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Ask Shifra

Something Different... Answering questions and making curious observations (online) since 2005.


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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Tznuis Showdown at SuperCuts

Last week I my daughter and I went to get get haircuts at a local (but not too local) discount hair cuttery. Although I cover my hair most of the time my faithful readers know that like to keep my "real" hair looking good, and short enough to keep covered easily and comfortably.

Now I know that many frum women would never get their hair cut in a public place, prefering to go to their local sheitel macher (wig maker) for trims or perhaps they have their husbands lop off their ponytail with their child's safety scissors but alas I am too cheap and vain for either of those options. I go for the quick, cheap, anonymous back of the salon hair cut and I'm OK with that.

This time, however, there was a bit of a twist. When it was my turn to have my hair cut my stylist turned out to be a sweet young muslim woman in a hijab. For those of you from the midwest or living under a rock, a hijab is that head scarf that muslim women wear, covering their heads and necks. I, on the other hand, was wearing a mitpachat (hebrew for headscarf) or tichel (Yiddish for a headscarf- also known as a shmateh if you ask my mother) covering only my hair.

It was a tznius showdown.

When I uncovered my hair I did feel more self-conscious about it than usual. Would this woman uncover her head for a haircut? I wondered. Would she consider ME immodest or worse a hypocrite? Did I care? If so why? I sat kind of lost in thought in the chair for a moment until the woman asked "Are you ready?"
When I did uncover my head the woman was surprised to find my hair was already fairly short. I told her I like to keep people guessing. She replied that friends were always surprised to find that she often changes her hairstyles and colors despite the fact that she keeps her hair covered up in public. As she washed and cut my hair we chatted about religion and head coverings (the when, where and how but most interestingly not the WHY.)
I learned that her tradition was to begin covering her hair at puberty (in her case around seventh grade) and I explained to her the tradition of covering one's hair after marriage and the different opinions regarding divorcees and widows. Neither of us covered our heads in the privacy of our own homes (sans guests), or among women, and close relatives. She asked me about wearing skirts (she herself was wearing loose modest pants... one point for Shifra?) it was a very interesting conversation and a good haircut too!

Typically the end of the haircut is the akward point for me. Someone has done their best (hopefully) to make my hair look good and how do I thank them? By jamming a hat on my head as quickly as possible! I always tip more than generously so the stylist knows I'm happy with their work despite the fact that I have done everything possible to hide it the moment that it is completed.

This time however, it was quite easy. As I tied up my tichel the stylist readjusted her slipping headwear. I was very curious about how it stayed on at all and she explained that there is a long pin that goes through the top of the scarf and through her hair which is tied up underneath it keeping it in place. (I think I should start marketing those to the frum community but I'll need a name that sounds better than "hijab pin.") In return I showed her how I tied up my scarf Israeli style and we both smiled as I left the store so I guess it was a draw.

38 Comments:

At 12:09 AM, Blogger Eliyahu said...

nice story! if only we could get along so well in gaza and the west bank!

 
At 2:23 AM, Anonymous Safranit said...

Very nice story....and I second eliyahu's comment. Although as an Israeli, I know it will never be...

 
At 7:55 AM, Blogger Shifra said...

Just for the record, this post was not meant to have any political overtones - it was more of a social/comparative religions type thing.
I do understand that because of its poor timing it may be seen as somekind of peacenick post but it is really just about two women and not two nations.

 
At 9:15 AM, Blogger Eliyahu said...

...it is really just about two women and not two nations.

no implication otherwise, just my prayer for peace!

 
At 10:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you were probably hoping she didn't slit your throat with the scissors.

 
At 10:41 AM, Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

one giant leap for arab-jewish relations.

Much better than the female arab pharmacist who glibly informed me, when I irresponsibly forgot to replace a prescription before the current supply ran out, that they were all out of the essential medication my daughter takes daily and turned on her heel back to work without a moment of concern.

 
At 2:26 PM, Blogger StepIma said...

great post :)

 
At 5:51 PM, Blogger Scraps said...

Hairdressing meets interfaith dialogue. I love it. :)

 
At 7:45 AM, Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der ┼íteg) said...

Shifra never said that the haircutter was Arab, just that she was Muslim. The majority of the Muslims in the world aren't Arab.

 
At 10:11 AM, Blogger Lakewood Venter said...

