(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?