Are Sheitels Comfortable?

I grew up in Toronto in a Conservative Jewish household. My father was raised Orthodox my mother Reform or less. Orthodox Judaism has always been intriguing to me. It is both a part of my history and unapproachable.

I remember going with my father to a Lubavitch boys choir concert as a child. The music was vibrant, the joy was obvious. At the end of the concert the men and the boys in the audience would get on the stage and dance with such vivacity. I wanted to dance up there as well. But, I was a girl, a girl in pants. I did not belong on that stage. I saw my dad spot a friend of his dancing with his sons on the stage. I felt badly for my dad because I knew that he couldn’t dance either, he had to stay with me.

That to me summed up my relationship with orthodoxy, it looked so enticing, but I didn’t belong.

Later, in university, I did a degree in Jewish Studies. There were many orthodox kids in my classes. The girls were not friendly, the guys looked scared of me. I felt as though I was wearing a cloak of bacon. A few guys were pleasant, they would say hello or discuss a test question. I had a couple of girlfriends who were Baal Teshuvaniks. They accepted me. I even spent a Shabbos or two with them. Again, I felt as though I didn’t belong. it seemed like a very warm, comforting lifestyle. One that would be possible to slip into as it seemed that all behaviour is laid out for you. There is someone to answer your every question. I think that if one of those orthodox boys had been interested in me I could have made the transformation, but on my own my devotion was not strong enough. The girls who became Baal Teshuva either had very accepting families or were willing to battle familial disapproval. That was not me. I comfortably moved within and understood the boundaries of my conservative judaism.

Perhaps eight years ago I went to Montreal to take part in a seminar to learn a method of teaching hebrew. Our community was in need of a teacher. My children were in need of a teacher. I met a wonderful group of women who had come from around the world to learn this method. Most of the women were orthodox, they all taught at Day Schools. I was the only exception. The entire seminar was taught in hebrew, it was gruelling for me. The days were 12 hours long, I had not been away from my children for this amount of time and my hebrew was not up to snuff. One very hot day I was talking to a lovely woman from New York. I believe that her husband was a rabbi and that she ran the girls’ school. We were chatting about different things. I mentioned her sheitel. I said that it seemed to me that sheitels must be liberating. She asked how so. I explained that in my mind, women are slaves to our hair. A good or a bad hair day can affect us far more than it would a man. With a sheitel you always have a good hair day without the obsession. She responded with a smile and a simple ‘Ha, really?’ She didn’t elaborate any further. I felt as though I had made some sort of faux pas.

So, now with the world wide web at my disposal I ask you ladies out there who can answer my questions if you don’t mind, is a sheitel comfortable? Are they easy? Are they hot, itchy, liberating or confining? Do you feel like yourself when you put it on or do you feel different?

I wish you all a peaceful shabbat and hope to hear back from you after.

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14 responses to “Are Sheitels Comfortable?

  1. Cloak of bacon- ha! That’s classic! I think that for a lot of orthodox people who haven’t had many encounters with non-orthodox people, the adage “they’re more scared of you that you are of them” applies. At least in my experience.

    As for sheitels, I like mine. I have two. One is a “full” – meaning it’s a full head of hair, as opposed to my “band fall” -which has no front to it, so to speak, and I wear a headband or hat over it. I LOVE not having to do my hair. They’re pretty comfortable, though it was an adjustment. It can get a little hot in the summer, especially if you have bangs on your sheitel, like I do, but it’s very nice in the winter. I also appreciate looking much more polished than I ordinarily would. A sheitel is like an instant way to look nice, for me at least. My only complaint is that once you cut a sheitel, it doesn’t grow back, so I feel a little confined to certain styles, but I’m working with it.

    • Comfortable? Well I don’t believe there is anything that you can’t get used to if you wear it every day. Like those apartments by the tracks- I hear the train like an explosion but the people who live there- the noise does not exist.

      A full wig is extremely uncomfortable to me, I refuse to wear it enough to get me used to it- I feel too constricted. I wear a band fall and I hardly feel it in the morning. But after a full day and kids tugging on the hairs and the clips inside ripping on my hair- it needs to come off. I have gross hair and so I love it- It is long and I wrap it up in a bun if I am hot and I hardly notice it. When I want to look pretty I leave it down and love it too. On ugly days it saves me and the rest of the world from seeing me looking like I stuck my finger in a socket. Most people don’t know its a wig.

      • Ryekatcher, welcome and thank you for your response. I think I would feel much like you do. I have crazy curly hair and I don’t think I could possibly get a wig to stay on my head. Even a hairband gives me a headache. I do like the idea of being able to hide those bad hair days.

    • Rivki, thank you for your answer. You are my go to girl for all questions on orthodoxy. I like the idea of being able to change your look so easily. It seems as though it could be sort of fun although I understand that sheitels are quite expensive. I had no idea that there is such a thing as a “band fall”. It sounds quite youthful to me. I’m picturing Gidget in a long denim skirt, dark long sleeved t-shirt and ballet flats 🙂 . You’re probably too young to remember Gidget.

  2. I also ADORE the “cloak of bacon” comment! I have no personal experience with the sheitel yet. However, I think the “hah, really?” response may have been more surprise that someone who’s not orthodox is making a nice comment about it! Usually a comment about a sheitel turns into a lecture on feminism and the horribleness of orthodoxy. Or maybe she just never thought about it that way!

    • Kochava, thanks for your input and welcome. As a stay at home mom I’m not about to lecture anyone on feminism but, as I see it feminism has given us the freedom to do whatever it is that we want to. I’ve been mulling over this very topic as a future blog post. The home is the heart of every family and women have so much control over what happens in the home that it seems a very powerful position to be in.

  3. Anything on your head all day long, day in and day out, will be annoying. Also wigs take maintenance and you still have to fuss with keeping your own hair out of sight and not making lumps under the wig. And then there’s the little comb that keeps it centered and stuck to your head. Of course, when it’s done right, it looks like you’ve just come out of the beauty parlor. So that’s nice.
    All in all, grooming takes time whether it’s combing your own hair, tying a scarf or putting on a wig. Come to think of it an advantage of the wig is that it matches your clothes so you don’t have to hunt for a hat or scarf in the right color and seasonal material.
    By the way, nice blog you have.

    • Isramom, thank you for your comment and welcome. I had no idea that there could be lumps! I’m a low maintenance kind of girl (although my husband might not see it that way) I just know that my sheitel would be lumpy and crooked. It suddenly sounds very stressful to me. I think the whole scarf look appeals most to me although even with that I fear that I would look like a Jewish Aunt Jemima.

  4. About 7 or 8 years ago, I wrote an essay for a book called Hide and Seek: Jewish Women and Hair Covering by Lynn Schreiber. The book is a collection of essays from Jewish women on their feelings about covering their hair, both pro and con. If you’re interested in the topic, this is the only book I know of that addresses the issue of women’s feelings and experiences about the practice.

    • Onthefringe, thank you for the link. You explain the Halacha involved but really I was just curious as to whether or not they are comfortable and how the women feel about their sheitels. It’s an interesting issue to me as women have a unique relationship with their hair. Welcome to my blog.

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