08 May Very Long Hair on Older Women
Fabulous or Faux Pas?
For many women, having very long hair starts to feel a little bit weird right around when the first serious wrinkles show up. Cutting off very long hair can be something of a rite of passage for the middle-aged, as it is rare to see older women with hair past their shoulders. But why is this? And should it continue?
Keeping Color Consistent
It makes theoretical sense that as a woman goes gray, it will be easier to manage her hair if it’s short. Either she will cut it off so that it is a consistent color and texture as she grays naturally, or the shorter length will make it easier to color her hair frequently to cover up the gray. As gray or graying hair differs in texture from the original hair, dying gray roots to match years’ worth of originally-colored growth can be a tricky thing to get right. Conversely, what hair looks like when it grays naturally is a genetic crapshoot: you could get gleaming snowy-white, but more typically, you end up with something on the mousy side. For this reason, older women with very long hair are stereotyped as provincial or uncaring—because hair transitioning to gray looks so strange while it grows out, the assumption is if they were able to let their hair grow out naturally, they either didn’t have anywhere to be while it was growing or didn’t care what anyone thought of it.
The Witch, The Farmer’s Wife, And The Madwoman
Speaking of stereotypes, the witch, the farmer’s wife, and the madwoman are older women on whom very long hair might be expected. If you’re just a normal lady who likes having long hair, keep in mind that you might be stereotyped in this matter. Of course, no one is telling you that you have to care. I think that very long hair on an older woman also speaks of her iconoclastic interest in pleasing herself and no one else—which is a powerful thing at any age. Power always makes someone uncomfortable, especially when displayed by someone commonly believed to be powerless.
Very Long Hair Is Deeply Associated With Sex
We all know the idea of older women as sexless creatures is a particularly bullshitty myth. But for some reason, it’s a myth that people really like to believe. Very long hair, commonly attributed to young women in this culture, resonates with many as a symbol of youth and fertility. An older woman by her very biological nature signifies neither of these things, so very long hair on her head might be jarring to some. It seems as though society is stupid enough to fear some fundamental sexual confusion via hairstyle, rendering very long hair on an older woman as somewhat taboo. Representing a sexual taboo is also a powerful stance if you’re into social leverage.
If You Don’t Want To Cut Your Hair, Don’t Cut It
Now is not the time in your life to let society’s more random and judgmental mandates dictate any part of your behavior. You’ve earned the right to ignore it and please yourself. American culture is pretty quirky in its insistence on short hair for older women—if you examine many other global cultures, an older woman’s very long hair is openly seen as a powerful and positive thing. This approach is pretty logical: it takes a long time to grow long hair, and older women have had more time to grow it longer than young women. Don’t let America’s neurotically youth-obsessed culture make decisions for you about your own body.
Written by Liz Seegert