Monday, June 8, 2015

Reaction to a Reflection on Head Covering

A charming and thoughtful personal account of one woman's journey with head covering of various sorts.

A couple of highlights, for me:
I was the little girl in the large, floppy hat.
It was called my “davening hat,” and I wore it dutifully every morning during prayer services as a child. Even though I was raised in an Orthodox home, my parents sent me to a Conservative day school starting in kindergarten, and I did quite a few things differently at school than I did at home.
All students, girls included, were required to wear kippotduring our school prayer services. This upset me on several levels. First, I did not want to wear what I recognized so distinctively to be boys’ clothing; gender difference was a particularly sensitive issue when I was at an age when cooties were still relevant. But more than that, I did not like the idea of some obscure (and apparently fickle) religious authority instructing me what I should or should not wear on my head. A healthy spirit of defiance beginning to stir, I went to see the principal, my 5-year-old self sitting across from him at his handsome oak desk, my feet not nearly touching the floor.
Together we came up with an ingenious solution: I could wear a hat instead. But even though we had shaken hands on the idea, my small palm getting lost somewhere in the conciliatory gesture, my flower-emblazoned pink sun hat made me feel silly in the reverent pews of the school sanctuary. The deceptively cheery flower perched front and center did not match the gloomy pout persevering underneath. I felt uncomfortable. The hat made me look different and strange—a blaring sign that a disgruntled kindergartener was flouting communal norms.
This is both a familiar experience for me (without it even involving a separate piece of clothing) and something I both fear and expect for my daughter.  How do I bridge the gap between our family's practice and a world that has smaller and more separate "boxes"?  I grew up often feeling different, and it was hard- but it also made me who I am, in ways that I now think were worth it.  It's an on-going question.  But I appreciated this story.

Ans skipping to the author's adulthood, newly married:
But when I one day chose to wrap a colorful Israeli scarf around my head, similar to the ones my mother always wore, my head covering signaled to the world that I was different. While my teenage-self had blanched at the idea, my adult self wore the look proudly. My scarf was an external sign of oneness with my community.

No head covering is arbitrary—every detail, to the carefully trained eye, is significant.
For me, however, covering my head has evolved from an attempt to appease my community into an effort to belong to my community.

 In other words, a head covering is a symbol of identity- and only feels right if it aligns you, in your own vision, with your perceptions of yourself and who you see as your community.

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