Friday, November 13, 2009

A hair-raising experience.

Warning to my orthodox readers - hair porn to follow.

Today I donated my hair to Locks of Love. For those of you who are male or do not know me personally, and of course can't tell from the only pic of me on this blog in which my hair is put up and covered, my hair was very long - not long enough to sit on the ends, but within a handspan of being so. Now after being cut my hair is quite short, of course, not even to my shoulders. What was my long hair will now be made into wigs for young girls with cancer or other diseases whose symptoms or treatment include a side effect of hair loss. Going bald is a terrible blow to a young person's self esteem. Having my hair cut is a small and temporary thing in comparison.

I think the last time I had my hair cut was in 2003, but I'm not really sure. It might have been early 2004. Since then I have trimmed the very edges a couple of times to get rid of split ends, but have not had a real haircut. My hair is extremely thick and coarse - back in the 80s I could get a perm and have it last forever. It would never fall out, it had to grow out and be cut off to get rid of it. Same thing with hair coloring - my hair sucks up color like a sponge, except the grey ones. My silver hairs are just as stubborn and recalcitrant as the rest of me - coloring them is a futile exercise.

So I have decided to just go gray, and that means cutting off all the un-gray stuff and starting all over again, since at this point there were several inches of unruly gray at the top and the rest of my hair was a reddish-brown. I had colored it before, a year or so ago. My hair in my younger days was a very dark brown with red tones - in a polariod photo it looks almost black, but sunlight made it look quite auburn. Now I think it's time to embrace middle age and grow old gracefully instead of doing the color, botox, and permanent makeup route.

My husband does not yet know about my haircut. I mentioned I was thinking about it a couple of times, and he didn't say anything - but he definitely prefers it long. It will take a few years to grow back out, of course. In the meantime it will be a lot less hassle for me, if nothing else. If he had any thoughts on the subject, I'm sure I'll hear about them in an hour or so. Will he be less attracted to me? I'm not worried about that. My hair was near to this short when we first met - apparently I have some other desirable qualities, too.

The Rabbis believe hair is pornographic - but only married women's hair. For some reason, a man can look at an unmarried woman's hair and not be moved at all, but if he sees a married woman's hair, he will be inflamed with passion. More likely, the feminists have it right - it's more about power and control than sex. If it were about sex, an unmarried girl's hair would be more inflammatory because she's available. They'd lust after her all day long.

So it's not about sex at all. Is it about God?

The only place in scripture where haircoverings are discussed involves the priests having to wear turbans as part of their official costume and an incident involving a woman suspected of adultery who is summoned to the Temple to undergo a test to prove or disprove her innocence. She is depicted as arriving with her hair covered, and from this the Rabbis presume that it was customary for all married women to cover their hair all the time. However, since she was summoned to the Temple, and even the priests there had to wear turbans, this presumption is very flimsy. More likely that woman, like men, wore headcoverings for religious purposes, but not necessarily for everyday life.

Since we don't have a Temple at this moment, does this mean women should cover their hair at least at shul, since it is standing in for the Temple? I would say yes. I would further opine that if a woman is in mixed company at any sort of yom tov or prayer service, even one not at shul, a woman should cover her hair. Furthermore, I would say she should do this whether or not she is married. Worship is irrespective of marriage. Either you are communing with God or you're not - marriage has nothing to do with it.

As for headcoverings for everyday errands, I have been at different minds on this at different times in my life. Currently I favor covering but would not consider it a sin if I didn't (for everyday errands). Recently I received the Fall issue of JOFA Journal and the entire issue is devoted to articles about clothing and hair covering. Also, this topic has come up recently on several blogs that I read regularly. It seems the issue is "in the air" at the moment. I would not impose a chumra to cover all the time on a woman who didn't feel comfortable doing it. I can tell you for a fact if you work or live in a community where covering is not the norm, choosing to cover will cause everyone to ask you constantly what sort of cancer you have. They presume you are covering a bald head, not one with hair.

I have also noticed that women in many orthodox communities wear wigs that make them look like supermodels - is that really following the spirit of the chumra if "covering" your hair makes you attractive to men? I think not. Therefore I would not consider a wig to be a proper hair covering. I don't own one and have no intention of ever owning one. A hat, scarf, or snood fulfills both the spirit and the letter of covering - a wig does not.

So there you have my opinion, take it or leave it.

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