Privilege Blog

Old Lady Hair

I know I said it was old lady hands that made me wince at my own mortality. But at least my hands still do what I want them to do.

It’s my old lady hair that I need to speak to. Very, very strictly. When I was young I had blonde hair that hung down my back in a torrent. I wore my hair long and straight for way longer than the cultural norm. But at some point blonde turned into light brown. And then, at some additional inevitable point, a broad stripe of gray showed up and said hello. Hello, yes, you are mortal.

At the moment when the broad stripe of gray appeared, I was at a startup where my colleagues and my employees had an average age of um, well, 28 isn’t an exaggeration. I was 43. And with hair past my shoulders striped gray I felt old. And I had too much work to do to be walking around feeling old. So one day I went to a hair salon frequented by women with serious face lifts and had someone cut my hair short and dye it back to blonde.

Immediately thereafter I was made vice-president. Hmm.

Recently after 10 years of short hair it dawned on me that I might want to grow it long again. That this might be my last chance at woman hair. Old lady hair is more like the fluff on a dandelion. It won’t hang down your back. It won’t twist like silk around your fingers. It won’t shine in the sunlight. It won’t do many of those sweet girlie things that hair can do.

I grew my hair back down to my shoulders. Hello hair. No longer a torrent, as creeping old lady hair syndrome has reduced the former torrent to a stream. Good enough however to do a little shining, a little flinging, a little bouncing as I walk. Unfortunately, now that my hair is long again, I find myself too often pulling it back in a ponytail. Which clearly won’t do in the workplace, where I am always trying for elusive executive stature.

I am now in preliminary mourning for my hair. I am preparing myself to chop it off again. Return to the time-honored executive woman hair of Carly and Meg and Ann. Some day in the far, far distant future, when I officially decide that I am in fact an old lady, I will grow my hair for the last time and let it go gray and wear it up in a tortoiseshell comb and pretend I am my father’s mother. Wear pearls. Black silk. An antique brooch, which of course for my grandmother was quite modern. I hope these tricks will compensate for the blonde hair that used to lie next to me on my pillow with a life of its own. If not I plan to pretend that I don’t notice.

20 Responses

  1. i just had a brief conversation with a lady about this very subject. i am thinking about chopping my hair off and going blonder. and she responded by pointing out i will never be able to have long hair again at her age so i might as well wear it when i can. she isn’t that old, in fact i wouldn’t call her old at all but apparently she wishes she would have taken advantage of her “torrent” in her younger years :) i don’t know, i think i’m still going to cut it…

  2. I just chopped three inches off and I’m having a little trouble adjusting (understatement). In a misguided attempt to make me feel better, my husband said, “Well, as you get older, your hair will get shorter…” TEARS.

  3. I am struggling with the hair too. It’s having a second youth I think. Ever since they bumped my thyroid dose up a few months ago it has been growing back in thicker and shinier and yup more obstinate. The Fiancé LOVES long hair on women but my hair just doesn’t do that very well. It’s too fine, too frizzy, gets damaged too easily by hair color and heat. I’ve tried to grow it into a style that would work for me and maybe a little bit longer than usual for him but I am about ready to shave it off at this point! It’s in a constant ponytail which is REALLY attractive…NOT! Maybe after the wedding next weekend I’ll have a couple more inches cut off.

  4. I have hair issues too. I’ve had long hair so long and finally cut it last year and I’ve hated it ever since. Now I’m back to growing it long and if I have to clip it up or pull it back in a pony tail the rest of my life, that’s probably what I’ll do. I just can’t stand that “fixed” look.

  5. having very thick very curly hair with about 30% grey at age 43 I can say I really don’t want to cut my hair short the weight of the length keeps my hair from looking so bushy. Also I am not ready to stop coloring, don’t know if I ever will be. Also my mother who died young after a lengthy battle with illness had no hair for the last 5 yrs of her life and I made a pact that I would grow mine for a year in memory of herr, she was with me the day I got my hair cut the last time and she died the following day. So far I really am loving my hair being longer and it is easier to take care of for my type of hair.

  6. I like that, LPC.

    I finally cut mine — and let the color go to it’s natural white. So I cut it shorter yet, because if you’re going to have white hair, it better be the WOW kind of short, and I’ve finally got that. WOW short, and no I mean no fussing around with it.

    They call it a pixie cut now, as though “they” invented the word. I laugh; I remember Jean Seberg with a charming “gamine” and thought “Someday, yes, someday, I’m going to do that.”

    I miss my long hair, only because my youth is attached to it, in memory.

    But the white hair is different in texture, in weight, and looks down right “significant” in this short cut.

    AND–when it’s short-short some unhinged hairstylist can’t manage to get a curling iron into it, to make it “old lady.” And I’m out of that chair faster than the speed of light when I see her reach for that hair spray, because I don’t want it, don’t need it, and won’t have it.

    Age has its privileges.

  7. I ‘m going all Annie Lennox the next time I get it cut. Platinum blonde is close to white, don’t you think?

  8. I'm not buying any of this. My wife is a year older than you, 53, and she wears hair past her waist. Now, 11 years ago she was growing out a terrible spiked pixie cut after a mad chopper exercised "artistic" license. Frankly, her hair did not really look good again for the first year of her growing out process.
    The problem that women have is that they surrender the growth process too soon. Naturally, you have too many layers in your shoulder length hair for it to look as superb as it did a decade ago before your fateful shearing. The top takes time to catch up. But when it does, you'll be happy you persevered.
    Honestly, the best beauty advice I could give 95% of women over 40 is to eschew the hair cropping. Even those who look good short, like Carly Fiorina (whom I met last year), would improve dramatically with long locks. I've seen women in their 60's, 70's and 80's who look radiant, elegant and beautiful with long hair. Since YOU love tresses, there is no reason to go throughout life depriving yourself of such a wonderful and powerful accessory. Good luck, Pennsylvania Dude Ron

  9. Very cool!! Hang in there, LPC. There are many professional styles for long hair. All it takes is a pretty clip, and voila! PDR

  10. Despite what Ron says, long hair on older women is tricky. I have a well put-together friend who uses the expression "high school hair" to decribe women whose hair is inappropriate for their age.

  11. My friends tell me to get my hair cut in the bob style I had for so long,but now it is sholder length. I know if I get it cut I will regret it, so please stop me.I am 70 years old and want to keep it for me…

  12. Oh by the time I am 70 I hope to have my hair either 3/4 inch and dead white or long and in a braid:). Keep your hair…

  13. I wished men understood that not all women have hair that is thick and strong to wear long forever or at all. After menopause and an Rx I lost a lot of my already thin, baby fine wavy hair. I’m 69 but look 55. My gray is dingy mousy brownish gray. I am off the Rx and hoping to see improvement in 6 mos. in the meantime I cut it in an edgy pixie and it is strawberry blonde to go with my green eyes and peach skin. I am petite with an oval face so I can pull off this look. Would I like to have long hair?? Absolutely but it is not an option. And I am not ready for rogaine. Luckily my 50 yr old BF loves my style, no matter if it’s a med bob or super short. Luckily he doesn’ t worship at the long hair altar. My advice to anyone over 50 is just be you. If you can wear it long, do it. If you like your gray, keep it. If you love your color, keep doing it. You don’t become OLD because you hit a certain age, you become old because you believe all the BS you hear in the media and so called friends.

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