What Happened When I Started Covering My Head

Wrapping invites new conversations and new friends!

I started covering my head full-time in public in April 2019.

Here in Dubai, it’s not uncommon to see a woman covering–but to see an American girl cover who’s not also Muslim is a bit of an anomaly.

Most people think I’m either crazy. Or from Lebanon. Or from Persia.

All incorrect guesses–except for the first one!

Seriously though, the West has such a negative perception of head covering. Women who cover must be misguided. Or oppressed by the men in their lives. Or at odds with their sexuality in some way.

All three of these answers can be true, of course. Every case is individual. But in a great many cases, as I’ve learned, women actually feel called to cover themselves. Some like the look. Others have a religious or spiritual motivation. Still others simply feel more feminine, beautiful and protected when they cover.

In fact, covering can be a symbol of feminine power, as much as (or more than) choosing to show off everything you’ve got. Choosing how much of yourself to show is a form of control that every woman can exercise.

As I’ve discovered, it’s liberating in so many ways I never expected.

But that’s not the story I promised you ….

So back in the fall of last year, my friend Rose got excited about head wrapping when we met a beautiful Ugandan girl, Cortride, who wears amazing headgear. We got Cortride to teach us a few styles–and we talked about wearing them out.

Cortride wraps Rose’s head for the first time

Somewhere in the spring of this year, Rose and I actually started wearing those wraps. She bought a few scarves on clearance at Global Village for us to trade back and forth.

And so the obsession began.

At first covering, for me, was more of a fashion statement. I liked have the extra splash of color on my head, and it made me feel feminine–especially after I shaved my head again to deal with the annoying effects of Dubai’s desalinated water on my scalp.

First-ever time covering when Rose and I went to an Italian restaurant in Dubai Marina

I also quickly discovered that wrapping my head kept me significantly warmer in the freezer of a corporate office I was working in at the time. When I wrapped my head, I almost didn’t need to wear a fuzzy sweater!

I had heard that covering your head keeps a lot of heat from escaping your body. Apparently it’s true.

As the weeks passed, and wrapping became a natural part of my day, I became more interested in the cultural roots of the practice. I was aware that in the U.S., some communities of women believe that wrapping belongs to them and their cultural tradition. For these women, anyone who “appropriates” wrapping (especially if she is a white woman) is considered quite offensive.

Obviously, I wanted to avoid wraps with overt religious or social connotations … but I was curious to know if wrapping was really off-limits, period, because of my skin color.

It turns out that nothing could be further from the truth.

My research revealed that wrapping in one form or another has been practiced in almost every cultural around the world!

“Girl With Pearl Earring” by Rembrandt

In fact, my own style of wraps have been frequently compared to the Rembrandt painting, Girl With Pearl Earring, which was painted in Europe in the 1560s.

Europe isn’t exactly a place we imagine women wrapping or covering their heads. But for centuries it was acceptable and even expected for women in certain classes of society throughout the continent!

Search across Africa, South America, Asia and the South Pacific and you’ll find the same thing.

If you’d like to know more about this phenomenon, Naomi Ruth from Wrapunzel has an amazing video detailing why wrapping is appropriate for women in every culture, for every reason:

During this time of research, I also read more on the Christian tradition of women wrapping or covering their heads–which was quite common for centuries after Christ but fell into disuse within this past century. Especially with the rise of the women’s liberation movement, which was eager to “throw off” constraints that smacked of enslaving women.

The correspondence between the drop of head covering among women (even fashion-driven kerchiefs!) really interested me. I don’t hide the fact that I’ve found more liberation by liberating myself from feminism rather than embracing it … so if bare heads are associated with that form of freedom, covering mine as an anti-feminist political statement was starting to look really good.

The more I read, the more curious I became. And the more I wondered if I might not be “called to cover” myself.

There are a few passages in the Christian Bible, in 1 Corinthians 11, which speak about a woman covering her head. However, the Apostle Paul appears to suggest there that a woman’s hair is enough covering for her. And most churches today don’t require women to cover, though some still teach on this practice. (For the record, my community here in Dubai does not teach this practice.)

I began to ask God about this practice, and what should be my relationship with it. And specifically, why I was so drawn to it now, at this time in my life.

His answer surprised me.

Around this same time, I had committed to God that I would leave my job here in Dubai and devote myself to whatever tasks He put in front of me next. I didn’t have a clear path on how I would retain my visa, or what the work would look like, but I committed to doing it.

It was now April. I was due to resign my job on the 18th and prepare to leave for my new life at the end of May.

As I explored my newfound interest in covering during this season, I considered the practice in the context of my new path.

It became abundantly clear to me that covering was, for me, a part of the new calling I was entering.

I was going to work for God. And He offered two terms of my new “employment.”

Number 1, that I would always do whatever He told me to, immediately and without delay. (Not just out of obedience, but because this would also be my path to radical blessing!)

And Number 2, that I would cover my body and my head in public–because it would help me present in a more acceptable way to the many people I would meet.

In retrospect, it makes perfect sense. I live in a part of the world where women still engage in conservative dress–and as a Western woman, it is easy for me to offend people with short hems, bare shoulders and a shaved head.

I agreed with God that I would do this for Him.

The further benefits became apparent almost immediately afterward.

I was instantly able to connect with and befriend women who might have looked at me askance on the street corner previously. Women started coming up to me in grocery stores and malls. People at church told me they saw me and immediately wanted to speak with me and/or pray with me (or be prayed for by me). Even in Italy, people treated me with extra deference–and in one town, I even rode a bus for free. (They probably thought I was a nun!)

Though I didn’t cover for any of these reasons initially, the wise plan of God became apparently right away. Plus, I began to truly enjoy wrapping each day–picking the scarf (or scarves) and accessories, designing the look and experimenting.

I told God that if I were going to cover … I wanted to have a crown! He graciously granted my request.

During my research period I stumbled across the amazing Wrapunzel community on Facebook: Jewish, Christian and Muslim women all wrapping together, along with women who wrap because of cancer and/or alopecia, or simply for fashion reasons.

The Wrapunzel YouTube channel has hundreds of amazing tutorials.

And the Wrapunzel store is a great place to purchase shapers (the special caps that help me create amazing looks under my wraps), high-quality scarves you won’t find anywhere else, and accessories too.

You can read more about “feminist reclaimings of headwrapping” here.

The journey to covering is not for everyone. In no way would I suggest it’s for all women or even suggest it’s mandated for all my Christian sisters. This has been a personal journey for me–and continues to be.

Which brings me back to those outmoded Western perceptions of head covering as some form of masculine control designed to suppress women.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt more liberated in my life than I did when I began covering my head.

And it’s not just me. I’ve heard so many women say that–across a spectrum of nationalities, experiences and rationales for the practice.

Your body is a treasure. It’s the temple of God. The choice to cover more of it can be just as empowering as the choice to show off portions of it.

In that sense, wrapping is like any other practice.

It’s will be what you choose to make of it.

I choose to enjoy my crown!

– – –

Are you wrapping or do you have an interest? Share your thoughts below!

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