Why Don't Middle-Aged Women Have Long Hair?

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
Oct. 22 2010 9:48 AM

Why Don't Middle-Aged Women Have Long Hair?


In this morning's New York Times , Dominique Browning (former editor of House and Garden and author, after her layoff, of Slow Love ) asks "Why Can't Middle-Aged Women Have Long Hair?" At 55, she's taking flack about her mane from her mother, her sister, and her agent, among others. But Browning loves her hair, arguably rebellious, retro, high maintenance, and sexy. I'm with her. Alhough I'm a long way from Browning's definition of middle-aged (which I'm sorry to say I think is a little bit optimistic), I wear my hair long and don't really have any plans for chopping it off at some pre-determined date-and I've certainly noticed that short hair is on the expected list for women once they hit, say, 65. Sitting in the airport the other day, watching my fellow travelers (and playing spot-the-Americans), the question I was asking wasn't why can't older women wear their hair long, but why don't they? Why the ubiquitous, and largely unbecoming, short permed 'do?


Maybe the answer is some sort of reversal of Browning's article: After a "certain age" women no longer feel sexy, rebellious, or high maintenance, and their practical hair reflects a practical outlook. Maybe it's more of a fear factor: Retro is fine, but mutton dressed as lamb is a phrase no one wants used to describe her personal style. To cast it in the most positive light, maybe there's nothing more truly rebellious than rebelling against our preconceived notions of what constitutes sexy or womanly. But if that's the deal, why bother coloring it or perming it? I respect Browning for rocking her long locks, and I love the shorn, gray undone look. (I have long-term plans for a straight silver bob, myself.) But I see the women rolling their wheely bags through the airport with their curly poodle dos as conforming to a less attractive cultural norm: the one that says that at a certain age, you have to be past it. And why buy into that? Especially if it means getting a perm.

Photograph by Digital Vision/Thinkstock.


The Slatest

Ben Bradlee Dead at 93

The legendary Washington Post editor presided over the paper’s Watergate coverage.

This Scene From All The President’s Men Captures Ben Bradlee’s Genius

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Whole Foods Is Desperate for Customers to Feel Warm and Fuzzy Again

The XX Factor

I’m 25. I Have $250.03.

My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.

The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I’m 25. I Have $250.03. My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

George Tiller’s Murderer Threatens Another Abortion Provider, Claims Free Speech

The Congressional Republican Digging Through Scientists’ Grant Proposals

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 21 2014 3:13 PM Why Countries Make Human Rights Pledges They Have No Intention of Honoring
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 9:42 PM The All The President’s Men Scene That Perfectly Captured Ben Bradlee’s Genius
Oct. 21 2014 11:44 PM Driving in Circles The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.