May 19, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Bereishit 27:18-24

It was Claire’s first day at Supercuts, and she was very excited. She had been working toward this for a long time. First she had honed her hair-styling skills on dogs. She had trained at the Central Bark Academy of Pet Grooming* and graduated first in her class. But trimming dogs just didn’t do it for her. So, after saving her money for months and clipping a lot of pooches, she enrolled at the Parisian Beauty Academy in downtown Hackensack. She studied hard and excelled at all the skills of a first-rate beautician. Now she was ready for the big time: people.

Her first day had been going well. She did auburn highlights on a refined older woman without a hitch. She trimmed the bangs of a cute little boy with tight blonde curls. She even gave a perm to a very discerning teenager from Woodcliff Lake. The tips were piling up, and everything was hunky dory.

When Ethan walked into her Supercuts she knew he was meant for her. He had a big, red afro. It had bounce. It had texture. It was perfect. Cutting his hair would be just like grooming a poodle. Although Supercuts had a first-come, first-served policy for customers, Claire prayed that she would get him at her styling station. They even made eye contact when he was sitting out in the waiting area, reading Sports Illustrated, if only for a moment. She raced to finish a buzz cut on a distinguished-looking 40-ish businessman so she would be next on line for a customer, and sure enough, Ethan sauntered into her chair.

“I just want a light trim,” Ethan said. “You know, a little off the top.”

“No problem,” Claire said. “You have marvelous hair.”

“Uhuh. Whatever.”

Anyone else might have gone with a comb and scissors, but with Claire’s dog-grooming experience, she decided to use the electric trimmer. Just a light touch here and there, and Ethan would have a great look. It would be her crowning achievement. Small patches of red hair were flying onto the drop cloth Claire had spread over Ethan’s clothing. She was having the time of her life.

If only Donna hadn’t come over to borrow her curling iron. Claire only turned for a second, but the damage was done. If she could do it all over again, Claire would have turned off the trimmer before she turned toward Donna. But now it was too late.

“Oops.”

A long stretch of scalp was visible up the back of Ethan’s head. It was like the parting of a red sea (sorry about that). There was no way to comb it over and no easy patch for this hairy crisis.

Ethan rarely got his hair cut. Everyone in his family had frizzy red hair, but most of them tried to tame it. His mother kept hers short and neat, his sister Shani braided hers, and his brother Michael kept his close cropped. His father only wished he could still worry about what to do with his hair, or as Ethan liked to say, both his hairs.

Ethan liked to let his hair run wild. He had a big, red afro that he liked to call his eraser head. It was somewhere between stylish and fright wig. But it made him happy, and it set him apart from his brother, who was a year older and looked a lot like him. Michael was more straight-laced and Ethan was more loose. His parents didn’t seem to care, so he just let it all hang out.

Feeling slightly shaggier than usual, Ethan went to Supercuts for a light trim. One of the haircutters kept looking at him like she knew him, but he ignored her and kept his face in his magazine. When his name was called, it turned out that the girl who had been staring at him was his stylist. She seemed a bit overexcited, but he didn’t care. Trimming an afro was not exactly brain surgery. Ethan had never seen anyone use clippers on his hair before, but he was sure it would be fine.

“Oops.”

He had felt the trimmer on his neck, but didn’t think much of it until the entire staff of Supercuts started collecting behind his chair.

“I, I, I’m so sorry,” Claire blurted out.

“Uhoh. Somebody get me a mirror.”

The damage was extensive. After a consultation among the stylists, it was decided that the ‘fro had to go. Claire shaved off the whole thing. It formed a massive pile of shavings on the floor, like a cotton candy machine had exploded in the store. Ethan was left with a red head of peach fuzz.

Ethan stalked out of Supercuts in a glum mood. On the bright side, at least they hadn’t charged him for the haircut. Still, he did miss his hair.

To cheer him up, Ethan’s friends took him out for his favorite activity, a night of bowling at Bowla Bowla in Bergenfield. He would take out his aggressions on the bowling pins and blow off some steam. They started at 8 o’clock and planned to bowl just one game. Ethan had a 9 o’clock curfew at home, but he was bowling really well and kept convincing his friends to go for just one more game. Strike followed spare, and the time just flew. When it was all over, he had achieved a new high score of 160, but it was well past 10 o’clock. He knew he was in trouble.

Ethan tried to sneak into his parents’ house through the back door. He took off his shoes before entering and tiptoed through the kitchen and den in an attempt to make his way up the stairs undetected, but his father’s head shot up from the couch as Ethan passed. His father had fallen asleep watching television and now came upon this unexpected surprise. He reached for his glasses but couldn’t find them anywhere. He was practically blind without them.

He looked across the room at his son.

“Who is it?”

“It’s me,” Ethan sighed. There was no escape.

His father looked at the shape of the close-shaved head across the room. “Michael? What were you doing out so late?”

Ethan froze, uncertain what to say. “Um, I was bowling.”

“Bowling? That sounds more like your brother to me!”

“Yes, well, I’m full of surprises.”

“It appears so. You know the rules, Michael. You broke curfew, so you’re grounded for a week.”

Ethan didn’t know what to say. He knew the Yaakov and Esav story well enough to know that identity theft was a bad idea. He also knew that, as the story went, Yaakov was reluctant to steal the blessing under false pretenses, much as he was reluctant to avoid punishment just then, but it was so perfect. It was hard to pass this up. Still, when Esav found out later, there was hell to pay. Ethan knew that when Michael and his parents figured out his father’s mistake in the morning, he would pay the price, big time. But he’d had a bad day, he was bald and he was tired. He thought he finally understood how poor Yaakov must have felt, all those years ago.

“Dad, I love you.”

“I love you too, son. Go to sleep.”

Ethan went upstairs and climbed into bed, across the room from his sleeping brother.

“Michael?” he whispered.

No response.

“Michael?” a bit louder.

“What?” he muttered.

“You may not remember this in the morning, but I’m going to do all your chores for a whole week. No charge.”

“Whatever,” Michael said.

Ethan rolled over onto his side and clutched his pillow tightly. It had been a tough day, but at least for a few moments, he got to feel what it was like to be Yaakov Avinu, our forefather Jacob. It wasn’t half bad, not half bad at all.

* www.centralbark.com “Conveniently located in Littleton, Colorado.” Some things you just can’t make up.

By Larry Stiefel

 Larry Stiefel is a pediatrician at Tenafly Pediatrics.

 

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