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.