Meditation on head covering.

This is a photo from April, 2015, when I decided to start covering my head every day instead of just on the Sabbath.  I did it in response to an ignorant statement from a woman at a diversity class that I had to attend.  She stated that it was backwards for women from Muslim countries to cover, that they were oppressed.  I find it significant that this class was meant to teach us how to get along with each other, but here was the teacher saying something divisive. I told her after class that some Christian women cover.

She didn’t know that I am included in that because that was during the week and my head was bare.  So she thought it was OK to say something less than inclusive – like how people will look around before they tell a racist joke – assuming that if you are of the same color as them, you will agree.

 

I like that covering my hair makes people have to look at me as a person, and not as a body. It slows people down. They don’t assume that they can be intimate with me (and that word means more than physical). This society assumes a lot and takes a lot of liberties.

 

There is some spirituality in the practice of covering, and some religion. I can cite the Bible verses, but they aren’t the point. Nobody told me to do this. I’m not under anybody’s control – except God’s. I feel called by God to do this. It is a reminder to me that I am a precious child of God. It is a sign that I am focused more on the spiritual than the physical.

 

Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, and some denominations of Christian women do this as a sign of modesty. What I find most interesting is that I get more flak for doing this than when I shaved my head.

 

Also, I cover as part of my commitment to being sober. When I was stoned, nobody noticed or cared. Now that I am sober (in as many ways as possible), people get irked. That is very interesting to me.

 

On that day I wore a pin with Nefertiti. Notice her amazing headpiece. It is her crown, and therefore a symbol of her authority. I suspect she wore that around people who needed to be reminded that she was queen. I wear my head covering for a similar reason.  To remind them that I am a child of God.  It also is intended to remind them of their own divine inheritance.

 

One male friend said of this picture “I think it shows compliance to patriarchal will.” But I don’t think he gets a vote.  As if women can’t choose to do what they want.  If men were able to control themselves, women wouldn’t have to cover up. No woman is to blame for a man’s actions.  But it is best not to dangle raw meat in front of dogs, either.

 

Nobody questioned me when I was stoned. That was when I wore baggy clothing and a barely there bra and boobs too big for that. That was when I wore tie-dyes that I made myself and pants hand sewn from batik fabric. Nobody minded that. I wore that when I was smoking pot every morning. They didn’t seem to care that I didn’t shower every day either.

Maybe because that was normal.

Maybe because I fit in with everybody else who was also lost and broken then.

I remember a time when I started wake up, started to take care of myself and started to write books and make art. I had a coworker who saw the smile on my face, the natural smile that results from noticing the tiny joys in this life instead of trying to run away from the pain. There is a joy from doing the hard internal work of growing up. She looked at my smile and said sort of sideways “What’s up?” Questioning me, curious, suspicious even.

There was nothing up.

I wasn’t up to anything but I certainly wasn’t down anymore.

Down was old.

This is a person who made fun of people who did drugs but had her own way of escaping. On her days off she would sleep the entire day away. Escape is escape no matter how you do it. Chemically or naturally not being present is still running away.

So now I have replaced my dependence on drugs with a dependence on God. My personal understanding of religion has come into question. I wear loose modest clothing and I cover my head. I’m not trying to call attention to myself but I am clothing myself with the armor of righteousness to remind myself of the One that I belong to. It is like putting on a name tag saying I work for this company. But the company I work for is God.

But now that I’m doing something religious, people question. They wonder why I cover my head, they wonder why I wear long clothing. They didn’t care when my hair wasn’t washed and my clothing was sloppy. But now that I’m taking care of myself they challenge me. Their questions aren’t out of respect. It isn’t curiosity.

They think perhaps that I am “other”.  Perhaps they think I am judging them. I don’t know what’s up with them. I’ve asked why are you asking, but that only puts them even more on the defensive. But why should I be on the defensive for taking care of myself? And why should I have to justify myself for dressing in a religious manner?

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More volume

There is this push to have more and more volume in the headwrapping community. I don’t understand it. Here’s a picture to illustrate what I mean. The volume is the point, not the person, so I’ve removed her features.

head1

She says that this is constructed from a base of a sort of bag that goes on your head called a “volumizer” and it is stuffed with bunched up scarves. Some people use bath loofahs too. I can understand if you have a lot of hair. It has to go somewhere. But the volumizer and the extra scarves and the loofahs are for people who have short hair. They want to look like they have a lot of hair.

People “ooh” and “ahh” over this. They think it is amazing. I think it is strange. This is what I see when I see these kinds of posts.

head3

Why are women stuffing their heads like they stuff their bras? Why do they want to look like they have more than they do? Why can’t they be pleased with what they have? Is this big head envy?

