Hiding My Prominent Black Feature

After 30 years of “not the one” encounters, I met, fell in love with and married my besheret (soulmate).

We met on December 7, 2012, were engaged February 23, 2014 and married four months later on June 24, 2014. I could not have been happier or imagined a more pleasurable, fulfilling experience than being in his presence. As the day of the wedding neared my joy and excitement grew, but there was a lingering fear of what was coming…covering my hair. 

I’m mixed with a father who is black and a little American Indian and a mother of Irish and Italian decent. I’m fairly light-skinned; light skinned enough to have been teased a majority of my childhood for being “high yella” and “not black enough”. The one reigning feature that expressed my ethnicity was my curly, at times kinky, larger than life hair, which I’ve been madly in love with since I learned how to manage it in my late teens. And now, I was going to be required to hide it from the world?

Growing up, I didn’t always know what to do with my hair. I spent many years finding ways to change it. I would get relaxers to make it straight or go as far to literally lay my head upon an ironing board and have a friend iron the kink out; I have the scars on my neck to prove it. It wasn’t until I was out of high school and the predominately white community I lived in, that I learned to appreciate my nationality and the beauty it left atop my scalp. Letting my hair be natural was so much more than a choice of curly over straight. It expressed an acceptance of who I was and I began to experience a sense of pride and confidence I had never known before. For the first time in my life, I was comfortable in my own skin. I began receiving compliments from strangers and loved ones alike on how beautiful my hair was, which, in a society driven by the acceptance of others, helped cement my newfound love for this big, curly mess. I recalled these past feelings of transformation and as my wedding day approached a sense of sadness and fear would wash over me. I would wonder, “How am I going to feel about myself when I cover my hair; what will other people think?”

My husband, as supporting as always, tried to make me feel comfortable about the impending change. He told me he would likely find me more beautiful than he already did. He would sit with me and look at styles of tichels and sheitels that he found attractive. He tried everything, but it didn’t make me feel better. I don’t think, as a man, he could internalize the struggle I was experiencing. Try as he may, I still worried about how I would process this change, what my family would think, whom are not Jewish, and how I would deal with the potential judgments of the world around me in general. It was a difficult time for me emotionally as I tried to reconcile Hashem’s will with the concern for the opinions of those who inhabit the material world around me. These feelings consumed parts of my mind for weeks leading up to the wedding and then, as if out of nowhere, the day arrived.

The wedding was the happiest day of my life; there is nothing in my past that could compare to the elation I felt that day. I did not cover my hair immediately after the chuppah, which is tradition in some sectors of frum Jewish weddings. I wore a long veil in the back of my hair, which sufficed as a hair covering until the day following the wedding. The next morning, I awoke with some anxiety of what was to come. I began to get ready for our day, put my hair in a ponytail at the base of my scalp and covered my hair for the first time. This act represented the beginning of a new life and faithfulness to my husband and to Hashem. After I found a method of tying my wrap in a way I found comfortable, I emerged from the bathroom. My husband stood across from me, his back to me. He felt my presence behind him and turned to me. His reaction will forever be among the times I found the most comfort and security in him. He stood there in silence, just looking at me, until the love he felt in his soul could not contain itself anymore and his eyes began to water making room for him to speak. Through tears, he told me I had never looked more beautiful than I did at that moment. And with that, he was again speechless.

This moment between he and I was one of the most emotional moments in my life to date. Suddenly this seemingly superficial, although very real fear I’d carried with me for months seemed so insignificant. I recognized and appreciated the magnitude of this act and the depth of commitment to my husband and to Hashem it reflected. It’s been almost four months since this day and I can’t say everyday has been easy. I will not lie and say that I do not at times feel self-conscious or concerned with others’ opinions of my public act of dedication to Judaism. What I can say, with all the truth in my heart, is that I am honored to face this emotional challenge. I am honored that everyday I have the choice to put the desires of Hashem over my own. I make this choice with peace in my heart knowing that I am fulfilling a will much greater than my own. It’s a beautiful, humbling experience to put aside worldly concerns for a more meaningful existence. I miss my hair in public, but I realized the fear was about letting go of the potential for strangers to admire and compliment my hair. The fear was about the lack of approval from the world outside myself. Covering my hair does not alter my pride as a Jewish, Black, American woman. It does not change the confidence I have or the pride of accepting who I am. The only actual change is that now, this curly, at times kinky, larger than life hair is something to be adored by only my soulmate and myself. There is something very beautiful in that. I am honored to experience what true pride and confidence are, which, to me, is the presence of such in the privacy of one’s own existence.

me'ira

I’m Me’ira Perry; I was born in Bellevue, NE on a military base to my two Air Force enrolled parents. I have 8 siblings and spending time with my husband and our family is the greatest joy in my life.

Header image courtesy of Pixabay.
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One thought on “Hiding My Prominent Black Feature”

  1. I found this story beautiful and touching. I am glad you have found peace and acceptance.

    I was just wondering- Is it not also acceptable to wear curly and afro wigs or afro centric head wraps? It is true, it will not be as beautiful as your own natural hair. But, you can still wear your ethnic pride and follow Torah at the same time. Just an idea. 🙂

    Like

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