Sexy 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.
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?