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Sunday, November 21, 2004

Keeping the Yentes* at bay

Over the past few weeks it has been brought to my attention that the state of my youngest son’s hair has gone beyond normal acceptable tonsorial standards and on into that realm normally reserved for mad scientists.

I’ll accept part of the blame.

Being somewhat, um, challenged in the follicle department I was loath to lop off perfectly good hair just to satisfy a bunch of yentes. Besides, there is some aspect of ‘baby-ness’ that floats away with the curls of hair during that first haircut that can never be recaptrured. From that point on, no matter how you dress the kid or smear food on his face, that innocent ‘baby-ness’ will be but a receding image in life’s rear view mirror.

Zahava and I were not in any particular hurry for that to happen.

But I agree, his hair was starting to get out of hand. It was getting in his eyes… it was always full of food… and even when he was clean, his hair looked matted and tangled.

It was only a matter of time before people started coming up to us on the street demanding to know what we intended to do about our child’s hair! I’m not kidding about this, by the way. It is very common here in Israel for perfect strangers to tell you your child is dressed too warmly… not warmly enough… that you are not feeding them correctly… enough…too much… and countless other helpful suggestions on childrearing without which your child simply wouldn't survive! Such is life in a nation of Jewish mothers.

The one ‘out’ I might have been able to rely upon to keep the ‘yentes’ at arms length is the fact that many religious Jews have a tradition of waiting three years before giving a boy a haircut. Unfortunately for us, this is largely a Hassidic custom, and my wife and I don’t really dress the part.

So, before Shabbat I got out my trusty beard trimmer and Zahava held Yonah while I sheared him like a sheep. He was not the least bit happy to have this buzzing things making passes at his head and past his ears, and he really put up a pretty good fight.

It was actually weirdly reminiscent of my experience at the beginning of boot camp when they herded us all into the base barbershop. I can still remember the barber asking me if I wanted to hold on to my sideburns. I asked, “Really?! Can I?” He said, “Sure! Just cup your hand under your ear and you can catch them as I shave them off.”

Well, no such witty exchange took place between Yonah and his dad… but as the wisps of hair drifted down to the floor a startling transformation took place. Our baby floated away with the little brown curls, and in his place was left a tear streaked little boy. His appearance was made even more pitiful because his hair is not particularly thick. In fact, truth be told, it’s a little patchy.

The end result was actually eerily like a little boy in a DP camp, circa 1946. Maybe the striped outfit he was wearing added to the effect.

Anyway, without further ado… I give you Yonah:


And after:

Now with winter fast approaching, all we have to worry about are the yentes telling us he’s “dressed too warm”… “not warm enough”… “where’s his hat?”… “he needs a blanket”…

* yen·te (yĕn'tə)
n. Slang.

A person, especially a woman, who is meddlesome or gossipy.


Posted by David Bogner on November 21, 2004 | Permalink


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The haircut looks great! He's magically delicious. Our oldest is already 9. We enjoy him very much, but oh, how we miss his toddlerhood!

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Nov 21, 2004 6:20:51 AM

Looks like Yonah had a good cry between the before and after. Perhaps, like me, he knows what a tragedy it is to lose so much hair!

Posted by: Jim | Nov 21, 2004 9:27:19 AM

...and I really thought you'd give him three years [it was three, wasn't it], inlcuding clips and a tiny pony tail.
I can't help but say that I liked the 'before' state. But then, I've heard that an early first cut is important for strong, thick hair? Or is that another Yentes say?

Posted by: mademoiselle a. | Nov 21, 2004 12:47:06 PM

Aaah, eize motek. Are you sure he will be warm enough in winter? You know you really should have waited until spring, did nobody tell you so?

As young mother, I was simply AMAZED how difficult it was to get with my baby from our modest kibbutz home to the dining room. There was not a single female we met without a remark. As all of them had presented me with hand-knitted socks and hats for him there was no easy answer for Rochke's/Surke's/Cheyke's reproachful question: why doesn't he wear his little socks? It's cool you know! (August in Israel - socks are a MUST).

But then - I always enjoyed the good side of it. They care. People are very nice to children here. When I walk around ima avaza (ma mere l'oye) in Germany, people look at me with shock and pity. In Israel, four children is nothing special, it is just the proper thing. So let's take the yentishness in the deal.

*hm* I hope you kept a lock of his hair...?

Posted by: Lila | Nov 21, 2004 1:29:14 PM

Feeling defensive...one needn't look the part to have the tradition :-)

Posted by: shmiel | Nov 21, 2004 4:05:20 PM

eizeh chamood! David, he was cute before, he is cute now....... just wish shorter hair!

