Bad Hair Day

A well-known football coach, disappointed with the players his team’s management had given him, once declared that “If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries.” The Curmudgeon cooks the dinners in his family, so responsibility for food shopping falls to him as well. With Columbus Day off from work he decided to take advantage of what he hoped would be the supermarket’s off-peak hours and shop on Monday afternoon.

This supermarket is in an interesting area. Within just a few miles of it are some of the most expensive and high-income towns in The Curmudgeon’s part of New Jersey and also some of the poorest, including Camden, which makes pretty much everyone’s list of the five most dangerous cities in the country. The result is a pretty interesting mix of people pushing carts in search of Tastykakes, Eggos, and Pink Lady apples. Among them are relatively high-income stay-at-home (and impossibly slender) moms, plenty of professionals of all races, and an interesting mix of white folks, African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, and Indians. Part of this mix, because the supermarket is located near a town with a large Jewish community, is a fair number of orthodox Jews who come to shop at the store’s large kosher section.

You can spot one of the orthodox Jews a mile away. The men always wear the kind of pants you haven’t seen since your grandfather wore them, skullcaps (often referred to as yarmulkes or kippahs), and sometimes, little fringes spilling out from the area where their pants meet their shirts; those shirts never stay tucked in the way shirts should.

The women are distinguished by a couple of characteristics. They always wear longish skirts; you won’t catch one in pants. Because orthodox Jews reproduce at a rate comparable to stereotypical Catholics of the past, they often have more than one child along with them. You may not be aware that Jewish women, like Jewish men, are required to keep their heads covered at all times. Some wear a kerchief or a scarf, variously referred to as a sheitel or a tichel, while others wear wigs. The Curmudgeon recalls, many years ago, joining his then-girlfriend to spend Passover with her sister’s family in Maryland. The girlfriend wasn’t observant at all but her sister’s family was what they call “modern orthodox” – don’t ask – and as we approached the synagogue, the girlfriend turned to The Curmudgeon and said “Take a look at my hair. It’s the last human hair you’re going to see on a woman’s head for the next two hours.”

And she was right: some of the women wore their little kerchiefs and some wore wigs.

And not good wigs, either. This was in a middle/upper-middle class community, modern orthodox are not nearly as divorced from regular society as their orthodox brethren, and these women wore wigs almost all of the time, so you’d think they would have put a little thought and a little effort into finding wigs that looked good, even half decent – even that weren’t so painfully obviously wigs.

They didn’t. They were the kind of wigs that even a guy knew were wigs the moment he laid eyes on them.

And that was The Curmudgeon’s experience at the supermarket on Monday. The orthodox women were out in force, skirts a-flowing and kids a-towing, and you absolutely, positively knew they were wigs the moment you set eyes on them.

They were not good wigs. They were bad wigs.

Really bad wigs.

And as he saw them meandering with absolutely no sense of urgency through the supermarket he realized that he hadn’t seen so many bad hairdos on women since…

Well, since he watched the Grammys.





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