December 18, 2003
Hair Club for Jews
Hi. My name is Carin and I have a Jewfro.
Heeb hair. A Moses mop. A latke lid. I'm down with my fun girl curls, but I can't say the same for the men I meet. My big hair is the Mason-Dixon Line of my L.A. dating life. Some men love the untamed, wild, bed-head look of my natural waves. But many men prefer I play it straight.
Take lawyer dude Rich, who I picked up at The Arsenal on Pico Boulevard on a Saturday night. I was wearing my jeans low, my heels high and my hair straight. Rich grabbed my digits and we went out on two successful straight-haired sit-down dinner dates. For our third date, he suggested Cabo Cantina, margaritas with salt and the Sunday night football game. Since we decided to skip formalities, I decided to skip the blow dry. Poor play call on my part. I threw open my door and surprised Rich with my long, flowing, sandy-blond curls. He gasped, grimaced, then covered his eyes.
"What happened to your hair?"
Apparently Jewish men like blow dries. And not just Rich.
One date asked me, "What's with the curls?"
Another asked if I wanted to finish getting ready.
A third offered me the scrunchie some JDate left on his stick shift. Great, I have bad hair and you're seeing other women. I'd cry but the moisture might make my hair frizz up.
I'm not alone in this hair crisis. Thousands of Jewish women just like me face similarly challenging locks. I'm talking big, puffy, out-of-control, coiled bird's nest curls. We're asked to sit behind the mechitzah because our big hair blocks the men's view of the bimah. Coveting J. Crew catalog-straight hair, we brush and comb and mousse and spray. We steam and set and wrap and treat. But we still show up to parties looking like the Bride of "Welcome Back, Kotter." That's why I started the Hair Club for Jews. Where I'm not just the hair club president, I'm also a member.
My teenage years were a blur of bad hair. I spent high school as a frizzy triangle head with flip-up/flip-down bangs. Moviegoers behind me switched seats and the yearbook photog took my pic with a panoramic lens. When I hit college, I straightened my mane with a smokin' hot flattening iron. I blew my book money on hair spray and scorched my forehead twice, but hey, I love the smell of burnt hair in the morning. Now, with heightened self-confidence and a bathroom overstuffed with hair products, this Jewish babe swings both ways.
But which do I do on a first date? One wrong tress can send a fine man running. Do I rip off the Band-Aid and open with big curls? Should I ease my man into the fro? Is straight sexier? Do curls have more fun? And what's the deal with the babushka? Curly. Straight. Curly. Straight. No wonder Jewish women give up and wear a sheitel.
Perhaps this hair dilemma has deeper roots. Talmudic scholars might argue that by wearing my hair curly, I am broadcasting my Jewish pride to the single men of the 310. The great Rabbi Abraham Paul Mitchell might argue that by straightening my hair, I am denying my Jewish heritage. I am turning my back on a hairstyle passed down by The Matriarchs. I say anyone who spends 10 minutes with me knows I'm a Member of the Tribe -- no matter how I wear my hair. I also say men tend to spend more than 10 minutes with me when I wear my hair in pigtails.
Speaking of men, Rich apologized as we waited for our table.
"The curls aren't that bad, C, I guess I could get used to them. I just like your hair better straight 'cause I can run my fingers through it."
Then he gently brushed the hair out of my face, kissed my forehead and all was forgiven -- until he broke down and offered me the Yankees hat off his head halfway through our date. But who could fit his tiny peanut-head cap over my gargantuan hair? Things didn't really work out between Rich and me. And not just because he's a Yankees fan.
When it comes to my guy, I need a man who's in it for the long haul, who's up for any hair catastrophe. If a guy's not there for me on a bad hair day, he won't be there for me on a bad work day. He won't be there for me when I spill red wine on my wedding dress, when I lose my keys, when I burn dinner, when the kids get the flu, when I'm 75, less flexible and my hearing aid whistles. I need a man who's in it for richer or poorer, for curly or for straight, who can laugh with me through a hair disaster and any disaster.
As president of the Hair Club for Jews, I urge other Jewish women to stand up for their locks. If you embrace your big hair, you can get ready for a date in five minutes, you can get your hair wet at the beach, you can live in a humid climate. And, as far my dates go, I'm taking a "love me -- love my hair" attitude. Single Jewish men shouldn't be so quick to judge my Jewfro, 'cause I know they carefully position their kippot to hide their bald spots. Â
Carin Davis, a freelance writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.