Give me a head with hair, long beautiful hair?

Titllong haire sound familiar? Those are the lyrics from the 1967 musical and song “Hair“. The question mark is my own addition. A couple of weeks ago, the topic of hair seemed to be popping up everywhere. From a father’s tribute to his daughter’s curly hair, to Willow Smith’s whip-lash inducing “I Whip My Hair” video, hair was hot. The hair indoctrination begins from the time we’re little girls. Popular culture teaches us that hair is an essential part of being a woman, and that the longer and straighter that hair, the better.

That hair indoctrination transcends race, ethnicity and culture, but as you can imagine, the message can be an especially difficult one for little girls whose hair grow naturally from their heads in crowns of tightly woven corkscrews. Within the African American community, women are dealing with hair issues including going “natural” or not, straightening, weaving, and yes, “the long hair” phenomenon as well.  I’ve learned that some Asian and Caucasian women use Thermal Conditioning to remove even a hint of curl or wave from their hair. And it wasn’t until Chris Rock’s visit to Oprah last year that I started paying attention to blonds with roots, and realized that an awful lot of blonds weren’t born that way.  But we’ll tackle those issues in a future post, today’s hair issue is about long hair and older women.  (Image credit: George Eastman House)

This past week I came across a New York Times article about long hair on older women. Here’s an excerpt from Why Can’t Middle Age Women Have Long Hair?:

I have long hair. I’m not talking about long enough to brush gently on my shoulder — when I tilt my head. I’m not talking about being a couple of weeks late to the hairdresser. I’m talking long. Long enough for a ponytail with swing to it. Long enough to sit against when I’m in a chair. Long enough to have to lift it up out of the sweater I’m pulling over my head. Long enough to braid.

No one seems to have any problems when a woman of a certain age cuts her hair off. It is considered the appropriate thing to do, as if being shorn is a way of releasing oneself from the locks of the past. I can see the appeal, and have, at times in my life, gone that route. Some women want to wash the men (or jobs) right out of their hair. Others of us have to have at them with scissors. Again, I do not judge. Go right ahead, be a 60-year-old pixie.

So why do people judge middle-aged long hair so harshly?

Is long hair on older women viewed negatively in today’s society? At 40(ish) how are you wearing your hair and why?  Share your “hair thoughts” in the comment section or on our Facebook Fan Page.

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  • Lizaf

    I’m forty-eight with shoulder length hair. I believe most older women cut their hair short because it is less trouble to color the gray hairs that way. I don’t know for sure – makes sense to me. I’m not going to color my hair, so that’s not a concern of mine. I don’t think my face looks great with very long hair or very short hair, so I believe I have just the right length. I’d like to know more about why older women think they need to chop off their long hair. ???

  • Batsie

    It’s funny… I’m 39, and have had the opposite reaction from people, who often ask me why I don’t want long hair (I have a short, 1920’s style bob). To be fair though, I have had this cut since I was a child, and have ALWAYS been teased/criticized about it as if it goes against the hidden “code” of womanhood to have short locks. The fear other women have had for me always stems from the possibility that no man would ever want a woman with short hair, or worse, a “head shaped like a mushroom” (yes, I have actually had that one told to me on more than one occasion from different women)…

    It seems to me though, that society’s ideas about older women’s hair length have changed so as to encourage them to hold onto longer hair, just as they encourage the idea of holding on to physical youth via plastic surgery – it just doesn’t seem to be frowned upon as much anymore. Look at the world of celebrity – Queen Latifah (who’s picture is on the right of this page as I type), Susan Sarandon, Sarah Jessica Parker, Julia Roberts, Cindy Crawford, Demi Moore, Sandra Bullock, and plenty more have long hair regardless of what society thinks is age appropriate. I guess it just boils down to what you feel happy with – long or short – just be true to yourself, and follow what your own vision/ideal of what beauty is.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve never subscribed to the popular notion that long hair is more beautiful. But I think you hit the nail on the head with it being a fear some women have that men won’t be attracted to them if they wear their hair short – (sad but true). I also agree however that regardless of age, a woman should wear their hair whatever way they feel happiest with.