Posted by: Faye | Nov 21, 2004 6:28:54 PM

What a cutie!! Must admit I like the before picture better :-) But really, with eyes that gorgeous who'll notice the hair?

Posted by: Beth | Nov 21, 2004 9:26:22 PM

ptui, ptui, ptui, need I say more?

Posted by: shmiel | Nov 21, 2004 10:10:55 PM

Sorry, I like the before better. Much better. But he's still delicious.

All I can say is that I'm thankful I have a girl because she didn't get her first haircut until she was well past three.

The years up until that first haircut were a nightmare as she grew waist-length, fine, curly locks. Combined with a tender head, combing, brushing, or any manner of grooming was a nightmare, but I loved those ringlets.

And after that first haircut it was never the same (and frankly not much more managable--something we struggle with to this day and she's 8 1/2).

Posted by: betj | Nov 21, 2004 10:16:58 PM

Doctor Bean... We have a 9 & 10 year old too, and I can't remember what they were like at this age. No matter how hard I try to hold on to the memories of each stage, they all float away like Yonah's hair.

Jim... You have no idea (hmmm... thinking about your picture, maybe you do).

Mademoiselle a. ... I think that's a bubba meiser... but then I'm not sure how old I was when I got my first haircut. :-)

Lila... I'm not really complaining. I love that our kids can wander around town, safe under the watchful eyes of thousands of Jewish mothers (and fathers). And yes, Zahava collected a nice little bag full of curls.

Shmiel... Ah, but you sound the part! :-)

Faye... Now that I've had a couple of days to adjust, his 'before' picture looks strange! Go figure.

Beth... Yes, both Yonah and Ariella have the same big beautiful eye shape as their mother. Gilad has my 'sleepy' eyes.

Shmiel (or is it VV this time)... Yes, you can also say kenaynahara! :-)

Beth A. ... Wow, Zoe must have had really fast-growing hair! Ariella also has the whole grooming issues, but a good conditioner goes a long way towards keeping the tears to a minimum. Also, she has a goal each time she grows out her hair; When it reaches the proper length (I think it's 12 or 14 inches) she donates it to 'Locks of Love' a charity that makes wigs for kids with cancer. This way every few years we all get a break from the long hair nightmare and Ariella gets to feel really good about it.

Posted by: David | Nov 21, 2004 10:31:04 PM

Wow, look at those huge eyes. And those eyelashes!

I love the curls, but I like the haircut, too. And it does grow, you know...

(No fair taking the picture with his mouth open, so his little baby cheeks don't pooch out, but the way.)

Posted by: Tanya | Nov 21, 2004 11:47:09 PM

He is a cute kid, must take after Zahava. ;)

Posted by: Jack | Nov 22, 2004 12:44:56 AM

Zoe's last haircut was at the end of the last school year and her ponytail, too, went off to Locks of Love.

And yes, we're all about conditioner, leave in conditioner, and spray in detangler. What worked best was brushing it after washing it and then putting it in a braid before she went to sleep.

Now that Zoe's is in the 4th grade she's all about grooming and actually brushes her own hair, fairly effectively too I might add. Her hair, like mine, grows very quickly but I'm letting her keep it long-ish now since she's gotten better about taking care of it, and the daily reminders to brush it are not an issue anymore.

Posted by: beth | Nov 22, 2004 6:08:29 AM

Tanya... I have to admit that the kids get their long eyelashes from their father. It's really strange, but I have much longer lashes than my wife! [shrugs]

Jack... No argument there... I've been thanking G-d for years that the kids favor their mother. :-)

Beth A. ... Why am I not surprised. We can both be quite proud of our daughters that they do this wonderful 'hesed' (kindness). It also tends to put some of the 'grooming tears' into perspective.

Posted by: David | Nov 22, 2004 9:59:50 AM

I had the same problem with my son....but he's 15. His hair was ridiculously long and he didn't want to cut it. (I think it had something to do with the fact that the chicks dug it). I was surprised that the Menahel of his (all boys) Yeshiva would go for it but I guess he decided to pick his battles (also, it could have something to do with the fact that my son is the best hockey player on JV).

Anyway, he finally agreed to have it cut. The chicks still dig him.

Posted by: MO Chassid | Nov 22, 2004 8:18:49 PM

MO... Hockey = long hair & no teeth :-) I hope he wears his helmet and face guard.

Posted by: David | Nov 23, 2004 9:18:23 AM

He looks more and more like Gili!

Posted by: Chavi | Nov 23, 2004 9:05:30 PM

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