Thursday, January 16, 2014

Sheitel Envy: Goodbye "Shabbos hair" — I want a wig!

Kate Sample is a writer and Jew-by-choice living in Chicago. 
You can check out her blog at and her e-book, challah back girl, on 

 Goodbye "Shabbos hair" — I want a wig! 

 All the single ladies (All the single ladies) 
All the single ladies (All the single ladies) 
All the single ladies (All the single ladies) 
With the Shabbos hair 
Now put your hands up 

 I love me a play on a good Beyonce lyric, but the truth is that Queen Bey would never feel me or any other single Jewish girl on this, as evidenced by her Instagram. One day, to everyone’s amazement, she debuted a chic new pixie ‘do. World leaders cancelled their entire days to marvel at it. Special committees convened to discuss. And then, just a few days later, the artist formerly known as Sasha Fierce was spotted with a bob. Uh huh. Several months ago, as my birthday was approaching, I decided on a whim to have three inches of my hair lopped off, and it was not long before I regretted it. I have been straight up Valley of the Dolls with hair growth pills ever since, and trust me; no one’s hair grows that quickly.

 No, it is quite obvious that along with my married peers, Beyonce is getting wiggy with it. None of them face the mirror on Saturday mornings with the hope that their hair will tend more toward a bad perm and less a full-on electrocution. (There is no hope for smooth, silky strands. Don’t even think about it.) Well, I am here to bring awareness to the epidemic that is Shabbos hair. There is not yet a known cure for this affliction—except, that is, marriage. If only the gents could get past the Shabbos hair and stop asking me if I need a ride to the homeless shelter after nightfall.
 I anticipate that some kind souls out there would gently point me toward the Shabbos brush. For those who are unaware, a brush must meet three important criteria in order to avoid the melacha of gozez and thus render it safe for Shabbos. First, it must be a soft-bristle brush, e.g. a baby brush. Second, the brush must be set aside for Shabbos use only. Finally, one cannot brush the entire head, but only use the brush to lightly touch up the hair. Ha! My Shabbos hair laughs in the face of such a brush. I really and truly appreciate the effort, dearest Rabbis, but to attempt to remedy my situation with the soft stroke of a baby brush is akin to keeping Iran in line with diplomacy. In all likelihood, it would get lodged in there, leaving me looking like a Jewish, female version of Questlove.

 I know I’m not supposed to covet anything that is my neighbor’s, but oh, I have sheitel envy. It just doesn’t seem fair that women who have already landed their beshert get to have better hair, too. Make no mistake, I am not looking to take anyone’s sheitel from them, chas v’shalom. But even on days other than Shabbos, when I’ve had a blowout to make up for my Shabbos hair, I look around at other women during Jewish events and see gorgeous, glossy wigs of every length, style, and color. What really gets me, though, is their enthusiasm. It’s contagious. Jewish women love their sheitels. And I find myself thinking, "Wow, I cannot wait to wear a wig."

 I should probably confess here that I really had a problem with the idea of wearing a wig when I began studying for my Orthodox conversion. I knew people who had had all manners of plastic surgery, which I didn’t blink at, but the thought of covering my hair, and with more hair, to boot, was just so weird to me. As I grew in my observance, my education, and my contact with Orthodox Jews, however, I realized that I had been projecting my negative associations with religion onto these women. For so many years, I had viewed organized religion as oppressive and restrictive. So, even as I was falling in love with Judaism, it took a while for me to realize that the mitzvot are not taken on grudgingly, but with excitement for the opportunity to fulfill a commandment of Hashem. For this reason, we aim to perform each mitzvah as beautifully as we can. A wig not only allows a married woman to perform the mitzvah of covering her hair, it also reflects the beauty of her devotion to her family. I finally got it: It’s not about who’s on the market and who isn’t. A married woman should look even more beautiful than a single one, because she has the beauty of more mitzvot on her side.

 In a way, it’s very fitting that my beshert will see my Shabbos hair in all its tangled glory before he puts a ring on it. One, if it doesn’t scare him off, he’s a keeper. But more importantly, Judaism teaches that a person can transform even their greatest weakness into their greatest strength. My husband, as my partner in life, will accept me and all my flaws—physical and spiritual—and then he will help me turn each one into something beautiful.

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