Beware the Flying Tichel


Written by Ayo Oppenheimer. Ayo is the founder and editor of Jewrotica. Read her column here or start from the beginning with Welcome to Jewrotica.

Rated PGSexy intellectual hippies – a description of how my circle of friends perceived of ourselves as well as the rockin’ theme of my bridal shower six years ago.

Rather than gifting Tupperware or yet another challah board, guests at my bridal shower who wished to offer a present were asked to choose between bringing lingerie (sexy), their favorite book with an index card explaining their choice (intellectual) or a funky scarf for us to play with (hippies). Given that I hung with a super good girl crowd, the gifts included one lonely piece of lingerie (a pair of rhinestone-studded underwear emblazoned with my future chatan’s name), a couple of novels and a lot of scarves.

We played a few party games, ate some food and got down to business putting the scarves to good use: my married friends were going to teach me how to tie a tichel.

Some styles used just one scarf. Other styles used many scarves. I could wrap the scarf over my hair and tie it in the back along my ponytail. I could twist the scarves above the crown of my head and create complex braiding designs. Then of course there was the popular “pirate” type look, where I could sport a smaller scarf that would partially cover my forehead and be paired with hoop earrings.

We spent close to an hour playing with the scarves and I felt ready. After all, I wanted to start off marriage on the “right foot” and play the part of pious wife. Though I wasn’t machmir on halacha in all parts of my life, I figured that “mitoch lo lishma ba lishma” (the Jewish and perhaps more sincere version of fake it til you make it!). Besides, my chatan’s mother had covered her hair when she was first married and I liked the idea of keeping the family tradition.

The wedding came and went (a glorious celebration!) and it was our third day of being married – two sheva brachot down and five to go. We made our way over to the Queens restaurant where my chatan’s college friends would be throwing our third sheva brachot. The place was packed with real yeshivish types in monochrome attire and – though I was not sporting a sheitl – I was pleased to note that I at least sort of fit into the restaurant crowd as all of my curly hazelnut hair was wrapped away beneath my tichel. (In retrospect, there was no way that I actually fit in. I have a weakness for bright colors and the tichel that I was sporting that day had a vibrant and patterned violet hue.)

The guests arrived, hugs were exchanged and dinner was ordered. Waiters delivered platters of spiced and seasoned meat delicacies to the table (this was prior to my life as a vegan), the food was devoured and the singing began.

Od yeshama b’arei yehudah!
U’vichutzot Yerushalayim!

The girls pulled me up to dance, the guys pulled my chatan up to dance and the restaurant soon joined in the singing and celebration… until my chatan quite literally took matters into his own hands.

At the urging of his friends, my beau began dancing with me – right in the middle of the restaurant and much to our new yeshivish friends’ chagrin. As we energetically sang and danced, I kept checking to make sure that my tichel was modestly shielding my hair from anyone who might dare steal a glance. Though the pretty twists in my scarf had loosened, the overall look was holding up just fine. (Thank God for bobby pins!)

I was taking in the smiling faces of our friends and the mixed looks of consternation and celebration from our new friends in the restaurant when my chatan threw me back into a dip… and my tichel flew straight across the room.

We’re talking like 20 feet of flight here!

The room went silent.

I froze, momentarily shocked as though I had just been publicly stripped. A gaggle of laughter erupted from my group of friends as my beau went scurrying to retrieve the tichel and the rest of the restaurant quietly returned to their dinner.

I excused myself to the restroom, cheek-burningly re-wrapped my tichel in its proper place and found my way back to the table for benching and the recitation of the sheva brachot.

My tichel didn’t last too long after that. Maybe it was a sign from God that the tichel didn’t belong on my head. Or perhaps it was a message that I shouldn’t have been dancing with my chatan in front of everyone at that restaurant. Either way and regardless of your interpretation of the story, just remember to beware the flying tichel!

* * * * *

Post-Script: During the short period of time following the wedding when I covered my hair, I felt noticeably different whenever walking around with my tichel. Like the kippah that many men wear, I felt like I was representing my community when sporting a tichel and “on the hook” to make a kiddush Hashem (good impression / sanctification of God’s name). But more than that, I felt the need to act more maturely but also more demurely and – for the first time ever – felt it inappropriate to show any displays of affection in public.