Then there is a woman who wraps her scarves in such a way that instead of going back, they go up. She ends up covering half of at least one eyebrow with the unusual way she wraps, just to get it all to stay on. Her headcovering looks like she has Queen Nefertiti’s crown on her head.

head4

Perhaps that is her goal. Perhaps she feels this looks best. Perhaps it helps in other ways – like it eases strain on her neck?

She says that people have told her she looks “weird” and they suggest she wear a wig instead. She thinks they are making fun of her wearing a scarf. I suspect that really they think that the way she wraps is weird – not that she wraps.

This is what I see when I see her posts.

head2

Covering your head is strange enough in Western society. Why add to the strangeness by doing it in an odd way – making it bigger than it needs to be, or piling it all on top of your head?

Is this really necessary if there isn’t any hair under there?  I get it if you have long hair because you don’t cut it.  But to stuff in extra for this look?  Why? It seems like it would make life more difficult.  How would you drive? The head-rest wouldn’t accommodate this.

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A wrap and a prayer

I started something different when I wrap my hair. I set an intention or a prayer every time I do it for a particular purpose. For instance I may wrap for people who are suffering from feeling alienated or people who are struggling with addiction. Then as the day goes on, every person who comments on my head wrap or stares at it is someone I need to pray for, someone who has that particular issue that they are struggling with. I pray silently in my heart for them, never calling attention to them.

This transforms the stares and unexpected comments from something weird into an opportunity to pray for others. This transforms wrapping from something I do for myself into something that I do for others.

Why do women have to cover?

Why don’t Muslims cover up men’s eyes rather than cover up women’s bodies? Why don’t they make some sort of headband/facemask combination that forces their eyes downward and makes it possible for them to only see a few feet in front of them while they walk? It would make life difficult for them but it would certainly stop them from accidentally becoming aroused by women and being unable to control themselves and feeling like they have to attack them.

They must think that women are very powerful and that men have no power at all. Merely by existing, merely by showing an elbow or a calf, a woman can cause a man to lose his self-control. If he has so little self-control then doesn’t this mean he has no self-control? Why do women have to cover themselves up for modesty when it is the fault of someone else if they cross a line?

If I am an omnivore, should I stop eating meat in front of vegetarians for fear that it will make them start eating animals? This is the same issue. It is saying that my actions control another person’s actions.

The Muslim faith is not alone in this. There are sections of the Orthodox Jewish faith that have women not only cover their heads because their hair is seen as sensuous, but the women have to shave their heads as well. The idea is that by shaving their heads (at least monthly) there is no chance that a hair will accidentally show – and thus accidentally weaken a man’s resolve.

I have a strong belief that the original intent of Islam and of Orthodoxy was not to control women, and to reduce men into knee-jerk autopilot sex machines. I believe that both faiths originally respected both genders. I have a suspicion that over the many years since the faiths’ inceptions some radical detours have been made by well-meaning, but control-happy people (namely, men).

How about we stop coddling men by making policies that say that women are responsible for men’s behaviors? How about we stop saying “boys will be boys”? How about we expect men to have self-control, and not feel the need to disturb (and I’m putting it lightly) women?

Thoughts on haircovering 6-7-2015

There’s something amazing about covering my head. It forces me to look down. This thing that I do to show honor to God forces me to look at God’s creation and God’s creatures. It makes me bow my head in humility and at the same time point me towards that which I must serve in order to truly show honor to God.

I don’t know if that is the point of head wrapping. I don’t know if that is intentional, or just an amazing coincidence. It seems that because of the pressure that it has on my head and maybe how I am wrapping, I feel that if I lean my head back, the scarf will slowly over the course of the day inch further back and eventually need to be retied or it will fall off or look more like a beret that a head wrap. Even with a velvet headband I don’t feel that it is going to slip off, but I do feel that it forces my gaze downward.

Also, I wonder why do I find it important that I show a little hair so that people don’t think I have cancer? Or that I wear cross so people know that I’m Christian? When I cover my hair, people could think it’s for any reason. They could think it’s because I don’t want to style my hair that day. Perhaps even worse, they might think that I don’t want to wash it that day. They could think that I have converted to a different faith such Muslim for instance. For some reason they would never ever think that I had converted to Judaism. For them it would be a step backwards. But so many people don’t understand that there are sections of Christianity that also cover their hair as a sign of modesty and humility before God. This is especially true if they are married women.

This is the South after all, and there is very little variety here. I’m at a disadvantage because of it. I really stick out. But why is it so important to me that I explain to them what I’m not without having to explain to them with words? I want to allay fears or concerns, but why do I care what they think? I’m not doing this for them.

