Clothes (and Wigs) Make the Woman

Frum ‘N Flipping presents an older single’s dark fantasy:

Newlywed Game

I am a woman, at last. I look at my face, enveloped by the wavy brown sheitel. The wig frames my narrow cheekbones; the pony masks my too high forehead. I turn my head from side to side and enjoy the swish of the silken mane. I look like any other young woman, young married woman.

“How much is this one?” I ask.

“Ah, you chose one of our best pieces. A hundred percent European hair, soft and silky. You have good taste”

Many would suck in their breath when she names the figure; I don’t. I’m prepared for the expense. I’ve been waiting for this day for years, too many years to count. Not in this way, no, my dreams were more fantastic, but this will have to do. …

“Don’t worry sweetie, you’ll have it in plenty of time for your wedding. It will be in Sivan yes, after Shavuos?”

Shavuos will be too late for my flight. I think quickly. “Lag BaOmer” I say “I’m getting married on Lag BaOmer, I’ll want to pick it up before that.”

“Ah, a short engagement” Ruchi the sheitel macher smiles. “No patience, ah.”

Who is she to speak of patience? She looks like a teenager still, and is obviously showing. She probably got married right after seminary.

“No, you could say my patience has run out.”

I look solemn as I speak, not as a blushing bride should be. Ruchi gives a nervous giggle.

What things does a married woman need?

Not much, it turns out, besides for a wig and a ring. …

I stride into the shul hall, confident in my favorite beige suit. My high heeled shoes match perfectly. When you’ve been in shidduchim as long as I have, you learn to put together a chic outfit. I’m no longer the shy seminary girl on her first date- some would say the change came too late, but at least I can enjoy it now, with no pitying glances. I lean forward to pour myself a drink, and stand twirling the cup in my hand, ever conscious of the new sheitel swaying at my shoulders. I’ve flown halfway around the globe to be able to wear it.

I not only covered my ponytail. I covered my lack, my loss. I’m not poor Ravi anymore. I’m Liora Avigail Cohen, a married woman. The name Ravi stuck with me since kindergarden, but finally I’m rid of it, and starting a new life with the new name. …

“Where’s your husband? Dovid you said his name was? Yitz has to meet him”, says Tziporah. The question I’ve been preparing for ever since I set this plan into action. This is the real test.

“He needs to sort out some stuff back home.” I say, keeping my voice casual. “Work stuff, you know… I came ahead to get the house ready.” …

This is the best decision I ever made.

Some of my life stayed the same. At work there are the familiar grey cubicles, and standard issue computers. The blinds are always down, and block the view outside. I could be back at headquarters, for all the difference it makes in the office. That’s global corporations for you.

And at home, well they were right, I do miss Abba and Ima, and my nieces and nephews popping in and out.

I chose an apartment that’s outside the Jewish neighborhood. I didn’t have a choice, I couldn’t risk surprise visitors, and had to make sure no one could see who exactly is -or rather is not- coming and going. Sometimes the loneliness hits me in a wave.

But when I go out- to the Neshei play, the Chinese auction, the Simchas, every Shabbos at Shul- I live for those times.

Because finally I’m part of it, part of the community. …

The door bangs shut behind me. “I’m home.” I call out. I know there’s nobody to hear me, but I speak anyway, in my new nighttime ritual.

I drop my purse on the floor, kick off my shoes. The apartment is a mess, but who cares? I take off my Shaitel and carefully place it on the foam head. I stare at myself in the mirror, no costume now, just my familiar frizzy ponytail.

If only there really was a Dovid. If only I really did have a husband.

How long can I last here, before they get suspicious? How long can I claim my husband is away for business, or sick, or davening in the local shtiebel? When is Shoshy what’s-her-name going to call our old friends from Camp Ditza, and do the “guess-who-I-bumped-into” routine, and discover that Ravi never did get married, such a sad story.

I’ll stay as long as I can, and then I’ll move, take off, disappear. Maybe I’ll try again, somewhere else, somewhere further away. Maybe I’ll have to go back, to my old life.

But whatever happens now, I know one thing. It was worth it. For this short, wonderful period, I belonged.

I have no idea how often, if ever, women have actually acted out this sort of fantasy, but the possibility is seriously considered by the Poskim, who suggest that for this reason (among others), a woman’s head covering may not be a definitive, unequivocal declaration of her marital status:

ואי משום דק”ל הוחזקה נדה בשכינותיה בלבישת בגדים לא מהני אמתלא .. וי”ל הוא הדין הכא נמי זו … ה”ל (בהוחזקה) [כהוחזקה] נדה

די”ל כמ”ש בתירוץ הרשב”א דלעשות מעשה כולי האי ללבוש בגדי נדות אין אשה עושה כלל וי”ל היינו משום דאין אשה מנוולת עצמה בהם כי מאוסים ומגונים וטמאים הן בעיניה מה שאין כן לצנוף מצנפת כדרך הנשים לפעמים גם בתולות מכסין ראשם מפני כיעור ראשם בשחין וכה”ג י”ל דמהני אמתלא …1

אכן בתשובת חות יאיר .. מבואר שדעתו דכיסוי הראש לא מיחשב מעשה כולי האי כמו לבישת בגדי נדות … לפעמים גם בתולות מכסין ראשן מפני כיעור ראשן בשחין וכהאי גוונא [רצונו לומר, כגון שבאה בשנים ובושה לילך כבתולה, עיין בתשובת בית אפרים …]2

The referenced Beis Efraim is actually discussing a man who claimed that he had lied in his long-maintained claim of being married, out of shame in his “older single” status:

[איש] אחד שהיה מתגורר שם בערך י”ב שנה ונשתדך עם בתולה אחת והוגד לכ”ת שזה האיש הגיד לפני כמה אנשים שיש לו אשה ובת אחת והחזיק בדבריו זמן רב ועתה בא האיש לכ”ת והגיד לפניו ששקר ענה ומעולם לא היה לו אשה רק מחמת הבושה שכבר בא בימים בן שלשים שנה ועדיין הוא פנוי ומחמת כן אמר שיש לו אשה …3

  1. שו”ת חות יאיר (לעמבערג תרנ”ו) סימן קל”ח עמוד סט. – קשר, הובא בפתחי תשובה אה”ע סימן קנ”ב ס”ק ו []
  2. פתחי תשובה שם []
  3. שו”ת בית אפרים (לעמברג תקע”ח) אה”ע ריש סימן א’ – קשר, הובא בפתחי תשובה שם סימן א’ ס”ק י”ד []
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