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But then my beautiful daughter arrived one cold January evening. I continued to let my hair grow. I felt like a woman again, even if my hair went uncovered for only a few hours a day, in the safe confines of my own home. It felt too good to let it go.
Standing in front of the mirror after my meeting with the Va’ad Hatznius, I knew I had skirted the inevitable for too long. Within three minutes, my long auburn hair lay in a sad heap in the same sink as it had five years earlier. I cried onto my clipped hair, hot tears of frustration, anger and humiliation.
That night, my husband and I could barely sleep. The next morning, we decided to leave the community for good. We no longer felt capable of maintaining an extreme Hasidic lifestyle. We ached for a little freedom, for the leash around our necks to be loosened, for my hair to be left in its rightful place, to grow or show as I pleased.
It has been five years. Many lifestyle changes and adjustments later, I no longer cover my hair as many of my Orthodox peers do, and I am no longer capable of accepting, let alone understanding, the practice of forced head shaving, much less the threats and intimidation used to maintain it within the community. But I am grateful for the fact that this very last, most personal violation of mine led my husband and me to gather the strength to take control of our lives and to make decisions for ourselves, our children and for me — my own body.
Frimet Goldberger is a radio producer, documentarian, writer and full-time mother of two children. She is set to receive her Bachelor of Arts from Sarah Lawrence College in December.