Monday, September 19, 2011

The Mane Attraction?

On Friday, I learned two things:
1. I watch a lot of makeover tv shows, and read way too many magazine articles about makeovers,
2. My twitter feed is composed almost exclusively of women who are very fond of their long hair.

These lessons became apparent after I -- in response to someone soliciting input about changing the colour and cut of her hair -- mentioned on The Twitter that I think women over the age of 35 look better with short hair. Actually, I might have set the number at 30 or 40 -- I'm a little fuzzy on the details. I can't check back to consult the original tweet because once I realized the validity of Lesson #2, I deleted the tweet before I could annoy more people.

I hemmed and hawed about writing this blog post. On the one hand I don't want to insult or hurt my Twitter friends, but on the other hand I stand by my opinion. In the end, I decided that it was chicken shit of me to delete the initial tweet, and it's bullshit for me to pretend that I've changed my mind. Hence this:

Women over the age of 35 look better with shorter hair (translation: shoulder length or shorter).

It's not a revolutionary idea. I don't remember any of my mom's friends or my friends' moms having longer hair once they'd passed 30. But the practice seems to have fallen by the wayside in recent years. Maybe it's an off-shoot of our youth-obsessed society? Maybe it's because long hair is an upper class status symbol? Maybe it's because hair dyes and styling products (and the marketing campaigns for these items) make it seem viable to have long healthy hair later in life? Maybe it's because glossy magazines and television shows create the illusion that the average woman can have beautiful, long hair (like Jennifer Aniston) even if she can not afford to employ a hairstylist to do her hair whenever she leaves the house (like Jennifer Aniston)? 

The reality is very different once a woman hits her mid thirties. Her hormones change. Her complexion alters. Her face wrinkles. Her features sag. Her hair gets thinner, drier and wirier. Long hair -- especially if it's not a recent style -- just emphasizes these changes.

Every makeover show I've ever seen (certainly every episode of What Not To Wear) counsels women to cut their hair. Long hair literally and figuratively drags down a woman's features, and defines (not defies) her real age. I seldom see non-celebrity women over the age of 40 who can carry off the kind of long hair Hollywood would have us believe is attainable for mere mortals. But I sure do see a lot of buns, braids and ponytails.

As for me? I'm going to stick with my shaggy bob and will keep doing my best to keep my scalp from playing peek-a-boo with the neighbours.

• • • •

Update added September 25, 2011:
The denouement to this post can be found here.  Thank you.


  1. I am growing mine out for the ultimate SAHM hairstyle, I want a ponytail. I cannot tuck my hair behind my ears, stupid hearing aids are in the way, I cannot grow bangs, my family holds an intervention when I mention it, and I cannot stand to have my hair in my eyes.
    As for a pixie, my husband's head would pop right off his shoulders. And since i am not so easyto live with, I they to make his like as pleasant as possible.

  2. I just turned 40 and cut off all the length in my hair to donate for a wig for a person with cancer. However, I fully intend to grow it all back because (as asserted every time I cut my hair by those who love me - male and female) long hair suits me. Plus, short hair is waaaay more work. However, I am open to the concept that one day that may not be the case, for the very reasons you listed. I guess sometime over the next three years I'll find out. :)

    When I was younger I thought it was mandatory for older women to cut their hair, because I didn't know anyone over 40 with long hair. These days I think it depends on the person (particularly their hair) how long someone looks good with long hair, but I suspect it is a rare person for whom it is into their senior years.

  3. My hair is short and I will say this, my hair is so fine that having long hair was a challenge. It was infinitely easier to just put it in a pony everyday though...having to "fix" it every morning is a pain. I should embrace hats more.

    As for an age...I think whatever works for you is fine with me. Not that I don't snicker sometimes at an older woman in a teen tracksuit and long hair, it does look a little odd when a 17 year and her mother are dressed/coiffed the exact same.

  4. @happygeek -- NO! I'm growing mine out for the ultimate SAHM hairstyle: the layered bob.

    @Quadelle -- Happy belated birthday. Even if I could grow my hair out (I can't stand it once it takes more than 2 minutes to style) I couldn't donate it to the wig-people: there is no demand for wigs made of mousy brown, baby-fine hair shot through with grey.

    @Jenifer -- try wigs. Works for Dolly Parton, Miley Cyrus, Oprah & Halle Berry. I'm pretty sure in the last 10 years there hasn't been a single glossy magazine photo shoot that didn't use "falls" or extensions to glam up the actress. Lets get matching wigs! WIG SISTERS!!!!

