Cover part three

(The final part of today’s musings.)

I realized something else about today’s events, after going to lunch. I currently only cover my hair at home or at work on the Sabbath. It’s a new thing to start covering my hair among friends if we go out together. It is like I’m coming out.

I have never had my hair covered with a tichel and been alone around strangers. When I was in college I used a snood or a bandanna, but not for the same reason I do now. And the climate was more tolerant then. There was less paranoia about Islam. My haircovering isn’t a hijab, but most Americans aren’t that savvy. A cloth on a head is a cloth on a head.

When I cover my hair at work I’m around people who don’t quite understand, but I am in a place that I have worked at for 14 years. The patrons know me there and because I work at the library I’m afforded a certain level of respect. Generally they are supportive if they say anything at all. Sometimes they are concerned that I might have cancer. I have since started exposing a bit of my hair at the top or showing some bangs so that they don’t worry about that.

But I just thought about it in a different way. What if I was in a restaurant by myself? What is to stop someone coming up to me and challenging me or accusing me of being a terrorist, thinking I’m wearing a hijab? That’s really frightening.

Or saying that “You need to go back home!” even though I was born and raised here, and am very white?

Or even saying that I’m not a real woman because I cover my hair? So many people think that a woman who covers her hair has to do it, or is forced to do it. They don’t get that it is a choice. To do so in America is even more a sign of a choice. It is even harder to do it here, because it is so unusual, especially in the South.

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Cover part two

(This is the second in a three part essay on headcovering for women, written over the course of a day.)

I returned from my diversity class that I’d attended with a coworker. She asked me how I liked it, and I shrugged. I thought about it further and decided to share with her one of my feelings about it that I’d shared with other coworkers.

I told her that I stayed afterwards to speak with the teacher about headcoverings. She’d said that some women who moved to the US stopped covering their hair because they became “more modern”. I was taken aback by this, as if it is primitive to cover your hair. Perhaps she thinks that women in other countries cover their hair because they don’t know better? But I digress.

So I said to this lady “Since I don’t work the same weekends with you, it might help if you know that I’ve started to cover my hair on the Sabbath.” She smiled and rolled her eyes a little and said “I was told.”

This gave me pause. This means I’m being talked about. Gossip has been a rampant problem here, but it has gone down. Apparently not enough. It isn’t necessary for her to know it, and I wonder who told her.

I gave my opinion on the “more modern” statement and she argued, but not how I expected.

She said “Only Jewish MEN cover their hair.”

I said “And Orthodox Jewish women.”

I said “How long have you been studying about Judaism?” (because I’ve been studying it for 4 years.) I paused, and answered for her. “Never.”

She argued back, naming a patron who is Jewish – that she doesn’t cover her hair.

I countered, “And she’s not Orthodox.”

And now I think about it, we’ve had two male Jewish coworkers – neither of which wore kippahs.

I was getting very angry so I had to stop talking with her. Later I thought – why am I getting angry?

Why do I care what she thinks? Her opinion didn’t matter to me when I stopped smoking, or started exercising, or wrote my book. All the things that I’ve done for self-improvement have been of no matter to her. So why does it matter now?

And then I have to think, why do I cover, and how much of that explanation am I required to give to anybody? How much of it do even I really understand? The more I understand about it the more I appreciate it. It is a very private and deep experience.

I don’t cover during the week in part because of where I work. I don’t want to upset people. I don’t want rumors and questions. I just want to be modest and show respect to God. But how can I be modest if I’m sticking out like a sore thumb, with a scarf on my head? How am I showing respect to God if I’m causing other people to worry about whether I have cancer or not, or appearing that I think I’m more pious or devout than they are?

Cover part one

(This is the first in a three part essay on headcovering for women, written over the course of a day.)

I was just in a class where they were talking about diversity. The presenter brought up the idea of different cultures from the US, using the Middle East as an example.

The presenter (a white woman, probably in her 60s) was speaking about how women cover their hair there. She said that some women from the Middle East who move to America don’t cover their hair here because they become “more modern”.

I winced when I heard her say that. It sounded so negative, so pejorative. As if covering your hair is archaic and backwards. As if covering your hair is primitive. I decided to wait until the end of class to speak with her about this, in part out of respect for her position and in part to not embarrass her.

I told her that covering your hair is not a sign that you aren’t modern. I said I have a lot of friends to cover their hair who were very modern. Now, I did not have my hair covered at the time. Currently, I only cover on the Sabbath, but after this experience I kind of want to cover more often. I considered covering that day but I didn’t. Would she have said what she did if I had been wearing a tichel?

I said there are various reasons for women to cover their hair. She on her own suggested modesty. That is a very important reason, but it is just the start. I didn’t feel like going deep into this, but I wanted her to think about what she said.

I just expect more acceptance of diversity out of a diversity class presenter.

Thoughts about taking care of a marriage.

I’ve realized that building up a marriage is a lot like building up your immune system. If I’m not getting enough sleep or eating well, my immune system gets low, and I’ll catch any cold. If I take care of myself, then I don’t get sick.

Showing love and care for your spouse builds up your marriage immune system too. Showing attention, saying thank you, being thoughtful -they all build up the “bank”. That way, when there is a bad day, everything doesn’t come crashing down.

If you make deposits into your marriage bank, then when something big happens, your spouse can draw on that and come out fine. If the bank is empty, your marriage is in danger.

All the things you did when you were dating are all the things you should do when you are married. The number of years married makes no difference. Perhaps that is part of the “seven year itch”. You are used to each other, and you start to take each other for granted. So you slide a little, and then you discover that you just don’t care about each other as much. You don’t care, because you don’t “take care”. You have to tend a marriage, like you tend a garden. If you don’t work on it, it gets overgrown and ugly.

Just like a bank, you have to make “deposits” – make special breakfasts for each other, give cards for no special reason, come to visit at work, do an extra chore – it doesn’t have to be things. In fact, you are probably better off if you don’t buy things. You want to show them that you are thinking about them.