This act of covering one’s hair can be a good thing in allowing for a transformation, but it ultimately didn’t feel like me (and I didn’t like the physical feel of it either). I felt like it misrepresented my practice and beliefs, and I ultimately put the tradition on hold.

Has anyone else had interesting experiences surrounding covering one’s hair or observations relating to any other clothing markers that carry cultural or religious implications?

Founder and editor of Jewrotica, Ayo spent the past two years full-time RVing North America with her Jewish educational film program. Ayo alternates between intensely pursuing fun new experiences and equally intensely trying to do good by people. She would love to hear from you.
  • Yair

    Love it!

    • Ayo Oppenheimer

      The costar speaks. You remember that one?

  • Ben

    loved reading this one

    • shmeichel

      Judaism says that a married woman is obligated to cover her hair for tznius. If this site is to be promoting Judaism (what it says about sexuality), instead of making people feel less comfortable about behaving as Jews should, why not write something that encourages them to follow Hashem’s holy commandments?

      • Good grief no! By all means women should wear a tichel or a snood or whatever if they want to. There’s a lot to be said about the benefits of modesty and I don’t think a frank discussion about hair coverings is meant to discourage women from covering their hair!

  • Sarah

    I don’t have any fun stories, but I am struggling with this whole hair covering thing. I don’t want to anymore. but I feel bad taking it off. well written post script.

  • Rochel

    recently, i have completely forgotten to cover my hair when leaving the bedroom at my in laws…it happened at least twice..i think it was more embarrassing for them than for me…

    • Hadassah

      Once I was talking with my neighbor and her husband in the parking lot between our buildings. Suddenly I noticed he had basically turned around. My friend motioned to me to fix my mitpachat, which had completely slid off my head without my noticing. I fixed it, made a joke so we could laugh about it, and moved on. Did I mention she’s one of my closest friends and he’s my ex boyfriend?

  • Dahlia

    No particularly funny stories here, but it’s happened once or twice that I realised once I was already out of the house that I had nothing on my head, and I had to improvise with the hood of my sweatshirt!

    • Tamar

      i have a friend who had that happen to her but it was the sheitel that fell off! she was outside talking to a non jewish woman when the wind blew her sheitel off and to the horror of the other lady who had no idea she was wearing a wig, she had to chase it down the street.

  • Gavriella

    I don’t cover my hair, but I do often wear skirts and longish sleeves. Once I was at a park in Jerusalem with my daughter, who was then almost 3 years old, and a (secular) woman said to me, is she your sister? I looked at her trying to figure out what she was asking, and I said, “no… ” and she said, “oh sorry, it’s just that she looks just like you!” and I said, “yes, that’s because she is my daughter.” She got flustered and said, “oh sorry! I just thought…. well you aren’t wearing a wig- i mean… that’s not a wig is it?” (*sigh*)

    • Sarit

      the first week or maybe second that i was married i was at the bank and wearing a slippery scarf-hadnt learned all the tricks about pins and headbands and stuff-it fell off without me noticing and everyone was staring-then i realized it had fallen off by the entrance when someone handed it to me. But i always brush these things off-accidents happen

  • Lior

    My tichel fell off my head in middle of manhattan in front of mt husbands entire extended family the day after our wedding lol

  • Shainde

    i still occasionally lose mine. after 3.5 yrs of marriage, is that bad?

  • Chani

    Not sure this fits the bill, but: A few months after I was married, I was at my in-laws for Shabbat or some chag. I showered, threw on some clothes, and went back to the bedroom to get dressed. As I was blow-drying my hair, someone opened the door… but it wasn’t my husband, it was my bro-in-law, walking into the wrong bedroom. He felt bad, but I said he saw the most un-awkward erva that could be. As I said to my sister in law and husband, thank Gd I was wearing a shirt!!!

  • Shayna

    i gave up and got a sheitel today after 8n years of marriage

  • Tzippy

    I’ve had people ask if my kids were my siblings. Without a hair covering, I look about 19. With, perhaps 20

  • Emma Morris

    Great portrait of Ayo by Margarita Korol, who was voted Chicago’s Best New Visual Artist of 2013 by the Chicago Reader!