| Musings |

Tightly Tied   

I felt so liberated. What jails we women create for ourselves!

It happened when I least expected it. I was in the frozen foods section of the grocery when I stopped and looked around. And that’s when I noticed — all the ladies in the store were wearing hair on their heads.

Hair! I almost laughed out loud.

You know how you sometimes say a word too many times, and suddenly it sounds strange? Well, that’s kind of like what happened to me. I grew up frum, and sheitels were just sheitels —something married women wear. And then suddenly, in one moment, the whole idea became so strange to me. And I couldn’t go back to the way I used to think.

Once, a few years before, I’d walked under a tree that had low-hanging branches. I came out the other side; my sheitel didn’t. Whoa! Embarrassing!

So why, I wondered, are we all trying to copy that look?

If it hadn’t been Elul, I probably would have brushed the whole issue under my sheitel. But the more I thought about it, and the more I read up on the topic, the more my husband and I agreed that maybe it was time for me to move to tichels.

Rosh Hashanah, I wore my snood (gasp!) to a shiur and survived. “Nobody fainted,” I announced cheerily as I arrived home.

We also consulted with our rav, who gave us his warmest brachah. We were on! For some inexplicable reason, I was filled with excitement.

“So what’s catching your eye?” the lady running the tichel sale asked me. I pointed to a tichel — black and white flowers with traces of silver, then sat in front of a gold-framed mirror while she tied it on my head. The ladies around me oohed and aahed, and I tried to put on a mature, aloof look. Despite my best efforts, a broad childish grin forced its way through and filled my flushed face.

I loved it! Yes! I was a Jewish married woman! I could barely contain my happiness.

I quit sheitels cold turkey: Shabbos, community events, my son’s bar mitzvah. everything. Maybe it wasn’t the best way to do it. Or maybe it was. Who knows?

What I do know is that as I stood each week bentshing licht, I felt the strongest bond to the Imahos, to my grandmother, Sarah Imeinu, whom I’m named after, and to the long chain of Jewish women who connected us.

There were bumps along the way.

Once the initial excitement died down, I was left feeling weird and uncomfortable. Simchas Torah was a sea of sheitels with one tichel in the middle — me.

Walking into my first ticheled chasunah, I started feeling a little faint of heart.

“Be bold as a leopard,” I whispered to myself. Well, I stood out like a leopard… may as well act like one. I walked inside, holding my chin high.

Then there was the morning I noticed my old sheitel, sitting there, looking so forlorn on my dresser. On a whim, I picked it up and tried it on — and immediately burst into tears. What in the world had I been thinking?! I loved my tichels. They were so beautiful, so feminine. But my sheitel was normal. Normal! That’s all I wanted right then. I cried and cried.

But I kept going. What choice did I have? I’d made a very public statement, and I couldn’t just back out. Not that I wanted to…. The whole sheitel thing was more foreign to me now than ever, as I viewed it from the outside. No escape routes for me.

One day I had an epiphany.

I’d been getting ready for a big Chanukah party, and I didn’t have a tichel to match my outfit. I was going to have to wear a snood. It was a cute snood, purple to match my sweater, but still… yikes.

I wonder what would happen to me, I thought, as I stared in the mirror, if I were the worst-dressed person at this party? And then the word popped into my head before I could blink.


Nothing at all would happen to me!

I felt so liberated. What jails we women create for ourselves!

The naysayers I’d expected to meet… the friends I’d expected to balk… the esteem I’d thought I’d given up… none of that happened. I only heard words of respect and admiration and encouragement from those around me.

As time went on, I gave tichels less and less thought. I was a married Jewish woman. A tichel was something I wore on my head. Not a big deal.

Here’s a gem from my tichel journey. A kabbalah takes place when we’re on that Rosh Hashanah high — filled with fire and determination. But now that Tishrei is ending, we have to plan for an entire year of ups and downs — uninspired days, overwhelmed days, down-in-the-dumps days. It’s important to seal off your escape routes. Ultimately, you’ll be glad you did.

You can trust me on that one.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 761)

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