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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Hi Sister,
This is a question rather than a comment so sorry it's in the wrong spot (I couldn't find the right spot but am not deterred!)
I'm a postulant (non-habit-wearing benedictine congregation) and, as I approach novitiate, am thinking about shaving my head. Can you tell me about why Sisters do/did that? and what do you reckon about me doing it? I'm a thoroughly modern girl and not sure where this impulse is coming from but am exploring the question.
Thanks heaps! Sarah
p.s. I am on a timeframe with novitiate 4ish months away... no pressure, but if you happen to get a chance I'd love an answer soonish! With gratitude and prayers for you & the community, Sarah

It wasn't so much that they shaved their heads, Sarah..although they may have. The gist of the no hair nun thing was that they chopped off all their hair. They often just chopped it any old which way, as short as they could and the reason was very simple.

Women back then didn't have a closet full of clothes and a pair of shoes to match each outfit. The average woman had maybe three dresses. That's why you see so many women wearing some sort of apron on top of whatever they were wearing, because the dress had to last. It wasn't very easy to wash the dress.

I know when you watch "Meet Me in St. Louis" it seems like Judy Garland has a different pretty colorful dress on every day....well, in fact she does....but it just wasn't really like that for the average woman until the turn of the century and the industrial age getting into full swing.

But we know that women from the dawn of time have been interested in looking smart. Is that too archaic a word for us today? Looking sharp, looking good, showing off the old assests.

So what does a women with one dress for everyday and a few aprons to keep it clean have to work with? What can she do to set herself apart to look attractive? Her hair. ( I think I have a picture somewhere of St. Therese the Little Flower's hair after it was shorn--a better word for what happens--because her father kept it because it was so beautiful. Yes, here it is.)

That's how cutting off all your hair in the most ghastly, freakish way with dull scissors became a way to show our humility before God, to give up the worldly. I don't mean it was a ghastly, freakish thing to do. I mean it was purposefully done in the most chopped up, lopped off fashion one could muster.

When you join the army and go off to boot camp, you have your head shaved. The reason for that is to prevent head lice. There is no other reason. But it does serve another purpose. It rather levels everyone, having the same bad haircut.

The same is true of nuns. Now we all enter the life of the convent with nothing to show off, all with the same atrocious hair cut. Glory Be!

I'm not sure why you'd actually want to shave your head, unless your entire head will be covered by a veil. If you're going for the short veil look, or the no veil deal, it's possible that your shaved head will have the opposite effect, drawing attention to yourself. It's possible people will think you're a Buddhist nun. Buddhist nuns shave their heads and keep them shaved. Oh wait! I see you mentioned it's a no veil thing. Well.....maybe you should start with a really bad hair cut. Sister St. Aloysius goes to Fantastic Sam's. Super Cuts is pretty terrible, too. What do you want for $6?

Not that you should concern yourself too much with what everyone thinks. There's your answer about why nuns have no hair. The rest is between you and God.


Sister Mary Martha said...

I apologize for the pictures and the print being so goofy. I don't have time to fuddle with it and the eigth grade boys are thousands of miles away.

Anonymous said...

your pictures/print are just fine, Sister! Apology is NOT in order.

I'm concerned about St. Therese's hair, though. Looks like she lost her head!

Anna B. said...

ST Therese shorn hair looks like a wig, beautiful but still looks like a wig.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if someone took the hair, after it was cut, and rearranged it so that it stayed so beautifull. I bet that that was how it was arranged for the profession that was like a wedding.

Sister, what is the item in that case that looks like a long maniple?

Sparki said...

A newish question for you, Sister, and I apologize if it's been asked before but I'm just too fumbling to find the answer:

I've been convinced to wear a veil at Mass & did so for the first time yesterday (and was happy to be at a Melkite Catholic Mass for a changed because almost all the women veil there...check with me after Mass next Sunday at our usual parish...)

Anyway, my question is, at what age do little girls start wearing veils to Mass? Is it their First Communion -- the pretty white bridal veil being their first one? Or earlier? Or when?

I have two daughters, ages 5 & 4. The 5-year-old always wears a hat that matches her outfit (she only has one church outfit, so that was easy). My 4-year-old liked my veil enough that I could probably convince her to wear one (or a hat), at least from time to time. I just want to know when to start.

Sister Mary Martha said...

Bernadette's hair was indeed arranged. It's her hair, not a wig, but was curled and arranged like this after her death.

As for the little girl hats. There's no rule. The age of reason, seven, is a good enough place to start. But I'd start as soon as the baby wouldn't rip the hat off her head repeatedly.

Anonymous said...

Careful! Supercuts is not that bad at all...and at least in our area, it costs more than double the six dollar fee you mentioned.