hair · Hispanics/Latinos · jews of color · Jews/Jewish/Judaism/Orthodox Judaism

Going to the mikvah with your "nappy" hair…

Okay, so it’s totally immodest to talk about going to the mikvah. Like, ever. I know. But I’m doing it anyway. So get over it.

17 thoughts on “Going to the mikvah with your "nappy" hair…

  1. no way! They can't be that invasive/insensitive. Around here they check to make sure no stray lose hairs are stuck to your back and maybe if your feet and hand are clean. I would freak if they were so in my face (it took me years to come to terms with going to the mikvah, based on childhood experiences. now I'm cool with it)



  2. You know, every time I hear other people's reactions to your hair, I'm still amazed.

    Do these people live under a rock?

    I'll be the first to admit that I'm not an expert in hair, and I've never heard of a person's hair growing and shrinking so dramatically based on wetness, etc. I've also never heard what it's personally like to have an afro, or cornrows, or dreadlocks, or mullets, or pony-tails, or any other style.

    My own family, our hair is simple. My father has curly hair, but he's mostly bald. My mother and brother and I, by contrast, all have straight hair, and cutting it is no major affair. My brother and I in fact just take a 1/4″ razor and shave everything off, without discrimination.

    (My mother used to have beautiful long rich brown hair, like the kind you see in hair product commercials, but ever since menopause, she says, her hair has been limp and scraggly, not to mention graying. Whereas she used to have her hair down to the bottom of her back, she now keeps it much shorter, saying she now understands why older women all have such short hair that doesn't go down much past the neck. She also says that it makes no sense for a post-menopausal woman to cover her hair; any man who is sexually attracted to her hair, she says, has major problems.

    I try to comfort her by telling her that she's like a fine aged wine; she then adds herself, “or like an aged stinky cheese”. She at least has a sense of humor about it. My old US Government and Politics teacher used to say that the AARP is an interest group for “oldER people, and my mother would add, “Yeah, older than dirt!” She even has a t-shirt proclaiming, “Older than dirt”. I also remember the first day of class with my 9th grade computer science teacher. She paced back and forth across the class, saying, “I am old. I am old. I am really old. I am so old that I was working with computers back before you could do anything with them.”)

    Nevertheless, even though my personal experience is only with straight hair, I've at least seen afros and cornrows and dreadlocks and the like. I at least have some conception that not everyone's hair is like mine.

    So what is with all these people you know? Is is that they're New Yorkers? Orthodox Jews? White Europeans? What is it about them, membership which demographic group is it, that makes them so?

    I'm flabbergasted by these people.


  3. Aaah! No conditioner! And the little black comb! My curly hair is screaming at the thought; I don't even use shampoo, or a comb for that matter. I'm sure that the shampoo that's used at the mikvah isn't a gentle, curly kind, either (can you bring your own shampoo too?).


  4. Of course not. If you're going to the mikvah, bring your own comb! And since you can't do conditioning shampoo, yeah, they only have the kind that sucks.

    In the good news, a rabbi told me I could use conditioner to detangle and them shampoo it out.


  5. First, this rocked something FIERCE.

    When we dipped La Bebe, we conditioned, and then washed out, because other wise, combing her out would have traumatized the poor toddler. Ugh. And we used our own combs.

    I've heard horrible experience re: white families taking their COC to the mikveh for conversion. Where the ML didn't understand that dark clean skin can appear “ashy”, fresh out of the shower or bath and is not dirty.


  6. Ruby, I've heard the same stories.

    I'll explain, there's supposed to be nothing between you and the mikvah waters–no conditioner in your hair and no cream on your skin.

    But plenty of the mikvah ladies (and the rabbis) don't know anything about kinky hair or as you pointed out, that dark skin gets “ashy” when it's not moisturized.

    I really appreciate when I can get in and out of the mikvah without getting awkward stares at my head and ensuing awkward questions.


  7. So, Schwarzmer Family, I listened in on her dipping the next girl, and I did hear the mikvah lady say, “Let me check your back for stray hairs.” Okay.

    But I didn't hear her ask to touch her hair to make sure there were no loose strands and I didn't hear her say, “Did you comb your hair?”


  8. Exactly. They aren't aware of what unmoisturized non-white skin looks like, so the parents got grief as they tried to explain that what they saw was just the normal appearance. It's sad, really.

    Ah, conversion/mikvah fun.

    Now, with La Bebe, they trusted that we knew best how to cope with combing her hair and didn't check her before dipping (but I probably would have decked anyone who touched my baby) since they knew that we knew the hows and whys. This was with long curly hair that is very mildly textured.


  9. I always use my own shampoo, comb, everything even if the mikvah provides.

    I had one mikvah lady who kept pulling at bits of my hair thinking it was loose because it was a different length since curly hair isn't uniform and when it's wet some bits are tighter than others. 😛 But besides her, Thank G-d I haven't had too many experiences like that.

    My nightmare is when I have to go on Shabbos or Yom Tov when some time has passed between bathing and dipping. Just enough time for my hair to snarl itself. Back when my hair was longer my solution was lots and lots of pony tails with holders spaced all the way down to keep it under control. Never gone motzei shabbos/YT, don't even want to think about what it would be like after it was slept on.


  10. Totally agree with Mikewind Dale – absolutely bizarre! While my hair isn't quite as curly as yours, it easily takes the most time & hassle to sort out before and after, (and yes, I take all my own stuff with me). I would be furious if I got questioned like this all the time!

    BTW, I've never heard the word “nappy” used for hair – in the UK, it has the same meaning as the US “diaper”! Maybe I'm too sheltered after all…

    Dinky Londoner


  11. I think a lot of the questions are born out of ignorance. These mikvah ladies either aren't seeing too many people with hair like mine or don't know anything about hair like mine or both. But are they really so ignorant that they don't know that curls don't get combed out of your hair or that curly hair doesn't lie flat even when wet?

    It isn't mikvah ladies that are ignorant. A Newsweek editor has repeatedly attacked Zahara Jolie-Pitt (daughter of Angelie Jolie and Brad Pitt) for having “unkempt” hair that obviously hasn't been “combed.” Yet, all the photos show that the child's hair is well-maintained and healthy…it's just natural and the editor finds that offensive.


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