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Tichel Tales: Chapter 1

Gabriella Roth

She went for the jugular. “So Gabby, I noticed that you’ve been wearing tichels lately. Have you decided to stop wearing your sheitel?”

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

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I t finally happened.

The moment I half-expected, but dreaded. The social tension (and attention) I’d experienced by wearing tichels instead of sheitels had reached its climax, but I felt more liberated than ever.

It was Simchas Torah night, and I’d just parted with my kiddies and their pekelach in search of my husband.

In walks one of the most glamorous women in town and she moseys right on up to me. After some light schmoozing, her eyes narrowed and she went for the jugular. “So Gabby, I noticed that you’ve been wearing tichels lately. Have you decided to stop wearing your sheitel?”

I gulped. You see, this wasn’t just some curious fellow worshipper at my shul. I was being cross-examined by one of the most highly respected, sought after sheitel machers in the Tri-state area. And, she also happens to be my sheitel macher. Or should I say former sheitel macher? “Funny you should ask,” I said with a nervous laugh. “During this past Kol Nidre, I said to myself that I am taking on wearing tichels again, bli neder. I may still wear my sheitel on occasion. After all, it is a work of art,” I gave her a wink.

This little wink signified a lot. Last year, I’d purchased a $3,000 luxurious sheitel from her — one of her best creations yet — and ever since, I had been wondering what she was thinking every time she saw me in a tichel.

“You look stunning in your tichels, I must admit. But why’d you do it?” she asked, pressing on. I froze, unprepared for this question, and my head felt empty as I desperately tried to pull together an answer. I strive to be truthful, but I couldn’t tell her my real reason for making the switch. I mean, it goes against her entire livelihood.

All the scenes of the past year, of my struggles and decisions, came flashing into my head. There was the time a male security guard at my daughter’s school flagged me down, calling out, “Hey, where do all the ladies in town get their hair done?”

I look back to see him leaning against the brick wall, as he manned the double doors. “I want to send my girlfriend there. You ladies look gorgeous everyday.”

I run home in disgust.

My brain flashes forward to the next disturbing encounter. This time, in my office with a non-Jewish co-worker. Sixty-year old John approaches me, with zero hesitation in his stride. “Carole tells me you have a 15-year-old daughter. I was shocked. You don’t look a day over 25,” he says with a huge grin plastered across his face.

“John,” I retort, “You know I have over 10 years’ experience in the field. I can’t be 25.” “That’s true,” he says, “but with that hairstyle, I just, umm, forgot.”

“It’s a wig! It’s a part of my religion,” I maintain. “A married woman has to cover her hair.” “Well that’s some religion,” he said, “You get to cover your hair with something that looks like that?”

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