Barbershop Short

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Barbershop Short

I currently reside in the ultra-religious section of Jewish Brooklyn. For those who are unfamiliar with orthodoxy, we are a motley crew, with disparate dress codes, traditions, and focus. Yet despite our differences, we all hold to a stringent, no-nonsense level of Torah observance.

In this context, adhering to the traditions of one’s sect is required. In turn, compliance to standards is de rigueur. Morevoer, since in orthodoxy every Jew is responsible for each other, deviating in any way from the standard practice of one’s community is considered an affront to the entire community. To put it differently, if one “transgresses” by deviating from the norm, then it is the responsibility of the remaining members of the community to respond. Deviation, simply put, becomes a problem.

It is within this context that I find myself trying to balance being an Orthodox Jew and a lesbian. How far do I go in embracing the lesbian community openly? How much am I willing to risk my standing in the community in order to nourish the lesbian part of my self? That said, I figured I’d start with an experience we can all relate to: my recent quest for a haircut. Hope you enjoy!

When I finally acknowledged my lesbianism a few months ago, my "aha!" moment came when I considered my childhood behaviour: A girl who hates girlie girls, dresses, and anything feminine? Who prefers a ball and playing baseball/basketball with the boys to playing jump rope/hop scotch with the girls? A girl who dresses androgynous and likes when people think she's a boy? Who gives herself a unisex name and impresses upon her teachers to call her that name? Come on!

In turn, during my coming out I have concertedly embraced my androgyny and set about re-codifying my appearance: I've ordered chunky glasses, bought chinos and pork-pie hats, and cut my hair progressively shorter. And perhaps all of these actions seem standard enough—except that I am making them in ultra-conservative, right-wing Brooklyn.

Around these parts, the pressure to conform is immense. Women must dress and act in a narrowly defined fashion; if you consider that foregoing stockings is frowned upon, then how much more so is wearing pants or sporting short hair deemed shockingly deviant. In turn, anything “deviant” is condemned and carries both stigma and negative social consequences.

Case in point, in the past I have had women point out to me when I stop to say “hello” that I was too bright or my hair too blond. While I certainly don't view it as a loss that the same women stopped inviting me to their homes, I do understand that showing up in pants to my job at the ultra-religious school is grounds for immediate dismissal. And since everybody in the community knows each other, the social ramifications would be far-reaching beyond losing my job.

This past week, I discovered a new barber shop near my work. Because religious life is gender-segregated, barbershops are exclusively for male clientele. In light of this trend, the barbershop's sign was quite remarkable: Women's haircut- $6. Women's haircut??? After work, I let curiosity get the better of me and went in.

Immediately I knew I was in for a comedy of errors. The shopkeeper asked if I was religious, since most religious women here refuse to have their hair cut by a man. I said yes, I am religious, but I don't mind if a male cuts my hair. The shopkeeper then informed me that the Master Barber on shift only speaks Russian. I said, No problem, as long as he gives me a good haircut. Twenty minutes and a whole lot of wacky later, I emerged with my hair shorn like a lamb after its first shearing.

In light of my environment, I suppose my occasionally wearing pants and otherwise rendering my appearance more masculine might seem a foolish avenue to take. Yet I feel the need to take such action in order to remain true to who I am, to avoid yielding to everyone else’s idea of what I should be/look like. To that end, my finding this barbershop definitely feels like a minor victory. With my short-short hair guaranteed for the foreseeable future, I can rest assured that there is at least one part of my lesbian self that I can remain true to for now.


Comments [8]

Tex's picture

Nice! Good luck...your blog made me think of Babs!

Writer, producer, director, star.....

Controversial but always a champion of women's rights. Did you know that Yentl was nominated for five Academy Awards, but Barbra wasn't one of them? Academy did the same thing to her for Prince of Tides..... 

Twitter Time @kdhales

Grace Moon's picture

this is really

the other side of Brooklyn...

tweet tweet @gracemoon

Rockets's picture


First post!

Laughing out loud


Visit the FREE Lesbian Coloring pages at ~

Ana T's picture


O, the difference is that you're a married guy. If you were a woman, or more specifically, a *single woman*  living around these parts, believe me, you would better identify.


ookamikun's picture

Dude, you sound like you live

Dude, you sound like you live in WB!  Never really got your experience and I'm more of a deviant than you!

Good riddance about the ones who stopped inviting you, I wouldn't want to associate with those kind of people.

You gotta hang out with MOs more.  I think I told you before to check out JOC.

Fallon Stone's picture

Chronicles of Hairspray...

I feel your pain, Ana T. This hair business is something of a religion for black folk in and of itself. It's got the same gender-specific lines, although those lines can bend depending on where you go.

It took me a while to find a barber I was comfy with.. btw, he now clowns me for attempting to grow out my shorty doo-wop.

Love the blog and I can't wait to read the next one!

Now Follow me on Twitter! @FallonStone

Ana T's picture

Thanks Julia

Thanks for the warm welcome! I look forward to reading your comments on my little adventures. Smile


Julia Watson's picture

Fantastic! Ana, I am so

Fantastic! Ana, I am so thrilled to have you writing for us and can't wait to continue reading about your adventures in queering life as you know it.