Frumgirl 1: Why All Our Two Year Olds Are Girls

Scenario the first:

“Oh, is that a picture of you with your sister?” asked the the girl a deeply scoop-necked sweater next to me. The picture in question features my seven or eight year old self posing, entirely unselfconscious, with a toddler brother sporting waist long blond bottle curls. I had killer maternal instincts as a kid, and they show through in that photo.

“That’s actually my brother,” I returned to my seat neighbor. I can’t remember why that old picture was in my notebook. Detritus of life, I suppose. It all ends up in my notebook eventually. “We don’t cut our boys’ hair until their third birthday,” I offered by way of explanation.

“You don’t mind that all your little boys look like girls?”

“Not really.”

And I am graced with the standard ‘you are a bunch weirdos’ look. You get used to that after a little while.

Scenario the second:

“You made a huge party for your three-year-old?” exclaimed a rude middle eastern guy the size of an ox. This was beyond rude, when you consider who he was talking to. The Chassidish dude was nice enough to bring large bowls of salad and pasta and fancy baked goods leftover from his son’s Upsherin. Ox-guy could have shown a little gratitude, but I suppose that was beyond him.

“It’s a big thing by us,” the Chassidish dude explains, “the third birthday is when we cut their hair for the first time and…”

“Yeah, whatever,” Ox-guy interrupted, and proceeded to dig in, stopping to flash the above-mentioned ‘you are a weirdo’ look.

To be fair, the Upsherin is a concept that strikes non-frummies strange when they first hear about it. And when they ask you to explain why you do it, the explanation is not a simple, easy textual one you can rattle off, either.

One area for which weirdo looks are inevitable.

Published in: on November 3, 2008 at 10:47 PM  Comments (15)  

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15 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. the funny thing is, it’s become almost a commandment for us to let our three year olds’ hair grow long, when it’s a custom. and a Chassidic one at that.

    my aunt met a modern orthodox couple who was doing the upsherin thing

  2. “it’s become almost a commandment for us to let our three year olds’ hair grow long, when it’s a custom”

    i know a lot of yeshivish ppl who dont do it

  3. I never had an upsherin. I kept pulling on my hair until my parents had mercy and just took me to the barber. I’m still pulling at my hair, going bald at 22.

  4. even some of us frummies find it strange… we don’t do it with our kids, and my parents never did it with us…

  5. I’m curious…What kind of explanation do you usually give to people who ask about the meaning behind an Upsherin? I thought it had something to do with Kabbalah and “comparing man to a tree,” but I’m not well-versed in the custom.

  6. That’s it, really. I say that we compare people to trees and brush on the concept of “urlah.” Sometimes I bring in hair “peyos” and the agriculture “peya” to tie it nicely.

  7. I would imagine though even after you go into detail, they are still staring at you bewildered, huh?

  8. Ha! So true. Someone asked a friend of mine about her brother once- and he answered that person himself, that his name was X and he was a boy. Guess he got that question one too many times.

  9. *I* still look at people weird when they try to explian upsherin. I just say “It’s chassidish” because that can explain away many weird things. I don’t understand why yeshivish people do it or what the point is at all.

  10. When I was a counselor for a bunch of 2 and 3 year old boys and girls. There was one 2 year old boy who looked so much like a girl that on the first day I thought he was a girl.

    Nobody ever asked me about upsherins at college. But I wonder if I show them a picture of me and my twin brother when we were 2, if they will ask about his long hair.

    I never looked into why we do it, and I never knew it was a custom. It’s great to find that out, cause I always saw some kids who got hair cuts before 3, and I had thought they weren’t allowed to.

  11. Babysitter:
    Here’s as far as I understand: somewhere, probably in Nevi’im, it says “Ki ha’adam eitz hasadeh” comparing man to a tree.
    Presumably, this was a metaphor. Doubtless, man is like a tree in some moral or metaphysical way. I would consult Rashi for clarification. There are many such comparisons of people or Jews to all sorts of things, like pottery, donkeys, and pits.
    Chassidim, however, based in kabbalah, focused on this particular comparison. They decide to treat man like a tree in some more tangible manner. Pesticides? Nope. Gentle watering and lots of sunlight? Nadda. For some reason, they settled on following “arlah,” the mitzvah of not picking a tree’s fruit for three years after planting. Now, what is a person’s fruit? Somehow, it’s hair.

    As you see, I do not at all understand it. Neither did any of the people who tried to explain it to me.

    The practice was made famous by Madonna who practices it as kabbalah. Perhaps she understands it better.

  12. So having a big party to celebrate a first haircut is weird but dressing up in a little bridal gown for First Communion is normal?

  13. FrumGirl4: thanks so much for explaining that!

    But it makes sense now the connection between not cutting hair for 3 years, and not picking the fruit off the tree for 3 years, I understand it.

    DevoK: what’s first communion?

  14. My wife wanted to let our son grow his hair until three but I won’t hear of it. I mean, the kid was born with a full head of hair…what will he look like when he turns three?

  15. i think boys only start to realize that they are male around the age of 3 and so until then they are “allowed” to bond to the mother without realizing that distinction. while they look like girls, they wont be expected to “be a man”.
    also, its not only a chassidish thing, sfardis also do it

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