  5. After your tweet I went and looked at myself in the mirror to see if I looked like one of those very sad women holding onto my lost youth. I'm only an inch or two below the shoulders, so I THINK I'm okay. For now. I worry about turning into the woman I saw in the makeover edition of O magazine who had a gigantic curly mullet. A true party in the back business in the front mullet. She couldn't find a hairdresser to actually cut it that way so she cuts it herself. Dear lord, do not let me turn into mullet woman.

    I did cut a few inches off six months or so, because I felt like my hair was not looking "hot" so much as looking "straggly". That's not a great look. But, I will probably have it some version of shoulder length or thereabouts until my dad's male pattern baldness catches up with me. Or I die. Whichever comes first. I do like the versatility of long hair, and I, like HappyGeek, cannot STAND to have it in my eyes and so I like to be able to pull it back when necessary. Also I don't look good in short hair, but maybe that's just the trauma of my short haired childhood speaking.

  6. Ah. Hey, I feel fabulous about being mentioned in one of your posts! I am still doing the short hair thing. I think I look good with hair a bit below shoulder length, but I HATE having my hair in my eyes, so we are going to have to see how this new style works. If I pull it up out of my face every minute, it will be bad.

    I will say that I know one woman who is in her 60s with beautiful long grey hair. It looks a bit hippy-ish, but very cool. AND, my 89 yo grandmother has always had hair down to her waist, but she has put it up off her neck every day of her life. Does that count?

  7. @Nicole -- don't listen to me! I'm a blow-hard on the internet, who's obsessed with keeping her scalp under wraps! You wear skinny pants, and do yoga! You buy saucy fashionable boots! There's zero chance you will ever become the dread vile Mullet Woman or worse (aka Hair In A Bun And Wearing a Denim Jumper woman).

    This, by the way, is exactly why I wrote this post: so I could explain myself and start a discussion that doesn't get truncated by 140 characters.

    @Kimberly -- Please post pictures when you get your short hair! Are you going to add red highlights? I use to play with dyes all the time. But I'm becoming increasingly sensitive to soaps and lotions, and I'm afraid that at some point I'm going to have a reaction to the dyes.

    Real life women who look good with long hair in their sixties are a big tease. A BIG mean-spirited tease.

  8. Oh Nan, I'd love to meet you in real life because I tend to disagree with you a lot. (Said in love)

    In this case, I completely disagree with you once again. I'm not sure how you can make a blanket statement like that and have any hope of being correct. Do you actually think that of ALL women over 35 (you originally said 30 BTW)that everyone, regardless of face shape, size, colour, whatever, would look better with shorter hair? That's like saying all women look better if they have blonde hair, or D-cup boobs, or wear heels. We're talking a lot of women. I just can't buy into your statement.

    I think we're really talking about you. In *your* case *you* look better with shorter hair. All of the reasons you gave for short hair don't apply to me. My hair is still crazy thick, and I don't have any wrinkles. I actually won a makeover last year from a posh salon, and they trimmed and shaped my hair, yes, but they told me to keep it long because my face is round, and my hair is so thick that it poufs crazily when short. All things I already knew. Even Stacy & Clinton would my yoga pants wardrobe, they'd probably have a thing to say.

    So yeah. We don't agree. But I still like you.

  9. I'm NOT just saying this because I NEED MY FRIENDS TO AGREE (I'm trying to grow) but I think you actually do kind of agree, Marilyn - your hair isn't that long. Actually, now that I'm thinking about it, most people of ANY age who aren't movie stars don't look good with really long hair - a lot of people can't get away with really short hair either. Wow, I'm positively mired in wishy-washiness here. I think I'll go get a haircut.

  10. @Marilyn -- Wait a minute? You expect me to prove my opinion is CORRECT? How so? Through statistical analysis? Psychological research? First-hand anecdotes?

    No. It's my opinion. I'm not obliged to give you supporting facts because an opinion (ie, older women look better in short hair, tattoos are silly, gin and tonics are wonderful, coffee creamer is disgusting, Mirabella Bunny is a stupid name for a human being) is completely subjective. I think short hair looks good on older women. You don't have to buy into my statement -- go make your own. Be as outlandish or as inflammatory as you wish. I don't mind being offended.

    And yes, I do look better with shorter hair than with long. Thanks for noticing.

  11. @Bibliomama -- if you are really thinking about getting a haircut, maybe you should consider a hi-top fade? Just think about it.

  12. Allison, I don't agree.

    My issue isn't just with me, it's the fact that a general opinion stated in such a black & white manner leaves no room for anything else. Even if I DID have short hair (mine varies between just below my shoulders to well below my should blades) I would still oppose Nan's statement. Not all women have thin hair. Not all women have thin faces. Not all women area a mass of wrinkles.

    I live in an area that is heavily Indian (as in people from India). Not a one of these women have short hair and they all look great to me.

    Stating an opinion is one thing. However stating like it's a fact is not cool. You (Nan) said "Women over the age of 35 look better with shorter hair". That is written as a fact, not an opinion.

    *All* women over 35 do not look better with short hair. That is an actual fact. And you can try to argue that but you'd be wrong.

    What would be more correct is if you wrote something like, "In my opinion MOST women over 35 look better with short hair.". And even though I disagree with that, I can't argue it as easily.

    Also as a total aside, if you have any questions about Disqus, ask me. I had it for months on Blogger for this very reason. Blogger may not be a bad platform, but the commenting system is not the best. I rarely come back to check comments and would normally have missed all of this. The only reason I'm back is because I figured you'd likely respond to my inflammatory comment.:)

  13. @Marilyn

    What would be more correct is if you wrote something like, "In my opinion MOST women over 35 look better with short hair.".

    Prefacing statements in personal essays (ie blog posts) with "In my opinion" or "I think" or "If you ask me" is bad writing. These phrases are just empty gestures on the part of writers who want to water down their opinions lest anyone take offense. I'm enough of a wordsmith to make myself understood without resorting to platitudes.

    But if you so desire, I'll offer you this: It is my humble opinion -- based on firsthand experience and deep, deep thought -- that almost 100% of women (over the age of 35) of the human species look better with shorter hair regardless of the formation of their visage or their ethnic background. But of course if you don't agree with me and my 100% non-binding personal opinion, then in the words of the great love god Rex Murphy, "we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one."


    As to Disquis, I prefer to stay away from third party apps for Blogger. I'm really happy with Blogger, though I'm still fumbling around with the new interface.

    (ARGH! Excuse the bad formatting!)

  14. @Nan

    Ok, I see that we are not going to agree, but I have to say that I'm not grooving on the tone of your response. Could have done with a re-write before publishing me thinks. Unless you intended on the tone being uber patronizing.

    The fact is, that to state unequivocally that 100% of the human population would look better by your way of judging them is...well...judgmental. I think, if you actually spent some time considering it your position, you would agree that it's actually ignorant to say what you did. Going back to my example of all the Indian women in my area, you're basically saying that ALL the 300,000 million (my estimate) of over 35s in Indian should have short hair, when you know that not a one of them does. Are you actually saying that they don't look good? Really? I mean really? That is pretty close to ridiculous.

    I'm fairly confident that you are a reasonable person, and in your heart you will see the truth that you are overstating. Whether you will admit this in the open is doubtful.

    I'm ok with that.

    And if you don't want to use Disqus, then at the very least you should click email your response to x email below because very few people (unlike me apparently) would ever come back to have such an enjoyable exchange as this.

  15. @Marilyn --

    In your first comment you objected to this personal essay because my opinion wasn't "correct." Then you came back and criticized my choice of language, offered me editorial advice, and challenged me to defend my opinion as it applies on a global scale. Now you have returned, offered me more writing advice, accused me of being judgmental (and possibly a racist) and challenged me to humble myself publicly for your benefit.

    Is that right?

    Did I get it all?

    Are you for real?!

    This is blog. A personal, non-monetized blog that averages 50 readers a day. It's full of light, fluffy posts that I author on the fly with the hopes of amusing my husband, my family and my friends. I use this space to express my opinions, share my memories, mock people who give their children horrible names (Morroccan! Monroe!), obsess about Star Trek. This is not a master's thesis on cross-cultural gender norms as it applies to beauty regimes in emerging nations. My aspirations with this blog are to:
    a. hone my skill as a writer,
    b. express myself through the written word, and
    c. make people LAUGH.

    You have over reacted.

    • • • •

    (I'm not going to let people receive comments via email -- then everyone would know I wrote, posted, deleted, edited, repost all these comments about five times!)

  16. I think you need to re-read your third comment to me. That is so patronizing it's hurtful.

    Writing what you did, and then insisting that there are no other possible viewpoints is not funny. Sorry but if you were aiming to make people laugh, you failed. You should have been able to predict that failure before you published this based on the reaction you received on Twitter, which apparently was enough to make you delete the tweet.

