This story is a conglomerate of accounts of an event that occurred in a bais Yaakov in upstate New York.
Our school focuses on tznius because tznius is the main tafkid of a woman before she’s married. We have assemblies and inspirational events about it all the time.
The problem is that sometimes it is hard to turn that inspiration into action. You go home wanting to change, but your closet is full of brand new, perfectly good clothing except that they’re too long or too short or too bright or too tight and it’s just overwhelming to contemplate a change.
One of our teachers said, “You don’t have to throw out your whole wardrobe. Just, whenever you buy something new, make sure it matches how you want to be seen.”
Another teacher said, “Whenever you buy something new, think how you’ll feel if you meet the principal while you’re wearing it.”
Slow change isn’t always the right route, though. Sometimes you need to make a big break with the way you usually do things. Going home and feeling inspired and then being too busy and distracted to do anything just isn’t good enough.
That’s probably why my school decided to give us the opportunity to act on our inspiration immediately—and by doing so, inspire the rest of the school even more so to follow the leaders.
The assembly was about hair. Hair is a woman’s crowning glory—that’s why a married woman has to cover hers. Its correct to keep your hair neat and attractive, but it should be attractive and not attracting. It’s too easy to for girls to get carried away beautifying their hair, and slip into the untznius zone.
A bas Yisroel should never wear her hair loose if it’s below her shoulders. And shorter than that is better, but not too short, or you risk looking unrefined again.
After emphasizing the importance of making sure nobody is nichshal because of your hair, our teacher offered us the unique opportunity to act right now and get a brand new, completely free, completely tznius, haircut. They had brought in a sheitel macher special; she was rearranging her tools in the front of the room.
There was dead silence as everyone looked at everyone else. Getting your hair cut by a complete stranger (not at your preferred salon) while a hundred of your fellow students looked on… well, it’s just a little awkward, you know?
But somebody had to do it. The principal was waiting. The teachers were waiting. The sheitel macher was waiting, smiling a polite and increasingly strained smile.
Somebody had to do it.
You could feel the pressure mounting. We all looked at each other, wordlessly daring each other to be the one. The teachers pressured us too. You could see their gazes zooming in on the students whose hair they longed to cut, and when that didn’t get a reaction, switching to the students they could count on to help them—the good girls they could count on to be a Nachshon and cool the bathwater for the rest of us.
Slowly, one student stood up and walked slowly to the front of the room. She got her hair cut while we all looked on and the teachers spoke about tznius. Two more girls followed. Their hair was cut.
It was short.
It worked, though. For the rest of the month, whenever I passed one of those girls in hall, I’d remember that speech about tznius hair, and how she’d acted right away to lock in the inspiration. I’d feel guilty and tell myself to schedule a haircut.
I never did, though.