Did you guys see that article in the New York Times about how middle-aged women aren’t allowed to have long hair? Really? Who knew? I didn’t get the memo, and neither apparently did those women you see at state fairs all over the country whose hair is below their butts.
But anyway, the thing that jumped out at me was not the writer’s perception of the judgments and assumptions people make about older women with long hair–they’re walking anachronisms who persist on playing a romantic game they’ve clearly aged out of–but the fact that the writer is 55 and calls herself middle-aged.
Now, I’m not going to be the one who tells her she’s not, but I will point out that the average lifespan of a woman in this country is almost 81, which means dead center middle-aged would be something like 40. Pad either side by five years (assuming most of us die and so stop caring about our hair somewhere between 70 and 90) and that means you’re middle aged between 35 and 45. What are you at 55? Since almost no one lives to be 110, the answer is…I have no earthly idea, but not middle-aged.
Look, I get it. I’m 43, and statistically speaking middle-aged, but I’m not in a huge hurry to embrace that term, associated as it is with stultifyingly cliched concerns like which dishwasher detergent will leave you with streak-free glasses, or whether one’s husband’s recent purchase of a two-seater sports car is but the first in a series of crisis moves that will end in hair plugs and most likely divorce.
So I can understand why someone who is 55 might not want to call herself whatever term might be a bit more accurate. Maybe the thinking is, As long as no one is using the term middle aged–because those of us who are middle-aged are pretending it doesn’t apply in the same way we pretend we don’t need reading glasses–in the spirit of 50 is the new 35, why shouldn’t the 50-plus crowd adopt it as its own?
More likely, though, I suspect the phenom is more analogous to vanity sizing–the way no matter how many chocolate covered macadamias you eat, and no matter how many new pairs of pants you have to buy because you Just. Can’t. Get. The Button. To meet. The hole! you’ll always be a size 12 at Banana Republic.
Right. Vanity aging. And you know what? I think I might be OK with that. Thoughts?
Photo by Ed Yourdon CC
October 24, 2010 at 8:59 pm
I’m middle aged, and I have long hair. Longish, anyway, just below the shoulders at the moment, but I just had 6 inches cut off. A friend reminded me last summer, when I still had that extra 6 inches, that in my 20’s I’d said that I’d wear my hair shorter when I hit 40, because long hair is for the young. She told me she was glad I still wore it long. (Hers has always been short, btw.) We laughed at how our young selves thought we’d be at middle aged.
I think it is hard to claim to be middle aged when you qualify for senior discounts, but if that makes one happy, go for it.
October 25, 2010 at 12:19 pm
This is one of my many pet peeves–the notion that women of a certain age must cut off all of their hair. I’m guessing lecherous men or bitter old women invented this rule so that older women will look as unfeminine as possible, lest we accidentally turn the head of someone half our age. Time to grow my hair longer!
October 25, 2010 at 3:07 pm
sitting here @ 49, mom of 15 yr old and 16.5 yr old daughters, I have been made to promise by said daughters that I will NEVER get my hair cut short. “that short hair just makes you guys look old…”
October 26, 2010 at 10:34 am
I was about to email you that article just in case you somehow missed it. