Ben Avuyah

Welcome to the Pardess.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Barber Shop Blues

“Going anywhere for the Fourth?”

His question fades in and out as the number five trimmer shears the hair above my left ear.

“No. Not me. I never travel on American Holidays”, I say speaking too loudly over the buzzing in my ear, “the traffic is a killer.”

“What do you mean… American?”

“Uh, as opposed to Jewish Holidays, like Passover, you know, only one percent of the population clogging the highways.”

He stands behind me and puts a finger on each sideburn, carefully gauging his measurement in the mirror.

“Are you orthodox?”

Christ! There’s a good question. Now it’s my turn to stare at myself in the mirror. What do I give him…the truth?
The lie?
Something in between?

Who the hell are you Ben Avuyah ?

“I was born orthodox, but the older I get… the less I believe…”

He actually stops trimming for a second and expresses real concern, asking in a soft lisping voice, “Does anyone know? What about your wife?”

“Yeah, she knows, and now you make four people that do”, I tell him, “So you’ll have to keep my secret.”

I see him smiling in the mirror, “ I guess you can’t be that orthodox, you weren’t here on holy haircut day.”

The trimmer starts again,


“Yeah. That day when all the orthodox people get their hair cut”, he pauses with a hand on his hip, “you know, it’s like some kind of big emergency or something.”

“Oh.... Log B’amoer.”

“Well Gods gotta be bigger than that for me. Bigger than light switches and haircuts and special food.”

And now here it comes, my mistake, my whopper of all whoppers. Listen closely or you’ll miss it.

“Why, what religion are you?”

It was an innocent question, Damn it.

How was I to know?



“You know…Holly rollers”, he steps back in agitation at my ignorance and fumbles to pick up the scissors, “like dancing all over the church in prophetic revelation…”


He is slapping the scissors in the palm of his hand.

“Ohh. If I sneezed in church, my father…”

He is starting to cut again and is pulling a little too hard on my hair.

“…would beat the tar out of me to get the devil out.”

“No way.”

I thought I said it with the appropriate sarcastic inflection.

“Oh yes way”, his voice is choked with emotion and the scissors are moving faster now.

Snip snip snip snip snip snip snip snip snip snip.

Hair is flying off my head at an alarming rate. Oh no….is that a bit of scalp I see?

“After my father died, my brother didn’t talk to me for six years.”

His voice starts to crack, “and when I wanted to arrive at his wedding with my boyfriend, he told me not to come.”
“That’s terrible!” I tell him desperately trying to think of a way to change the topic while a few precious strands of hair still remain, “ How could anyone be so cruel to their own family…Err…I don’t see my family much either, most of them live in Israel.”

Snip snip snip snip snip snip snip snip snip snip

I am surrounded by a blizzard of my own hair. It is coming off in chunks and tufts now. I watch in the mirror as it languidly flutters to the floor around me.

Fueled by anti religious ire, my hair stylist seems to have entered a state of Zen oneness with his craft, and I, for my part, am being sheered like a sheep.

“Israel!” it’s almost a shriek, “You know all the clergy stopped killing each other over there just long enough to join forces and outlaw the gay parade!”

The scissors are a blur and like the blades of a helicopter I see only a smeared vestige of their motion. They cut through my dusky locks like so much foliage.

Paranoia sets in as the clippers resonate by my ear like a hummingbirds wings.

Despite recent atheistic leanings I mumble a prayer in ye old English.

O spiteful, spiteful, lord that art in heaven. O vengeful master. O mighty wielder of disease and all things itchy. Yea, Surely this day you have smitten the hair upon my head in great wrath, and somewhat tepid fury. But if it please the, O great one, spare now my ear lobes from thy avenging scissors of retribution. If not for my sake, O Lord, then for the sake of the children….yes, my lord…for the children.

“I know, it’s awful,” I reply honestly whishing I had a witty political anecdote up my sleeve to diffuse the situation.

Scissors moving faster.

Must.. change… subject.. but….can’t…the need to speak…heresy…too strong….

Hair be damned I state my piece.

“It really shows you what organized religion is all about, control! Control over a population that has lost the ability to think for itself.”

Scissors reaching speed of sound and beyond.

“Exactly”, he says lips pursed with the energy he is applying to deflate my formerly abundant head of hair, “ all their wars pale in comparison to them, to what would happen if people started to realize how silly their laws are, for then they would loose power. Imams and Rabbi’s are willing to unite to prevent that.”

And then as quickly as it began it was over. Due to pure lack of substrate my haircut had come to an abrupt end.

“Yes,” he agreed, almost in a sigh of release at finishing the cut, “control is at the heart of it all.”

Well I’m so happy that was cathartic for you Mr. Haircut man, but now I’m balder than my dad at age 62!

We both stare silently dumbfounded at me in the mirror in front of us.

“Wow. I had no idea my ears were that big.”

He nods at me in the mirror, “it’s a great summer cut for you, it will really let the scalp breath.”

No Shit.

