Three Days Straight

My hair is dis-gus-ting!” Good4 shouts, whizzing past me into the bathroom. The door slams. “It’s soooo greeeaaaasy!” I hear muffled through the door. And that’s the only sound for a while, except those associated with lather-rinse-repeat.

Grease is not really my problem. Volume is. At this point in the joyous holiday, my hair most closely resembles a modern afro: big, frizzy, and kinky, but less stylish. I lift a dry, frizzy lock, and think wistfully that, if this were only a four-day chag, I’d have the set-up for a lovely head of dreadlocks.

I do like dreadlocks. At least on black people. White people can’t seem to make them look right. Somehow, they always look like they fell asleep for a month with their hair in a bowl of peroxide. But maybe I could set a new trend. Nice, neat, white-person dreads, compliments of a season of three-day chagim. I could move to Bat Ayin and be the envy of all the hippies. All I need to do is not wash my hair.

“Haven’t you taken a shower yet?” my mother interrupts my meditation.

“Nah, I’m seeing how long I can go.”

And really, how hard can that be? Inertia. Why start now, after three days without? All that detangling and moisturizing and washing hair down the drain… it’s easier not to.

“It’s a kapara on all my avonos,” Good4 says fervently, exiting the bathroom in a trail of steam, her hair wrapped in a towel. “That’s what I keep telling myself about a three-day yom tov. It’s a kapara on all my avonos.”

“You really think you have so few avonos?” I ask, dropping the future-dread I was trying to curl.

I think there’s another reason Hashem gave us three-day chagim. So that we’ll dream of wearing a sheitel. Hair you can hang up at night.  Hair that looks the same the next morning. Hair that, if you don’t like how it looks, you can just put away.

But until then, I’ll have my dreadlocks.


The Love Poem of J. Alfred Einstein

You know those soppy sonnets about how her eyes are blue as the sky, her lips as red as a rose, etc? Well, it’s about time someone updated the concept, don’t you think? This poem was inspired by two separate comments regarding my hair both made by geeky types.

Geek: I would love to calculate the Hooke’s Law constant for your hair.

Me: Awwww…. I think. (Well, at least it’s a step up from “Can I pull one? Please?”)

Why stop there? A romantic geek could keep going, putting all his love into scientific and mathematical metaphors. I know this sonnet isn’t quite at the level of John Donne, my poetic hero, but it’s a start. I hope it inspires a new wave of geeky love poetry for the age.


The Love Poem of J. Alfred Einstein

I love to gaze at your beautiful eyes

Reflecting wavelength 754

I cannot maintain a realistic guise

That your hair’s cysteine bonds hold no allure.

The Hooke’s Law constant I would calculate

For every curl that you’ll ever grow

But Oh! I simply cannot concentrate

For you define the golden ratio.

Around you time passes at the speed of C,

And matters compress to Boson size

The answer’s always 1 for P(A&B)

Because I have already won the prize.

You be a charm quark and a strange I’ll be

And we’ll match our spins through eternity.

Now See Hair…

I always thought it was just the yeshivish community that had an unreasonable grudge against curly hair, perhaps dating back to when straight was in fashion. Or when curly was in fashion. We tend to be slightly out of step with out prejudices. Sometimes the line is “That’s in fashion! It therefore can’t be modest to dress that way!” But other times, the argument is,  “Nobody wears that, so it’s completely unacceptable  to stand out like that.”

Curly hair, sadly, gets the negative end of both approaches. When curly is in, it’s fashionable-and-therefore-wrong. (“Why would you want to look like some pruste bum from Hollywood?”) When curly is out, it’s outlandish (“It stands out and screams ‘look at me! I want attention!'”).

So, I always thought it was a frum thing. Until NMF#7 sent me this link about curly hair in the general population, making me wonder if the curly prejudice isn’t more widespread than I thought. Really? A mainstream woman in a liberal artsy field complaining about hair discrimination? We totally need a support group.

What on earth is wrong with curly hair?

Off Topic: Parts of You That Don’t Belong to You

Americans are profoundly aware of this thing known as “personal space.” It is a 1.5-foot radius that surrounds us at all times (excepting during subway rides and parades) and must be kept as barren of human presence as a demilitarized zone between two warring countries. In a show of goodwill, we will sometimes reach across this void for a handshake; in extreme situations we may dive in for an embrace.

But sometimes our protective zone disappears. For reasons to be explored, people feel they can, uninvited, invade our sovereign territory without so much as a by-your-leave. It’s as if some part of you was no more your own than the lamppost at the corner. Here are three such anatomical sections:

1 – A pregnant midsection. This is not something I have personally experienced, but I’ve heard enough about it from MFs. When one’s abdomen reaches the limit of the personal zone, people have reduced compunction about putting their hands on it to feel for movement inside. “That’s my stomach!” protested one MF indignantly. “Since when do you just put your hand on someone’s stomach?” I nodded sympathetically while eying her protruding belly. It doesn’t look much like a stomach, and truth be told, I’m as curious as anyone else. I haven’t felt a baby kick since Good4 was nascent, and I was only four back then.

