ATH Opinion: How Covering My Hair After Marriage Led Me to a Deeper Sense of Self-Love

The unexpected empowering impact of covering my hair.

Caring for my hair has long been a ritual filled with the kind of focus and attention to detail that feels elusive in a schedule packed with endless meetings, immovable deadlines, and, admittedly, somewhat addictive TikTok scrolling. As an Orthodox Jewish woman, much of what has kept me so connected to my heritage and the practice of my faith lies in that same kind of ritual.

While fashion trends come and go and clothing sizes fluctuate, styling my hair has always been a steady source of confidence for me. There’s nothing quite as dependable as a bottle of volume-enhancing Dove dry shampoo that leaves my hair feeling like it’s been freshly washed, and there’s something magical about how a polished hairstyle instantly elevates a simple all-black outfit. Not only that but doing my hair has always been a meditative and calming practice. Busying my hands has a way of steadying my mind and forcing me to focus solely on the task.

Similarly, when I’m navigating a dizzyingly busy schedule, and it feels impossible to put my buzzing phone down, the daily practices of Judaism ground me in something that is both higher than myself and intrinsic to my being. I am pulled outside of myself and inward at the same time, bringing a singular sense of focus to my time and energy, reminding myself of where I stand in a long line of women of faith who spend their days focused on the minutiae of a million different tasks.

Carefully braiding strands of challah, reciting blessings before and after each meal, wrapping my hair up underneath a scarf or wig; these are just some of the daily and weekly rituals that firmly ground me in myself and my faith, and it all feels intrinsically holy much in the same way that caring for my hair does.

But the truth is that my hair felt sacred well before I met my husband, and it has been the center of a ritual long before I began to cover it at all.

As a married woman, I choose to honor Jewish tradition and cover my hair when I leave my home or welcome others inside. Many people understand hair covering to be centered around the idea of saving one’s hair for their husband’s eyes, but that’s not why I choose to cover my hair. Instead, I believe in the sources that say that hair undergoes a spiritual transformation under the chuppah, the canopy where Jewish wedding ceremonies are performed, emerging holier than it was earlier that same day when it was carefully pinned up beneath the wedding veil. I cover my hair because it is sacred and a symbol of my commitment to my marriage and my faith.

But the truth is that my hair felt sacred well before I met my husband, and it had been the center of a ritual long before I began to cover it at all.

human hair wig
My natural hair was a big part of my identity pre-marriage.

During some of the more challenging times in my life, I’ve taken refuge in the calming and centering labor of washing my hair. Blessed with thick wavy strands, it has never been a simple task to care for my hair, but the weight of the work would often serve as a distraction. Working my way through the layers of my hair and watching the days wash away down the drain reminded me of rituals of purification so inherent to our practices as Jews. The idea that water holds power to heal and that immersion promises renewal is a premise I was raised on. Laboring over my hair allowed me the ritual of having a singular focus for minutes at a time and the belief that the water circling the drain carried away some of whatever was troubling me.

After our wedding, I asked my husband to cut my hair, convincing him the results wouldn’t matter because no one else would see my natural hair anymore. Happy to leave hefty salon bills in the past, I reasoned that I could now dedicate all resources to my expensive wigs, the only hair that would be visible to the world. Despite his protests and better judgment, and with my encouragement, he sawed his way through my ponytail with a pair of cutting shears. The results were uneven and devastating, and I cried, angry only with myself for believing even for a moment that it wouldn’t matter.

A friend came over later that week to repair the damage, evening out the ends of my unwanted bob and reassuring me that it really wasn’t all that bad.

human hair wig
My Milano Collection wig pretty closely resembles my natural hair.

With time my hair grew back, and I haven’t made the same mistake since. Regular cut and color appointments litter my calendar, and every few months, I make my way to a private salon where I have my hair refreshed. I uncover my hair to have it cut, thinned, and highlighted and marvel at the still-familiar woman looking back at me in the mirror. I wear it shoulder-length and thin, so I can easily fit it under my wigs and scarves, but it doesn’t look all that different than it did before I got married.

It feels like a revolutionary act sometimes to gently care for hair that no one outside of the walls of my home will ever see. To wash, style, and labor over something that society tells me has become inconsequential, that my tradition has taught me has become even holier. But I hold onto these habits in the same way I hold onto the woman I became before I committed myself to this marriage and this family. I remain dedicated both to her and my faith and in a whirlwind world that barely leaves me time to breathe, it reminds me that these holy rituals connect me to myself and to something greater.

My love for myself and my hair hasn’t changed, even as I transitioned into married life and slowly got used to covering it. Carving out time to care for a part of me that no one else will see allows me to nurture the woman I was before I became someone’s wife and reminds me daily how proud I feel about choosing this marriage. It’s a conscious choice every day to continue to foster that relationship with myself and my husband and to choose us both over and over again.

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