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Max Roytenberg

Max Roytenberg: The Hair Cut

Max Roytenberg, October, 2013, Dublin.

Growing up in Winnipeg, I do not recall ever taking much interest in my appearance. I wore anything that came to hand. My history is replete with stories of myself in a state of apparent disrepair, clothes awry, shoe laces undone-the whole gamut. As for haircuts-delay as long as possible and then have it all off as short as possible to put off the next evil day as long as long as possible. There may have been some spasms of attention during my teen-age days, but that was soon put aside.

Now, many, many years later, here in Dublin, there is no way that I can escape the subject of what I look like. I am living in close proximity to someone who takes an interest in my appearance. After all, as she says, she has to look at me.

The truth is-it must be admitted-I had become rag-tag.  I have had to work to restrain the sideburns, trim the beard.  I wouldn’t dare to interfere with the course of nature on the rest of my head. I had been brought to seek expertise when my Bride, despairing of my appearance, had surreptitiously cut off my pony tail, and with further attacks on my integrity, left me in such a state of disarray that powerful outside help was called for. This was the precious work of an obscure establishment I had been brought to by a friend. He had assured me of the expertise. And he was right; I was entirely pleased with the end result. My friend was equipped with a vehicle- a life-long resident of Dublin knowing where everything is- but he seemed to have vanished into the landscape, I did not have the foggiest notion of where the shop was located. How was I going to carry out the maintenance work?

Let’s face it, after several months; I was again becoming untidy, actually shaggy. I could almost manage the affair by applying moisture and slicking down my hair, ignoring the errant curlicues. Fussing with my hair was becoming a time-consuming occupation. Normally, as I have reported, I do not give my appearance the merest thought. I throw on my clothes and go rushing out the door when I have chores to do. Now, with the urging of my Bride, I was checking myself in the mirror several times before departure. When I awoke in the morning I would find my hair piled up on top of my head like a Zulu warrior. I had to hurry to stand in front of the mirror and take corrective action so as not to frighten my Bride when she awoke from her slumbers in the morning.

There were compensations. Actually, I’m a poet and a writer, aren’t I? In spite of advancing age and a growing sparseness in the upper regions, I was actually looking leonine. We all know what real writers look like. They are hairy. The furious verbal activity going on in their heads must stimulate their hair follicles. It looked like I had finally reached that point. I was a writer and I had the hair to prove it. Wow! I was actually looking he part! One couldn’t ask for more, I was growing into my role. Here I was, a Writer among Writers, in the Land of  Writers, Ireland! Would I, with my flowing locks, now be looked on as a seer?

My Bride would have none of it; there was no patience for the apparition I had become. She was calling for immediate action. I reluctantly agreed to face this threat to my image.

 “But”, I said, imploringly, “You have to stand by and supervise.”

“Right, right,” she muttered dismissively.

We marched off directly to her hair dresser.

We entered the establishment. There was only one person in attendance, and the shop was deserted. There would be no waiting time.  I hesitated a second. The attendant was obviously from a place on this globe where English was not the native language, but I was ushered immediately into the chair for execution.

“I’ll just pop around the corner to pick up something. I’ll be right back,” said my Bride as she left me alone with this unknown person, a practitioner of the mysterious sartorial arts. What should I say? There was no one to protect me from my eminent literary persona being ravaged. My heart leaped into my throat.

“Not too short!” My strangled cry echoed in the air without response.

It took less than sixty seconds. The persona I had borne was spread all over the sheet covering me and around me on the floor. I looked bleakly at the shorn animal staring back at me from the mirror. My worst fears had been realized. Who was this inconsequential person staring back at me?  Aside from the drooping features I had earned with time, staring back at me was the head I saw when emerging from the barber chair when I was ten years of age. All my embellishments were gone. How could I present myself among the literary set like this? My vaunted celestial appearance from among the literary gods was gone and I was a common man. And I would have to look like this for months before I could regain my former glory.

My Bride entered at this instant. Looking at me ruefully, she said not a word. I paid for the violence done to me and we exited.

“Why didn’t you say something to her?”  She looked at me with chagrin. “ I guess we should have waited ‘til my girl was in the shop.”

“I did tell her not too short,” I said in my defence. “I should have said I just want a trim. You mean you left me to the mercies of the second string.  I’ll never forgive you,” I fumed.

“What are you complaining about,” she hissed under her breath as we hurried down the crowded street as if being pursued by the howling Furies behind us, “I’m the one who has to look at you.”

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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