Head covering – Wait, what?

As mentioned before, I’m an Orthodox Christian. It’s not something I hide, but I also try not to walk around wearing an ostentatious cross the size of a hubcap, trumpeting my beliefs for all to hear. That’s…that’s just kinda not me. I mean, I’ll get all up in your grill about Star Wars, or my favorite books (I still think I want to do a Damar cosplay, just to see how many will get it, but that’s way beside the point), but I’m not the type to sit you down and talk to you about Jesus just because I can.

For whatever reason, though, I’ve always been fascinated by the sects that dress so as to clearly separate them from the majority of society, whether it be Amish, or Friends, or any other number of rather obscure sects. Plain-dressing. It always seemed…simpler. I’m not sure that it is, but that’s the way it seemed to me.

I’ve also loved hats. Bonnets, prayer caps, fancy dress hats, fascinators, you name it, I love it. Or at least, I like looking at pictures and dreaming about wearing them. I never did quite have the courage to wear a lot of hats, even when folks told me they were flattering but they fascinated me nonetheless.

All that being said, head covering isn’t exactly a lay Orthodox tradition. Oh, monastics do, both men and women, and many women cover their head in church, but we don’t seem to do it that much in “real life,” whatever that means to you.

I started a secret Facebook group, because I wanted to think about what drew me in more, what I really found appealing about “plain dressing.” I started to stalk blogs like Quaker Jane and other plain dressing websites. I looked at Shukr and any place else I might find something that was more “modest” than something at Nordstrom or Dress Barn.

Most of them tended to be Mennonite or other older order Anabaptist women, who along with embracing a plain dress, lived a much more rural lifestyle than I was every called to. My people were farmers and we didn’t stick with it because it’s really hard work. Also, I have a black thumb and John would be bored stiff tending vegetables. Heck, if we’re being honest, we’d starve to death because the plants would die while we played Star Wars: The Old Republic.

And, really, I’m not into dressing in calico or denim unless I’m reenacting the Old West. It’s just not my thing and I knew that I would find no joy in feeling like an extra from Little House on the Prairie. It seemed to make these other women happy, and their joy was wonderful to see, but it just wasn’t…me.

Some of the writing was very authoritarian and my little liberal feminist heart just balked right into stillness at that. John and I are working out salvation jointly, as happy martyrs, and I sought his council when I thought about moving towards this full-time but I wasn’t at all comfortable with a rigid and joyless interpretation of what it means to prayfully cover. Also, wow, some the discussions about Christian head covering got very legalistic, parsing words down to the syllable.

Then somehow, I found Wrapunzel. Well, more accurately, I found their YouTube channel and my mobile data plan tanked because I was so busy watching an Orthodox Jewish woman I’d never met wrap up her head in scarves. I read her blog, I read the site, I watched the videos and in secret, I started to practice. Not much secrecy, honestly, but some. I wasn’t sure how John would react. I KNEW he’d be supportive, because he always is. He would tell me to do what made me happy and he would be happy for me. He would love me, NO MATTER WHAT, because that’s what he does. It’s who he is as my husband.

With that said, I ordered some basic supplies from Wrapunzel and started to cover my hair. I was working from home then, so it was easy. I was incredibly nervous the first day I went into the office wrapped, but the positive experience outweighed the fear and I haven’t looked back.

I want to say I started covering full time in November, and I have left the house with my hair visible only a few times. I can’t cover when I’m at drill, unless I want to invest in the wig, and I have left in a hurry on a couple of occasions, only to feel terribly naked.

There are a few benefits I’ve noticed, and John has noticed a few too.

The first one is honestly that I pay more attention to myself. Oh, not in a vain way, but in a way that acknowledges that I am worth taking care of. I’m worth the time to make myself feel loved, a queen, a beautiful child of God who is worth the time spent.

The second is that I tend to feel as though I get more respect when I’m out and about. For whatever reason, other women tend to be friendlier, as though I’m safer to talk to, to compliment my scarf, to smile at as we pass. Younger women tend to see me as “safe” because honestly, I’m clearly out of the modern dating “game,” and they seem less guarded and tense around me. Men are more distant, less familiar, less inclined to see me as available for public comment.

John tells me it’s noticeable. That I am more confident, more at peace with who I am.

Yes, peace. I’ll go with that.

I find myself more willing to be patient, to draw back from a fight (usually online), to take a moment to think before I speak, to be gentler. It’s although the weight and pressure of the scarf is the hand of God, resting gently on my head, reminding me that I am under his authority; that he is guiding and guarding me always.

It’s not for everyone, but it is for me at this point in time, and I am beyond grateful to the wonderful community of women at Wrapunzel for their friendship, their love, and their mitzvah. It has brought so many women, myself included, joy.

  • Jen