Vail Daily columnist Linda Stamper Boyne: Too old for my hair?
Vail, CO, Colorado
On my 40th birthday, my mom and I went shopping for a special piece of jewelry she and my dad wanted to give me as a gift to commemorate the milestone.
As I was trying on earrings, she watched me pull back my hair to get a better view of my lobes and asked, “When are you going to cut off your hair? You’re 40 now.”
I stopped and looked at her, confusion and surprise mixing with a feeling I hadn’t felt for 25 years, a kind of resentment that screamed, “You can’t tell me what to do!”
So there stood a 40-year-old woman, the mother of two, who reverted to her 15-year-old self in the blink of an eye and replied in a snarky voice, “Well, 40 is the new 30, Mom, so I guess in 10 years.”
Once the shock and snarkiness passed, several years later, I began to think about the statement and the societal conventions that were behind my mom’s belief that a woman of a certain age should not have long hair.
It seems there is a somewhat antiquated notion that when a woman passes the age of 35, long hair suddenly become aging. Really? Just like that? Instantly, the same hair that was on my head yesterday is making me look older today? Hmmm.
The theory is that as the face begins to age, long hair accentuates the sagging and the wrinkles. And aging hair becomes dull or gray, adding to the aging properties. I realize that aging is inevitable, but seriously. We are not sagging and wrinkling at 35 or 40 or even at 45. Perhaps the advancements in skin care products and hair color are keeping us more youthful-looking longer. Isn’t science wonderful?
I think for my mom’s generation, the threshold for “old” was younger than it is now, both in physical appearance and attitude. My mom has told me she dreaded turning 40 so much, she missed an entire year. She was “almost 40” instead of being 39, 40 to her marking the beginning of the next era: middle age.
Some would argue that the long-tressed, mature woman looks like she is desperately trying to hold onto youth, that long hair is for the young, that on a mature woman it is inappropriate.
Inappropriate to whom and in what context? Is a woman of a certain age supposed to suppress her vitality and personality? Is she no longer allowed to express her personal style or to be sexy?
I embrace the age I am. I wouldn’t want to be 25 again. Lord, please don’t let me be 25 again! But I still feel 25. Well, maybe 35 on a bad day. But regardless, why do I have to shove myself into middle age before my time? I am not putting myself out to pasture quite yet.
Acknowledging that I might be biased, I had to get a professional opinion, so I emailed my good friend and hair stylist extraordinaire for her take on the issue.
“I absolutely do not take age into consideration when suggesting long or short styles,” she said. “It’s more about lifestyle, style in general, bone structure, weight, etc. I think we all know plenty of beautiful women in their 40s, 50s and even 60s and 70s with long hair. It’s all about what looks good on you personally.”
Don’t get me wrong. There are some very cute short haircuts out there. But sometime in the 10 years since I last had short hair, my follicles developed the curly gene. Thank you, hormones. So, honestly, I’m scared to go short. I have no idea what would happen on top of my head with cropped locks. Would it resemble that horrendous perm I got in sixth grade that prompted the nickname Curly, to my two best friends’ Larry and Moe? It’s a not a risk worth taking at this point.
Clearly there is a generational difference in what my mom and I believe. And somewhere in my mind, I can’t help but draw parallels between what my mother thinks of my hair and what I think of my boy’s pants sagging down to his knees. Both are personal style choices. Both The Teenager and I think we look good. But both of us look ridiculous to our mothers.
In the end, I think it’s about aging gracefully. Will I go shorter one day? Maybe. Probably. But only because I want to, not because society, or my mom, thinks I need to.
Linda Stamper Boyne, of Edwards, can be contacted through firstname.lastname@example.org.
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