Very interesting account. Shame we can't all get along that well and appreciate our differences and similarities.

 
At 11:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post:
LOVED: "hijab pin"!!

 
At 9:32 PM, Blogger Elie said...

Cool story! Not to make a "some of my best friends are.." kind of statement, but I do work with a lot of Arabs and/or Muslims, and I don't find our cultural differences to be at all distancing. In fact one collegue has asked me about where to find kosher food near our workplace, since he considers kosher to fulfill the requirements of Halal.

I firmly believe that the Arab-Israeli war, while complex and multifaceted, is at core a political conflict and not a religious one. Though to be sure, the terrorists have cynically perverted their own religion to use as a weapon against Israel and the West in general. Not the greatest of their crimes, but not the least either.

 
At 12:34 AM, Anonymous A. Nony. Mouse said...

"she herself was wearing loose modest pants... one point for Shifra?)"

Absolutely *not*!

As a long-time resident of a neighborhood popularly known as "Little India," I can tell you for a fact that pants are the traditional clothing of Muslim women from Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, and are absolutely *not* a concession to modernity. The most traditional version of South Asian Muslim women's clothing consists of pants topped by a tunic that's almost always long enough to be wearable as a dress.

I've said it many times before, and I'll say it again--Jewish women do *not* have a monopoly on modesty! When was the last time you saw a nun in a sleeveless dress?

 
At 8:47 AM, Blogger Shifra said...

Nony- of COURSE I don't think I was dressed more modestly than this woman. Although she was wearing a pretty normal length top we actually spoke about the whole pant/skirt issue and I know she was 100% within her religious rights to wear what she was wearing.

The whole point of my post was that this woman I met was MORE modest in some ways than I was and it caused me to think about my tzniut from a more global perspective.

 
At 8:49 AM, Blogger Shifra said...

Steg - I don't actually know what her ethnicity was, but it seemed like she was born here in the US. Pakistani might not be a bad guess but I'm not too good about discerning these things on sight.

 
At 1:10 PM, Blogger orthomom said...

Great post, Shifra. Love it.

 
At 3:07 PM, Blogger projgen said...

Maybe this is how we can get everyone to respectfully discuss cultural and religious differences - put one of 'em in a chair and give the other one scissors!

It's very cool that you took the opportunity to have this discussion; I'm not sure I would have had the nerve.

 
At 12:36 AM, Blogger MoeJoe770 said...

Hey thought you guys might find this interesting
Cool Jewish Tshirts
They have an interesting collection. Tell your friends!

 
At 3:08 PM, Blogger Halfnutcase said...

actualy in school there are some muslim boys and girls, people whom i (as well as all jews) have much more in common with religiously than we ever did with the rest of the inhabitants of this country!

there was one time where a christian in our school (hearing me complain about pasach) asserted that "it's good to be christian because we have no rules!" both of us replied very quickly back "and thats why your's isn't a real religion! they demand nothing of you!"

i also had an interesting discussion with her about head covering, very facinating to hear about it.

 
At 4:44 PM, Blogger debka_notion said...

Hmm- the hijab pin is a very good idea. My mother has just been telling me that the clips I use to keep my scarf on are giving me split ends. I wonder if those work better, and if there's a way to adopt something like that for someone who covers only their head and not their hair, since I don't have any hairdo to put a pin through under my scarf...

Just calling it a scarf pin ought to make the name interfaith... no?

 
At 5:54 PM, Anonymous seebee said...

Shifra, just curious: aren't there ever any men at SuperCuts?

Also: do you look like a rockstar now?

 
At 8:34 AM, Blogger Jerusalemcop said...

great post shifra.

changing the world one person at a time

:)

J.

 
At 6:58 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

See Bee -

Yes there are men who come in to Supercuts all the time. It's not a women's only salon. I said at the start of my post that many women who cover their hair would not want to get their haircut in a public setting like that. I usually ask for a chair toward the back to minimize my exposure and just deal with having my head uncovered for the 20+ minutes it takes to have it cut. For the record: I am not giving a halachic opinion here, only stating what I have done.

As for stylist I do not know what she would do if a male customer asked her for a haircut. There were other stylists there as well who could have covered the men, I just don't know what her/Supercuts policy is about turning down male customers.

 
At 11:19 PM, Blogger Elie said...

