Dating a woman who wears a wig
To pilfer a phrase from the late Nora Ephron, I feel bad about my sheitel, the matron’s wig I wear for religious reasons.The one I’ve been wearing for the past four years is part of the problem: Not only is the cut dated, the hair has gotten so stiff and dry that it could probably be mowed into toothbrush bristles. I like looking Orthodox; if I were a man, I’d probably sport a full beard, peyes, and a black hat.“European,” in the unabashedly racist world of sheitels, is the best hair, followed by Russian, Brazilian and, at the very bottom, Chinese, which is too straight and requires extensive chemical treatments to achieve the desired soft waves. That is because in the Haredi world in which I live, a sheitel is like high-heeled shoes: It is a sign that I’m ready to venture out into the world beyond the supermarket.
True to form, she picked out the perfect wig, a short frothy bob that struck the elusive balance between elegance and modesty.I floated out of the salon on a cloud of love for all the other sheitel wearers who crowded the Boro Park streets, all of us sisters under our wigs.Back home in Jerusalem, I gave my new sheitel to my babysitter’s wayward niece, who claimed to be a beauty school graduate, for a wash. Since that time nearly 20 years ago, I’ve worn my way through a dozen or more wigs. On my current search I learned about a new innovation in the rapidly evolving world of sheitel technology: a hairpiece that converts a band fall (a wig with a cloth headband replacing the hair in front) into a full wig.As my calendar has grown crowded with upcoming family events, I’ve started to search for a replacement, though I realize it’s not likely to make me feel much better. What I don’t like is the trend toward hyper-natural and hyper-expensive “I can’t believe it’s a sheitel” wigs. I enter a place where sheitels are sold near my home outside Jerusalem.And yet, I’m too vain to resign myself to a headscarf or a hat. That could be a swanky wig parlor, or a neighborhood social hall, or the back room off the seller’s kitchen. The Israeli stylist doesn’t smile; doesn’t resonate with television-avoidant Israeli Haredim.
To them, sheitel wearing feels as natural as having a dozen kids; where I grew up, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, sheitels were as rare as hijabs.