    I was very controlled in how I responded to you, which I have to say is pretty good of me considering what you said. I don't think you can say the same. If I over-reacted, it was in response to your direct comments to me. I still think you could have re-written your comments to get your point across with less condescension.

    Also, judging hundreds of millions of people is not light and fluffy. I gave you numerous opportunities to refine your stance. You insisted that your opinion applies to everyone. If you feel that makes you come off as racist, that's your deal. I certainly never claimed it. I don't think it makes you sound racist, but you're not coming off in a good light.

  17. @Marilyn --

    When you wrote "I was very controlled in how I responded to you, which I have to say is pretty good of me considering what you said" were you offering up an opinion? I assume this is the case because there is no way to measure the empirical truth of your sentence. Why didn't you preface that opinion with "In my opinion..." so that my readers were not confused? That would be more correct, Marilyn.

    I take exception to this sentence: "Also, judging hundreds of millions of people is not light and fluffy."

    WHAT THE -- ?! Can you show me a pie-chart or graph proving your statement that people don't think judging hundreds of millions of people is funny AND fluffy. Who are those people?! I bet they've never watched "American Idol!" The poor bastards (this is an opinion, by the way). OH! Wait! Was that sentence just a glib, generalization you made in the heat of the moment without first consulting a statistician, psychologist, anthropologist or lawyer? Did you want to refine your stance on this issue?

    By the way, are you still annoyed with my because I said tattoos are ugly? Is that why you're doing this?

  18. Nan, I'm not doing anything beyond stating that it's ridiculous to say that every single person in a certain demographic should style themselves according to your whim. Even Stacy London has long hair, which makes the whole point of your post even more silly, since part of your reasoning is based on what you think she would say about the topic.

    I didn't say a single thing in the heat of the moment. I really did control what I said to you and refrained from belittling you. You did not do the same.

    What I am understanding from your responses is that:

    1) You wrote what you thought would be a funny post even though you knew it was likely to incite negative reaction.
    2) You are surprised that I don't think what you wrote is funny.
    2) You are upset that I disagree with you.
    3) You are hurt that I continue to disagree with you and that has made you angry to the point that you are trying to hurt me too which is why you insult me by continuing to talk down to me as though I have no way of understanding what you are saying.

    As someone who has faithfully read your posts for quite awhile, and go out of my way to put your blog on my list of ones to comment on, I will let you know that you have succeeded in point 3. You *have* hurt my feelings. I am 100% capable of understanding what you are saying without you baby-talking it to me.

    You want to know what I meant by all this. I meant that when you willfully draw a line and act (post) in an inflammatory manner, you need to be prepared to stand in the fire. It would be nice if you could have accepted that without trying to beat me down. I'm sorry you're hurt by my disagreement. You still should have expected that not everyone would like what you had to say...especially when I already told you that on Twitter.

    I've been blogging for quite awhile. I've received comments that weren't in agreement with what I said. I'd like to think that I responded with more respect and less condescension.

    At no point did I tell you how to write. I gave an example of how you could have refined your statement to make it less exclusionary.

    Since I'm not sure where this is going from here, I might as well take the opportunity to state that when you consistently and openly put down people - whether that be hair, tattoos, baby names or whatever - you are coming off as a mean girl. I had faith that was not your intention, and I was thrilled to find a fellow sci-fi geek like myself so I tried to overlook it. Guess the joke is on me.

  19. @Marilyn -- you've commented on this post FIVE times, and I'm the one beating you down?

    You haven't hurt my feelings. Although at this point you are kind of scaring me.

  20. Would it be weird of me to be the (hopefully) last comment for this post?

    You are not a "mean girl" and if someone who has been a long time reader can't figure that out then they should have stopped reading a long time ago.

    I thoroughly enjoy your posts, your humour and your writing and I am not saying any of this under duress, lest anyone think I am on the payroll.

    Life is too short. Write what you want and in turn read what you want.

  21. Risking affirming Nan's statement that I'm a stalker, I just wanted to say publicly that I'm sorry I called Nan a mean girl. In all my years of blogging, it was my thought that bloggers like discussion. I have chatted with Nan for many, many months over Twitter and I thought we were friends and that I was continuing the discussion. I'm sorry I let myself become so offended by her responses. I should have walked away. I'm even more sorry that I apparently scared her and her family. That hurts my heart more than anything else.