2 – Corkscrew curls. This is my own personal cross to bear. I may be absorbed in a book or a spreadsheet or just sitting in class when I feel a slight tug at my scalp. Then another. Finally, it isn’t so slight anymore; the explorer has given a lock of hair a solid tug just to see what happens. In the general world, such an assay is followed by “How do you get it to do that?” as if screwy hair is something I consciously create every morning with a magic potion. In college, a world unto itself, the inhabitants have something different on their minds. After the tug they usually muse aloud, “I wonder what the Hooke’s law spring constant is.”

3 – Forearms. While the midsectional pat may be performed predominantly by women, the forearm punch is a male intrusion. It is a way of saying “I know you well enough to invade your space and impose minor damage without incurring retaliation!” Or, in more masculine terms, “We good buds!” Possibly it also means “I want to be your good bud!” because I’ve been on the receiving end from several guys, and if we were good buds they’d know better than to touch me. So it’s either that, or they mistake me for one of the guys. Ouch.

Am I missing anything? I know chazal say that one’s face is public property, but they didn’t mean that it was open to physical advances. Rather, they meant you should keep it looking pretty – preferably smiley – much the way you mow your lawn and whitewash your fence. Which people are supposed to stay off of.

Reason Not to Get Married: Sheitels

So what if your sheitel is unnaturally thick and luscious? So what if you can see the back of it without two mirrors? So what if you can style it without getting a crick in your neck and tired arms? Raise your hand if you actually want to wear one of those things.

Anybody? No, not you, balding dude. This question was for the single women.

Reasons We Don’t Want to Wear a Sheitel:

  • It’s boring.
  • It has straight hair. Can you see my yawn? Why run a brush through straight locks when you can wrestle with kinks and waves and maybe, with luck, come up with something that looks just as nice?
  • It has limited styling options. I mean, I can go for a pompadour. Or an updo. Or a half-pony. Or a side-pony. Or a regular pony. Or straight down. Or pinned on the sides. Or a lot of stuff. Granted, I generally don’t. But I can. Nah-nah to the sheitel which is stuck with limited options. You want that down, or mostly down? Anything else will cost you a new wig.
  • It’s uncomfortable.
    • No ad-hoc ponytails on hot and sticky days. The back of my neck is cringing in anticipation.
    • Those combs and clips and things that keep your real and fake hair in place. Ouch.
    • It’s like a fur hat, only hairier. Nice in the winter, when it’s not raining. At every other time: eugh.
  • It’s hard to wear.
    • You look like you’re wearing something on your head for the first few months. I wonder why.
    • The front hairline. The ears. The pony bump in the back which you must have because if you cut your hair short the thing won’t attach. The odd way the hairs stick out when it’s not on right.
  • Its hard to care for.
    • Mistakes don’t grow out.
    • Style changes cost a lot more.
    • You’re at the mercy of the sheitel-macher who is going to make you look like a clone of everybody else no matter how silly the current fashion, and charge you through the nose for it.
  • It’s bad for your hair.
    • Wasn’t this supposed to be about your hair being your crowning glory? Not any more. Now someone else’s hair is, because yours is going the way of old soldiers – it’s fading. The replacement will never gray or thin with age, and this will look strange when you’re 90 and have the hair of a twenty-year-old.

Now nobody can accuse me of seeing greener grass. I can see it yellow everywhere when I want to. Or maybe different patches are greener on different sides. That’s life.

Let the Hair Wars Begin

SoG wonders why single women think sheitels are less work than hair.

Don’t get me wrong, SoG: sheitels are delicate things. Nothing grows back, so you have to be careful when you wash and brush not to yank hairs, and that caution goes double for trimming and using heat tools when styling.

To be honest, we’re not really jealous. We like our hair better than any wig. Except when we like a wig better than our hair. There’s a reason why everyone in Hollywood owns one. It’s not that they’re less work – it’s just that they’re less work at some very critical moments when our natural hair completely fails us. Like in the morning, on road trips,  and on yomim tovim, to name a few.

When I wake up in the morning, my hair looks like this:

Messy morning hair

Your wife’s sheitel looks like this:

Neat wig

I need to shower, marinate my hair in conditioner, tease out the tangles, then spend a half-hour or so styling it with clips and things to get it looking like this:

Presentable hair
And I have to do this every single day.

Your wife’s sheitel doesn’t need daily washing and styling. A twirl and a brushing and it looks like this:

Neat wig

After plane flights, long car trips, or a nap in the lazy chair, my hair looks like this:

Mussed hair

Your wife’s hair, pinned to a head in a specially purchased box looks like this:

Neat wig

On the second day of a chag, my hair looks like this:

It's getting messy

Your wife’s hair looks like this:

Neat wig

By the third day, your wife’s hair still looks like this:

Neat wig

But mine looks like this:

three-day yom tov hair

And I’m beginning to be jealous of this:

Donald TrumpAnd seriously contemplating this:

Female buzz cut

If your wife doesn’t like her hair, she can just take it off and put in a box. I can only tie mine back and try to slick it into a socially acceptable shape with some water, a strategy that works fine until the water evaporates, leaving frizz behind.

When does the score even out? When it rains. We both end up looking like this:

Wet cat

But I just need a shower. Your wife needs help.

Care of a sheitel is nothing to sneeze at. It needs to be treated like – well, like a delicate, thousand-dollar hairpiece. It’s one of the scariest parts of getting married. And let’s face it – nobody really wants to wear one.

But you will have to be very persuasive to convince me that it doesn’t have one or two huge advantages over natural hair.

Go ahead, O MFs. Try.

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.