Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

11 Tammuz 5764 - June 30, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Home and Family

The Sheitel Debate
by N. B.

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 brown."

"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 to hats.

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 remark.

"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 scarves.'

"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...


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