As we speak I am detecting air currents from down the hall with my de-feathered dome. Care for a barometry report? Cause I’m pretty sure I’m reading a cold front of nor easterlies heading our way.

He walks me over for shampoo of my peach fuzz, and as he lathers up the remnants of my former vanity, I ask him, “ do you think organized religion will ever wither away? You know, kind of like the security blanket of early childhood that we all eventually get tired of.”

He’s rubbing something minty onto my head, and I’m hoping it’s got a chemical in it that grows back hair, “not as long as there are unknowns,” he says. “As long as there are uncertainties people will need something to believe in. A place were there can feel their loved ones will go after they die.”

“Belief for reasons of consolation?”

“I’m afraid so.”

I paid my tip (begrudgingly) and walked to my car and realized I had a more in depth conversation with my barber than anyone in my “religious community.”

I liked his sermon more than my Rabbi’s and he had just scalped me as bald as Mr. Cherokee did farmer John.

As I cranked the ignition I angled the mirror to look at my buzz.

Ohhh. For love of Pete !!!

Note to self: Next haircut….talk about the weather.


At 12:10 AM, Blogger The Rabbi's Kid said...


can you really not talk to ANYONE?

At 5:18 AM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Thank you for your comments, Rabbi's Kid

In real life I talk to very few people, but on the blogoshpere I can talk to anyone, occasionally even the progeny of one of our prestigious rabbinate. :-)

At 7:01 AM, Blogger Mis-nagid said...

Awed. What a post.

At 8:38 AM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Thanks Mis-Nagid !!!

At 9:28 AM, Blogger Avi said...

So here is my question for you. You said that as you get older you get less religious, and that your wife knows about it. Is she getting less religious along with you?

At 9:53 AM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Hello Avi,
Thanks for commenting, and in answer to your question….Yes !

At 10:43 AM, Blogger Avi said...

Ben, you are very lucky. At least you wife is in harmony with what you want your life to be. The less religious I become, the more religious my wife becomes. Of course it's understandable, her entire family is Frum. And I do mean Frum. We dont talk about religion much, because it leads to strife. We stick to parva topics, which works out well.

At 11:44 AM, Blogger Orthoprax said...


That was a great post.

At 12:08 PM, Blogger Enigma4U said...


Awesome post! Like a lot of great writing, yours was a blend of funny and sad, bitter and sweet. Here's wishing your existential problems resolve as easily as your hair issues.

At 12:43 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

Ok, after reading your blog I have given you an official link on mine. Great writing!

At 1:12 PM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Orthoprax and Enigma, thank you so much for your generous comments and praise, I really appreciate them, and I am thrilled that my post may have brought a smile to your faces during a tough day at work.

As for myself, I keep on thinking I hear people snickering as I walk by, perhaps I'm just overly sensitive about my new do, but occasional glances in the mirror tell me there is what to laugh about.
Anyone have segulos for hair growth ??

And thank you for the link, Orthoprax, I will return the favor as soon as I figure out how to.

At 4:39 PM, Blogger Avi said...

As for myself, I keep on thinking I hear people snickering as I walk by, perhaps I'm just over sensitiveabout my new

Of course they are snickering Ben, I am surprised that they are not laughing out loud. All that hair the barber took off, you must be practically bald. Dont worry it will grow back and you will look fine.

At 10:11 PM, Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

Great story, thanks. :)

I always get a kick out of throwing out some obscure knowledge only a former yeshiva bochur would know when I meet someone frum and they have no idea I used to be Orthodox.

The best ones are when I can jump into a conversation and say, "Oh I went to that yeshiva, too!" although such opportunities are understandably rare.

At 8:53 PM, Blogger Avi said...

Avi said... What a difficult heading I picked. "Only the truth" Do you realize how difficult it is to dig out the truth from the mountain of lies that the truth is buried underneath. I read the comments on President George Bush. They call him a liar. So what? Bill Clinton was also a liar " I did not have sex with that woman" Does anybody tell the truth anymore. I know a rabbi ( no names mentioned) who does not know what the word truth is. Thats ok, there are plenty of preists who also dont know what truth means. One of the names of God is " Emes" which means truth. That is probably the ultimate truth. That there is a God . The world belongs to someone. The world has an owner.

At 7:16 AM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Hi JA,

I see you like shock value in conversation... I sometimes indulge in that too.

At 11:00 PM, Blogger Balabusta in Blue Jeans said...

Oh. Good heavens. I was going to get a haircut tomorrow. Now I'm afraid.

I was laughing so hard I had to take a break from the post.

At 5:46 AM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Hi B in B,
I am glad you enjoyed.

At 8:27 AM, Blogger RabBipolar said...

Hilarious. I got that very same haircut (also by accident) a few days before your post (which happened to be on my birthday). Truth be told, I actually like the new military look...

At 2:11 PM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Hi RabBipolar,

Or should I just say, "Sir, Yes Sir."

At 4:19 PM, Blogger Editor Choice said...

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