Why do Orthodox married women wear wigs? If it’s modesty, why do they wear wigs made out of someone else's human hair that sometimes look better than their own hair? This has never made sense to me, but maybe I just don't understand the concept.
Essentially, Orthodox Jewish women cover their hair after they get married for reasons of modesty. There are two factors that serve as the basis for this requirement: One is that hair is considered--for lack of a better word-- "sexy", and it’s a woman's literal crowning glory, so the general idea there is that the woman covers it so only her husband (and immediate family, depending upon her customs) can see it. The other rationale for the rule is that hair covering is simply an outward, visual sign that a woman is married.
The point that the wigs can (and for the most part, DO) look better than a woman's real hair is well-taken. In fact, some Orthodox women actually don't wear wigs (choosing instead to wear only hats/scarves) for the reasons that you cited; namely, that they feel uncomfortable doing something that is supposed to embody modesty while wearing a wig that looks ten times better than their real hair ever could. Also, if you are someone who believes hair should be covered solely to be an outward, obvious sign of marriage, you probably would wear hats exclusively, since that's a lot more obvious than a wig. Oh, and I should point out that there are many women who switch back and forth between hats and wigs.
Without going into too much detail, there are TONS of variations on the intricacies of hair covering. There are questions on whether the rule requires HAIR covering (i.e., covering all of your hair), or HEAD covering (covering the crown of your head, and allowing your hair to stick out underneath). Some women will ensure that all their hair is covered when they're in public, but will uncover it in their house, no matter who's there. Some, as noted, don't let anyone see it but their husbands. As with most things in life, people do what they feel is right for them.
Note: Even people like me who don't cover their hair do make sure that their head is covered when they attend services in a synagogue, out of respect. Consequently, I am the proud owner of an extensive hat collection, some of which make me look like a human satellite dish. If you ever run into me and I look like I'm on my way to the Kentucky Derby, chances are I'm actually on my way to synagogue services.Now! Where were we? Ah, yes. My fake wig. As noted, the wedding was fairly religious, and it's NOT that I'd have been shunned, had I shown up with my hair all loose, but I didn't want to LOOK out of place, if that makes sense. I still wanted to appear respectful, but at the same time, didn't want to, you know, actually acquire a wig. And so, I decided to make my own hair look like one.
(I hope this doesn't come across as disrespectful to my faith... as stated, I made a choice when I got married not to cover my hair. The only times that I do cover my hair in any way are when I'm entering a synagogue or playing an active role in a religious event. At my own brother's wedding, for instance, when I will be standing under the chuppah (wedding canopy), I will wear an ever-trendy old lady doily on my head for the duration of the ceremony. In the case of this particular wedding, it was simply a matter of comfort for me, that I not unnecessarily draw attention to myself, hence the Fake Wig Project. I really, REALLY hope I've conveyed that properly. If you have questions, please let me know.)
Ali, who's had practice in the Fake Wig department, as well, suggested a flatiron and a headband, which would cover up my hairline, and make my hair unnaturally straight; WIGLIKE, if you will. And I was all, "yeah, that is a BRILLIANT plan!" until this morning, when I realized I do not, in fact, own a flatiron.
I consequently scrapped that idea, and instead decided to make my hair resemble one of Tyra Banks' very obvious wig styles, the one where she clips back juuuust a tiny front piece over her lion's mane of glorious, tumbling locks. What can I say? TYRA, YOU ARE MY INSPIRATION. The trick, I reasoned, would be getting my bangs--fairly short, and so used to being dried straight down in front--to cooperate. Here's how it actually went down, with random notes scattered throughout, director's cut-style:
I hate this bathroom so, so much. I mean, the toilet works and all-- which I guess is sort of key--but the decor is heinous. I don't know if I've mentioned it before here, but the pink/black tile, coupled with the floral wallpaper make me feel like I'm in some sort of bordello for the elderly. OH, IT COULD EXIST.
My god, it's a bit sad how easily I'm distracted.
You know what? I actually do kind of make this face when blowdrying my hair from time to time. Mainly when I flip back up after the initial rough dry. WHAT THE HELL, I AM BARING MY SOUL, STOP LAUGHING.
Yeah, it's right around this point that I noticed we had a problem. Large tufts of hair on the left refused to cooperate, and I found myself staring in abject horror at what was, for all intents and purposes, the Statue of Liberty's spiky crown jutting out from the side of my head. Awesome.
Whatever, I love trying on glasses. I have 20/15 vision, and become unhealthily obsessed whenever J gets a new pair. As for my headband trick here, it definitely helped with the spikes.
The whole thing then poofed right the hell up (thank you, NEW YORK SUMMER WEATHER), and somehow (by which I mean, "directly attributable to my shoddy and clueless hairstyling skills") the entire section mysteriously shifted to the side of my crown, instead of lying straight back. Woe!
As you can clearly see, the road to fake wigdom is paved with heartache, laughter, headbands, and in my case, prescription glasses that do not belong to me. I've learned my lesson, and in the future, I'll suck it up and just wear a damn Mets hat.
P.S. To the extent I offended anyone in any way through anything I wrote in my last post, I am very sorry. I didn't intend to come off poorly, but it's obvious that I did, to some people, which pains me. I've written a grand total of 13 posts here with the "seriously" tag. It's not something I do often, so I hope, if you did take offense, you view the post in the light it was intended: NOT as a cruel dig at anyone, or an attempt to hurt feelings, but simply, to give a glimpse into my sentiments about something that bothers me. And that's all.
P.P.S. To clarify some other points raised in the comments there, my MIDDLE name actually is Metalia. It's a contraction of two hebrew names, Meital, and Talia. All together, it means "from the dew of God." The pronunciation is: m’TAHL-ya.
P.P.P.S I'm hard at work on another Ask A Jew post. I have a bunch of questions, but if you have any more, feel free to send them my way!