My checking off the headcovering question on the matchmaker’s questionnaire made the search more interesting, but not necessarily more efficient.
As a Jew immersed in traditional observance, I was open to following the tradition of covering my hair when I married. To some women it seems to be a sacrifice, but to me it was a natural way to express my individuality. Two times in my life, I’d felt more comfortable covered than uncovered. When I periodically crossed the border into Mexico with my parents as a teenager, I had always felt fewer eyes upon me when my pale-lemon colored hair was hidden beneath a hat or scarf. Then in my 20’s, an illness took half of my hair as a temporary sacrifice, and I learned the joys of knotting scarfs into different configurations around my head. Some women like expressing beauty with jewelry attached to their ears or nose; I enjoyed the modest encirclement of colored fabric around my head.
The search for one’s soulmate is a balance of hishtadlus(effort) and bitachon (trust). A rabbi’s wife in San Francisco phoned me in San Diego to tell me about an innovative matchmaker’s questionnaire from Baltimore. For $20, I could make checkmarks on a survey that would be sent to each city in the United States and kept in the local rabbi’s office in a notebook, available only to the eyes of matchmakers working on behalf of marriage-minded Jewish men.
One of the questions asked whether I intended to cover my hair when married, so I checked “yes.” I also checked off that I did not drive on the Jewish Sabbath, but that I did eat vegetarian food (not necessarily under kosher supervision) when away from home. Perhaps I even said that I went to the beach and occasionally wore pants and owned a television. But what got the most attention when I received phone calls was that first check mark about covering my hair.
That checkmark meant that I had to explain to potential suitors that I did not intend to support a husband while he was in rabbinical school; that my adherence to one tradition did not necessarily mean that I adhered to every other tradition. Did I ever ask the men I met if they intended to cover their head only at home or also at work? It seemed like such a personal decision to me that I did not want to put someone on the spot. I came to realize that men find it easier to categorize the boundaries of women’s religious adherence instead of letting us explore for ourselves.
I knew I had met my soulmate when a man responded to me that we could explore life together as a team. Perhaps I would not have appreciated his helpful sincerity if I had not first encountered the more headstrong men.
Michelle Gross has four college and graduate degrees. She has worked as a computer scientist and is a mother to three boys.