I don’t want to bother people. I don’t want to call attention to myself. This defeats the idea of being modest. It also makes people feel uncomfortable. But seeing so much of exposed skin on people makes me uncomfortable. I don’t want to see cleavage and butts while at work or the grocery store. That is for home or the pool. Western society has no taboo about having hair uncovered – everything is uncovered. I wear long skirts – the highest is two inches above my ankle – not two inches above my knees like many people. I wear short sleeve shirts, and show nothing of my chest. My clothing is not tight. The shape of my body is not for the world to see. I am not a product. I am not my body.

Some feminists think that women who cover their bodies are repressed. In actuality, if it is the choice of the woman to do this, it means that we are not objectified. We are not seen as objects. People have to look at us, as people, and not as packages.

Knowing people spend the majority of their days in mindless pursuits such as Facebook, playing video games, and watching movies and “reality TV” makes me uncomfortable. Knowing people are so mindless that they eat terribly, don’t exercise, and then are surprised when they get sick with chronic or terminal diseases makes me uncomfortable.

I don’t want to be like everybody else. They scare me. I want to be awake, and mindful. If wearing a headcovering helps me do this, then so be it. Maybe it will be just the sign to others that they need to be mindful about their lives and how they spend them.

Hair covering butterfly

In thinking about my new (sometimes) practice of covering my hair:

I’m comparing it to a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. It has to cover itself up in order to transform.

The funniest thing is that it is the easiest way to color my hair. I can have blue or purple hair quite easily and change it very simply. No chemicals, no risk.

I’m of mixed opinions as to people commenting on it. Most people say that they like it and I like to think that what they see is not the covering or the color but they like the fact that I am transforming myself and trying to make myself better than I am. I like to think that what they’re noticing is my practice of self-improvement rather than my fashion sense.

I’m being transferred to a small library in a very close community. I feel that it is very conservative. I’ll be under the microscope for a bit, from the staff as well as the patrons. They are very protective and proud of their library, and they don’t want some stranger in there. I’ll have to let them know early on that I’m OK. Sticking out isn’t going to work.

Nothing sticks out more than covering your head, but it is for religious and modesty reasons. Thus, even though it is unusual, it is unusual in a very conservative way.

I have to work every Saturday now, unless I ask off. That will be tricky, because there are only three people in the branch. There isn’t any wiggle room. Sure, they can borrow from another library in the cluster if needed. I hear it is slow enough that two people can run the library with no problems. This is amazing to me since having just two people in my department was an emergency in my previous library. My department was one of three in that branch.

I’d started covering my head at the library on the Saturdays I work about four months ago. It was my way of remembering that Saturday was the Sabbath, and keeping it different and special. I’d cover at home on my weekends off. I worked every other Saturday on average. It was awkward when I was at work. I got asked questions, people would comment. Generally they liked it. They didn’t really understand, but they were kind. Explaining something as personal as a religious conviction is hard. I had to explain it and get it approved by the branch manager because there is a library policy against head covering (except for religious reasons). I only stuck out at work 26 days a year because I only covered at work every other week on Saturday. Working every Saturday at the new place, I’m going to stick out more.

I remember Jesus says that we should not make our piety obvious. We should pray in private, and not show others our religious acts. They are to be seen by God, not others. Jesus also worked on the Sabbath, and said that the Sabbath was made for us, not the other way around. Jesus also reminds us of the words from the prophet Hosea – “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.”

So should I worry about working every Saturday? Is Saturday the Sabbath, or is Sunday? Do I have to take a full day off from work to rest, or am I covered if I’m doing God’s work? Should I cover my head or not?

This is all a work in progress.

I think like Jacob, we are praised for wrestling with God. God wants us to actively engage with our faith and our practices. God wants us to be mindful and fully alive. Our practices should draw us closer to God and to other humans. If they put up walls, then we have to stop.

For now, I’m going to modify how I do it. I have seen that opinions vary as to if women are to cover all their hair, or just their head. It is not a commandment to cover – just a tradition, inferred from a story in the Hebrew Bible. In the Christian texts, Paul has his own things to say about it, but Jesus is silent on the matter. So I see it as optional – if it draws me closer to God and reminds me to be kinder to others, then it is good. Since I can’t see my headcovering, it is the pressure of it that reminds me to modify my actions. I can achieve that pressure by tying the tichel like a headband. I’ll be covering my head, getting the pressure as a reminder, but my hair will be exposed as it falls from the back.

I’ll see how this works out. Hopefully it will be seen as a fashion statement and not a religious one. I’m not doing this to make other people change their ways. I’m doing it to change my own.

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.