November 18, 2019

The Jewish Tradition of Haircuts

Photo courtesy of Mark Schiff

There is a Jewish tradition called an upsherin, in which a Jewish boy gets his first haircut when he’s 3 years old. Afterward, friends and family gather at a party, tell him how good he looks and, of course, eat and eat and eat.

When my dog gets a haircut, everyone in my family compliments the dog. “Look how pretty you look.” “You’re so pretty.” They want to know where the dog gets her hair cut as if they’re considering going to the same place. But I get a haircut, no one comments or, if they do, it’s mostly negative. “Why did you cut it so short?” “It looks so uneven.”  

The truth is, the dog always gets a better haircut than me. The best explanation I have is that the person cutting a dog’s hair doesn’t have a conversation with the dog. They stay focused. They don’t ask the dog where she was born or how she keeps trim. When I get a haircut, I feel obligated to talk to my barber. I need to know if he’s going to tattoo the other side of his face or just leave it the way it is.  

I take my dog to a groomer, a word far classier than “barber.” When I pick up my dog, she always looks happy and relaxed. So, I dropped off my dog at home and walked the five blocks back to the groomer. I said, “Do you have time to give another haircut?” She said that her 3:30 just canceled and that she had an hour. “Where’s the dog?” I said, “No dog. It’s me. I want you to cut my hair. I want to compare the haircut you give to one my barber gives.”

She smiled and said she would do it as long as she didn’t have to give me a bath or express my anal glands. I agreed and said, “Most importantly, I want you to treat me like I’m any old Schnauzer. No special treatment just because I have two legs and know how to use a fork. That means no questions.”
She gave me the thumbs up and then scratched me under my chin. I reached into my bag and pulled out my morning cereal bowl and asked her to fill it with water in case I got thirsty. “Let’s do it,” she said. 

I was about to climb up on the table she uses for dogs but she screamed, “No!” Then, “No. No table. Down, boy.” I quickly backed off and hung my head in shame. I was beginning to really like this woman. She then lifted me onto the table like I was a 200-pound English mastiff and put me on all fours. She fastened a leather collar around my neck so I couldn’t jump off the table. 

“The dog always gets a better haircut than me.”

First, she checked me for fleas, pinching something off my neck and smacking it dead on the table. I guess that was her little flea joke. The whole haircut took about 30 minutes. She then finished the job, using a stiff boar’s-head bristle brush that brought blood to parts of my scalp where there hadn’t been any blood for decades. 

During the haircut, she didn’t say one word to me, just kept shearing, snipping and petting my head. Shearing, snipping and petting while whistling various Army, Navy and Marine tunes. Except for having to stay in the all-fours position for 30 minutes, it was by far the most relaxing haircut of my life. I loved every minute of it. The only drawback was that she didn’t have a mirror because dogs never want to see the back of their head like we do. 

Afterward, she texted my wife to pick me up. Ten minutes later, my wife walked in and before I could explain to her what went down, my wife looked at me and said, “You look so pretty. It’s nice and even.” I then jumped in the passenger seat of the car and hung my head out the window during the ride home. After I got home, I lay down on the floor and took a nap.

The next morning, I made an appointment with the groomer for next month.


Mark Schiff is a comedian, actor and writer.