

“What?” asked my fellow presenter.

“I think she’s Jewish. Religious,” I said.

“How can you tell? From the way she walks?” he queried. I had to laugh. It happens to be that the frum women he knows have a businesslike stride, as did this woman. “No, it’s her hair,” I said. “I think it’s a wig.”

“You can tell?”

“Always trust Jewish and black women on the matter of wigs,” I assured him. “We know.” I explained that religious women cover their hair when they get married.

He turned that over in his head and asked hesitantly, “Are you going to wear one when you get married?”

“Yep,” I said. He looked shocked. I laughed. “I consider it a step up,” I told him. “Being able to take your hair off, brush it, rearrange it, put it aside, and wake up the next morning and find it looking the same as when you went to sleep.”

For a lot of us frum girls, the sheitel has exactly that appeal. We think it’s going to solve all our hair problems. But then, during a recent conversation about fads in the sheitel field, my mother commented: “My friend’s three daughters went to three different sheitel machers and came out looking identical.”

Heart palpitations. PTSD alert! Flashbacks to the salon chair! As a curly-haired woman, my life can be outlined by traumatic haircuts. Run-of-the-mill stylists think they can just make it wet and cut it like straight hair. The result is a series of profoundly bad cuts at all the wrong times.

There were the graduation photos, marred by the woman who insisted on giving me a shag ‘do even though I asked her to go easy on the angles and layers. “You’re going to love it,” she assured me, hacking steep and jagged slices into my hair. I was frozen to the seat, partially with horror, and partially because she appeared to be using a naked razor blade and I didn’t dare move.

Then there was the Israeli dude I spent a solid five minutes telling what I wanted. I was going to start both a job and dating soon, and I wanted something simple but classy that would fit all occasions. Promising me that I was going to look fabulous, he gave me one of those huge afro things popular on black women these days. To give him credit, I was impressed. I hadn’t known my hair could be so… big. He did it with the help of some practically plastic goop called Catwalk which he tried to sell to me. Needless to say, I wasn’t buying. It took a full week to wash out as it was.

After that one I didn’t get another haircut for a solid 12 months. The very thought left me trembling. I should be able to sue that guy. I should be able to deny payment to all those people. Why isn’t there consumer protection on these things?

Anyway, with my own, scalp-grown cilia, I have the option of letting stylists tamper with it as infrequently as I please. But with sheitels, you need professional help more often. The idea of regularly handing over control of my hair to someone whose sole goal is make me look like a red-carpet walker almost turns me off marriage.

Maybe I’ll marry mizrachi and go the mitpachat route.

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18 thoughts on “Shear Frustration

  1. As you point out, sheitels are a hassle and require maintenance from an expert. I think it would be worthwhile to learn to wash and style your own, and even buy the professional equipment as a one-time investment. Of course, I did not do that 22 years ago when I should have.

  2. I very rarely wear my fake hair, but as it’s curly, I can wash it myself, without all of the need for curlers and blow drying that straight ones require. I realize that you come from a community where if one is so unfortunate as to have curly hair, one has certainly been straightening it every day since high school, but it’s much easier to deal with wig-wise. Also, women from straight-hair-only communities have trouble telling that it’s a wig, even though it’s a headband fall, because they’re not expecting it, and the extra bulk of curls means that one sidesteps the dreaded bump in the back.

  3. Are you saying you’re having issues with your future curly sheitel? Your new do can be wavy.

    I found your line about different sheitelmachers, same looks, hysterical, because that’s been a joke going on since my cousin’s bar mitzvah in a bungalow colony, and my aunt said she doesn’t know which woman is her daughter.

    But you do realize that if someone wants what everyone else is wearing, then that’s what they ask for. You can go different. Whenever you flip through the glossies, be sure to rip out any do that you like. Be aware also that hair is only a quarter of being runway ready. There’s a whole other bunch of stuff to maintain if that’s the look one goes for.

  4. I don’t think you should worry about sheitels just yet. It is a lot of trial and error in the beginning anyway. Just find a good sheital macher through recommendations and go with her.

  5. This is the real reason for shelo asani isha. I bought a haircut machine from the grocery store a few years ago for $20, and give myself haircuts. 3 on the sides, 6 on the top, a trim in the back (that’s the only part I can’t do myself) and I’m good to go.

  6. I recently got a wig and the sheitel macher gave me a her web address that shows how to wash & style your wigh. I do and save a lot of money on it and it looks very good.

    You just need a 2nd “wig head” and a clip on stand I bought at Sally Beauty supply.

  7. The shaitels these days look better than natural hair, so they defeat the purpose of hair covering. The women should just wear their own hair.

  8. First of all- there are curly sheitals. Second of all- you only need to get it cut once- washing and styling is not the worst thing in the world to trust to select people.
    Thirdly, you can be non-mizrachi- like me- and still wear a mitpachat. Hey, I wear them more than my sheitals lately (dealing with hazardous chemicals is not good for them.)
    Fourthly- I agree with a PP- that you should learn to do your own.

  9. ishchayill(sic)- you’re right. rav ovadia says the same thing.

    there are two ways to understand the term “mizrachi”. both wear mitpachot. one is by pesak, to the exclusion of sheitlach. the other is by fad, mostly for reasons of comfort, and the women in question usually own headband falls.

  10. My daughters don’t look alike. They switched shaitels and one had to look twice to see which was which.

    Marry Mizrachi anyway. (or something like that).

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