I have gotten haircuts at that Supercuts from that same stylist. In fact there were other stylists free and she did not ask that another one take me. So it seems she is not "makpid" about touching men as part of her job. Which is again analogous to Jewishly observant doctors, dentists, PTs, etc. (of either gender).

 
At 12:16 AM, Blogger Sweettooth120 said...

What a beautiful story. I know you weren't trying to make a political statement, but it does prove how much we actually have in common with our fellow human beings, even when we feel they should be our enemy. It takes these types of conversations, I believe to help overcome prejudices, fears, and misconceptions from all sides.

 
At 4:40 PM, Blogger PsychoToddler said...

I just got my hair cut at Supercuts yesterday. That was YOU?

I get along fine with all the Arab/Muslims at work. Just so long as I don't discuss politics.

But we can go on for hours discussing the perfect baklavah.

 
At 5:44 PM, Anonymous Yocheved said...

I really enjoyed that story. The JBlogmosphere isn't always filled with anecdotes as nice as this, so thank you! B"H we should find each of us with more and more cross-cultural respectful meetings.

 
At 11:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Muslims women are more tzinus then frum women. But why are you comparing yourself to her? I don't get it...

 
At 11:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is nothing to consider, MUSLIM women are more Tzinus then JEWISH women. You will never catch a muslim women or muslim man going to a mikvah and getting naked in front of everyone. When it comes to modesty, Muslim women win.

 
At 3:31 AM, Anonymous Yocheved said...

Um, anon? Not to be rude, and not to spur some random Jews vs. Muslims, but a mikveh is not a huge naked party. It is a very personal, private place, where a woman is just with the attendant.

 
At 12:08 PM, Blogger Elie said...

Shifra:

Thanks to the last commenter, you should now see your hit rate go up due to people searching for "huge naked party"! You owe her a thank you!

;-)

 
At 7:24 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

Ah Elie - always finding that silver lining!

LOL!

 
At 10:49 PM, Blogger Balabusta in Blue Jeans said...

Great story--sounds very relaxing. BTW, hasn't someone, probably back East, introduced the frum hair salon for ladies only? Seems like an obvious business idea.

And regarding standards of tznius, I recall a great story by an anthropologist who was working with a tribal group up in the hills in Vietnam or Laos, somewhere in there. The women were showing family photos, mostly wedding pictures, so the anthropologist showed them a picture of herself in her wedding dress. They admired it, and then one woman commented that it was so long that you couldn't even see the hem of her pants.

"I'm not wearing any pants," the anthropologist explained. That was the end of the conversatation; the idea of not wearing pants to your own wedding was so scandalous that no one could stop laughing.

 
At 10:57 PM, Blogger Balabusta in Blue Jeans said...

And also mikvah rules aside (see Shifra's new post for that), modest Muslim women and men both (and Jewish men and women in Muslim countries) have long gone to communal baths. And if you (at, not atah) hang out in any JCC sauna long enough, you will find that highly modest little old ladies from Europe are perfectly fine shvitzing in an all-female environment.

Modest doesn't mean acting like Victorian gentry. ;)

 
At 8:26 AM, Anonymous Aishah said...

Nice Story!! Giving us all hope!

For those of you who want to see some 'Hijab Pins'!!

www.itsapinthing.com

From a Hijab wearing muslim!

 
At 12:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Muslims do observe family laws. They abstain from relations during menstruation and postpartum bleeding and use a ritual bath.

I used to buy kosher meat for my Muslim neighbor because the butcher and some of the other patrons were not so nice to her. In exchange she bought me the most amazing $5 scarves from her mosque.

I buy great skirts without slits online from Muslim websites and fancy silk scarves too. I like the cotton tee shirt scarves for $3 too.

Some Jews from Muslim countries do consider loose fitting pants and a tunic top to be modest attire. Our Orthodox Syrian Rabbi does. As my mother would say "G-d understands, but the neighbors?"

Rabbis, (at least Syrian Rabbis) do not consider it forbidden to enter a mosque even during prayers. Muslims are not idolators and their wine is not forbidden (of course they forbid wine so this is only theoretical).

Thank you for this wonderful post. Jews and Muslims have much more in common than not.

 
At 11:50 AM, Blogger Chus said...

More information!:Supercuts

 
At 1:47 AM, Blogger anab01 said...

Hi this is Ana, i read the whole topic,its really very interesting,i want some more infi regarding this topic.can you please send me more info.
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