People might wonder why I cover my hair and dress within certain parameters. I wondered that the other day. It was hot; the first humid day I’d experienced this whole summer. And of course, because we were away for the summer, we didn’t put in any of our window unit air conditioners.
(Don’t worry, D#1, we will put them in before you come for Rosh Hashanah! Or at least we’re thinking about it. Okay, let’s check on the weather in another week.)
I can tell you how grateful I was to be covering my hair this summer in Israel and thankfully avoiding the lice that love to jump into anyone’s hair. But that’s not the reason, just a valuable side-effect.
Or perhaps that is the reason; that everyone did cover their hair, men, women, and children, in certain cultures so long ago that it was the basic need against the elements, so that uncovering it was uncool.
But today, it stands for identity. We recognize each other by our clothing; it’s our brand. They signal belonging, logic thrown aside. Especially when you get tagged by Homeland Security for not looking exactly like your passport photo.
[If you want to read more about the whole hair covering thing, I covered it (sorry, just. can’t. resist!) here a while back.]
Here’s Tom Waits growling about identity.
One of the side effects of people who do not know about the group identity thing sometimes look at me with what I can only assume is pity. It becomes a game of assumptions–I assume that they assume I must be undergoing chemotherapy and therefore don’t have any hair, and therefore must cover my sad head. From the time that I have spent accompanying people to their chemo treatments, I see that that fact has changed; so many therapies don’t cause hair loss.
But that’s just an aside.
That does cause a loss of dignity. And all the treatment centers that are worth their weight in salt aim to prevent or restore that loss.
So how ironic is it that people in general do not seem to be worried about it?
Let me rephrase. It is my experience that people in the Western World are not apparently concerned with their outward appearances.
This does not include men going to work in business suits.
It does include some women who have a different standard of business as usual than what I think should work, so to speak.
And that is just part of the problem. What is business-like? What is proper? Is there a time when we can let our hair down, figuratively and literally?
Yes. The difference between private and public.
We have lost the distinction. With all the transparency of the world, with social media eating up our privacy, really, we gave it away a long time ago.
I’m embarrassed to see how people comport themselves often. It’s not a matter of being an old fuddy-duddy.
What’s wrong with decency? Dignity? Privacy? Self-respect?
Hijab made me want to feel liberation and self-responsibility.Tzniut made me want to feel sacred and holy, and protected to some degree from the judging gazes, imaginary or otherwise, of others. Christian modesty practices were too costumey or preoccupied with “staying pure.” “What scares you the most?” I asked myself.
That was written over a year ago. This is the follow-up from Facebook.
I’m taking a brief break from working on the book. I need to take a step back, because I’ve sort of lost track of what I’m trying to do.
I’m not giving up– it’s just hard to work on something so vast when I’m not sure where I want to go. Thank for all your support!