click here to jump to start of article
  • Torah Reading: Naso
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​

Jewfro Diaries

Jewfro Diaries

How I learned to love my crazy Jewish hair.


Everyone has a bad hair day.

Through a quirk of heredity (and several thousand years of Jewish in-breeding) I was doomed to a bad hair life.

It started hopefully enough. I was born bald. But soon, little spirals appeared, which quickly sprouted into Brillo. "I can't get a comb through it," chirped Mom-the-optimist. With visions of an aging Shirley Temple dancing in her head, she thought those coils could qualify me to sing On the Good Ship, Lollypop. But finally even she had to face it. Without the voice, the face, the talent, Shirley would've been just another kid with kink. In other words, me.

Through a quirk of heredity I was doomed to a bad hair life

In the 1920's, excessive curl was "allowed."

Given my mazel, I grew up in the fifties, where I'm sure the infamous "blacklisting" extended to any person "reported" to having a hint of "kink."

High school was worse. Any human who couldn't torture her hair into bangs and a bubble was relegated to "Jimmy-the-geek's" table in the lunchroom. I spent three years choking down my tuna next to one kid whose nose was like the Trevi fountain, two mouth dribblers, and five other similarly hair-challenged sisters: Marci and Miriam Cohen, Shana Marcus, Angela Palmieri, and Tawanda Washington. The school told us we needed two more to start a support "club."

So, I gathered up my pluck and tried. No. I mean I really really tried. If I add it up, I spent more time "trying" than I spent finding a husband, building a career, and working for world peace. I went through more gelt, and used more "weapons" in the Holy Hair War than the U.S. spent seeking WMDs.

I used way more effort "training" my locks, than training my brain. Was this to be my life's work?

GUIDANCE COUNSELOR: "So Marnie, in planning colleges, what job do you see yourself doing in five years?"
ME: "Umm ... Hair De-frizzer?"

Every week, my poor father asked me the same two questions. "What did you do this week in school?" and "What did you do with my toothpaste?!"

"Uh ... the fridge, daddy," I'd say. Why?

Because every week our medicine cabinet was exploding with yet new "stuff" -- "Frizz Zapper" "Out Curl Out!," "Tough On Tangles," "Fifty Minute Manager" and "Miracle Cure" containing ingredients like yak urine and rhinoceros placenta--not to mention blow dryers capable of hurling Toto back to Oz.

I went to hairdressers who clucked, gave me diagnoses that would make Dr. Kevorkian shudder, then lopped (or "layered") my tresses like a tumor, murmuring words like "hopeless," and "last resort."

I ripped-off empty beer cans from trash bins to use as rollers, ironed my locks ("cotton: high"), slept with enough barbed wire to keep illegal aliens from slipping through the entire Canadian border, applied chemicals, perfect for warfare (which caused half my frizz to decorate my sheets), and single-handedly turned the World of Wigs into a Fortune 500 company.

Until the barometer climbed to "five" and, like wayward macaroni "soldiers," my strands would break training, revolt, and go "Boing!"

Ah! But then came the glorious sixties and seventies!

But then came the glorious sixties and seventies!

We wore love beads, cried "Peace!" and we "corkscrew kids" marched with our African-American sisters and signed treaties with our tresses. Free at last!

Suddenly, my evil "Frizz" became the fashion. And it even had a name - A Jewfro!

Oh, the joy when our modern queen, Barbra, boinged back to "The Way (She) ‘Was'" at film's end,

My time had come! Hallelujah!

From "hair-challenged," I was "in," "trendy," "cool," And now, my old critics were saying in wonderment: "Is that natural ...?"

"Would I do this to myself on purpose?!" I replied, in shock. (Old neuroses die hard.)
"Do you know how lucky you are?" they added, launching into a blow-by-blow of all the fortunes and hours they spent on perms, hot rollers, "Curl Is Me" and "Limp No More" gels, mousses, and glop.
"Yes!" I thought. Now it's your turn to spray and shpritz! Your turn to get migraines from wiglets, and scalp burn that rivals Three Mile Island, so you can "look like everybody else!"

But, as with most things in life, the winds of change blew yet again.

Starting in the 1980s, mini skirts morphed back to sleek designer dresses, and Fros, to sleek designer tresses. (Even our Barbra went "straight.")

Well, I did have a 10-year ride, which, for us Jews, is a lifetime. What to do? Wait...I thought. Am I not the daughter of Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah? Bold, Brave, and Courageous? A unique blend of matzoh and chutzpah?!

Had my 10-year reprieve taught me nothing? That my kink, gave me quirk? My frizz, zest? My "coils," confidence?

Should I not be like the wandering Jew (the plant ... and us)? A hardy bloom that thrives and grows in shade or sun, is sometimes out of bounds, but wildly colorful, with strong roots -- and "beautiful" with just a little trim?

That was it! I donated my glops, gels, pastes, and sheep intestines to medical science, recycled my 2,000 beer cans, shredded my wigs, and, along with my Mega curling irons and Mazi blowers, shipped them to a very cold third world nation.

Now I stand short, loud, frizzy, and proud, singing the sixties showstopper "I Gotta Be Me" that became a hit for (who else?) Sammy Davis Jr.

After a battle that's lasted a lifetime, my Jewfro and I are now one.

DISCLAIMER: The author wishes to state that the above is not meant to imply that all Jews have frizz, or that only Jews have frizz. Nor is it meant to perpetuate any "stereotypes" of the Jewish people, as some studies suggest there is no ethnic truth to the stereotype. (But go tell that to half the Jewish girls I know, not to mention, Adam Sandler, Seth Rogan, Howard Stern, Gene Wilder, and Albert Einstein

HOLIDAY ALERT: Consider Marnie Winston-Macauley's, A Little Joy, A Little Oy 2009 Calendar, and Yiddishe Mamas: The Truth About the Jewish Mother."
Both can be found in find bookstores, Amazon, and other online outlets.

December 6, 2008

Give Tzedakah! Help create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.
The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 16

(16) Dreia, November 18, 2009 10:25 PM

I learned to love my Jewfro

I often go to African-American hair stylists and use the products meant for that type of hair. It's the only thing that works.

(15) Katya, July 14, 2009 5:40 PM

Jewfros are awesome :)

I too have a Jewfro- and I love it :) I've been through some teasing, but all of my friends seem to have one type of hair- straight- and can't see to have it any other way, no matter if they curl it or not! :D

(14) Gillian, December 24, 2008 9:40 AM

Frizz is always beautiful

I have had naturally curly hair all my life and have always more problems with getting a decent cut to suit me than whether or not it was fashionable. I did spend a tortuous 6 months drying it into page boy slkek chic (yep, it took that long) so I gave up and decided that you have to like me for myself. It paid off as I have spent years washing & leaving it to the envy of all my friends. People now ask me where I get my hair done and wonder why I snigger. My brother had a better afro than the coloured boys in his class but finally decided that short was best. Love your hair, it's part of that rotten Jewish heritage together with the short height & plump proportions that nature dumped on us!

(13) Sarale, December 23, 2008 4:24 PM

Oh i ever soo relate!

I struggled with my hair for years till i resigned to flst ironing it! Now all is well!

(12) Anonymous, December 17, 2008 11:58 AM

empathy and suggestion

I can identify! But now - a wig covers it all and I get a Mitzvah too!

See All Comments

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.

  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment