Strange though it may seem, my one ambition is to fit the
norm, to be like everyone else. Now since that doesn't seem
to be a very great ambition, you would think that by now, as
I approach retirement age, I would have succeeded. Quite the
opposite is true.
Take one little example: this business about sheitels.
They weren't the `in thing' when [and where] I married, so I
didn't buy one. However, I found total liberation in covering
my hair with a hat. No more sitting in the hairdresser, no
more worry about length or style or what special lotion to
use to give body to my superfine blow-away hair; hats for
every occasion made a very satisfactory change.
As fashions changed and sheitels became what simply
`everyone' wore, I bought a cheap synthetic wig
(sheitel would be glorifying it) and each time there
was a simcha, it was styled by a professional and I
wore it and felt good and thought that maybe I would carry on
wearing it, but in a short time, it became as bothersome as
my own hair had been and I packed it away, ready to be pulled
out for the next simcha.
Then one day I did the usual and went to have it styled for
an upcoming event and I was told, "It's just no good. This
color, black, is too hard against your face. You need
"But my hair is black with streaks of gray; why brown?"
"Believe me, this is my job. Brown is the color you need."
Eventually, reluctantly, only after much discussion with my
daughter-in-law who is our family source of all expertise,
and dragging my daughter along with me, I bought a brown
sheitel. Not only that, but I succumbed to her
pressure and had reddish highlights put in. Only on the
matter of synthetic was I totally unbudgeable. That was one
change I was not prepared to make. The result? I felt great!
After all the hours that the saleslady and my daughter spent
with me, anything else would have been a real shame.
So there I was, with my new synthetic sheitel,
deciding that from now on, that would be my daily wear. Then
the Great Sheitel Bombshell fell down upon us.
Naturally, I was fine. The label proclaimed 100% synthetic.
However, when I walked down the road among all the snoods and
hats and scarves, I wanted to point to my head and say, again
and again, "It's synthetic." After a day or two, I went back
A friend told me that she now wore a hat to work, having gone
out and bought one. "To my surprise, I harvested some
compliments. The result is that I'm happy with my hat and
comfortable with my new image.
"However, I also like to fit in. So I think that meanwhile,
I'll catch this wave of hisorrerus and stay with it. I
will probably continue for a while just wearing my hat and
buy some synthetic wig for Shabbos and Yom Tov. I really feel
good as I set off for work each day..."
I find it interesting that she should feel so good in her
hat. Did the compliments come because she felt good and
exuded an air of confidence, or was it the other way around?
Did she walk in wondering how she looked and once she was
told she looked good, felt good?
This reminds me of a long-ago conversation with my father, a
doctor in a small town in the fifties, when hats were de
rigueur for all social occasions. He told me that he used
to tell a depressed woman patient, "Before I put you on
pills, why don't you spend the same money and go and buy
yourself a new hat?"
Apparently, he said, this ploy worked beautifully most times.
I asked him, "Why a hat? Why not a dress or a sweater?" He
said, "I don't know. I tried that too, but only a really
special hat seemed to do the trick. Who can understand the
workings of a woman's mind?"
Another woman told me, "I always thought that in my
particular job in public relations, I absolutely had to wear
a wig. However, while waiting for the decision, I went out
and bought a few good scarves. I could afford to be
extravagant. One wig would buy a hundred scarves. At work, I
felt self-conscious, but no one seemed to notice or make a
"My husband did, however. He said, `You look so young.
Remember when we first married and you were a kollel wife?
Remember how you had lots of scarves and wore them in all
different ways and how they always matched your outfits?
Well, when you started working at this job, I knew you had to
wear a wig so I didn't say anything, but I did miss those
"Well, I am established now. I don't have to worry what
people think or say about my appearance. Seeing it pleased my
husband, I will just discard the wigs, even if mine do turn
out to be O.K."
Apparently, wigs are slowly making their way back into
society, but not everywhere. Many women, when asked, shrug
their shoulders and say, "Let's wait and see."
As for me, I had this feeling that when I began wearing a wig
every day, everyone else would stop wearing theirs...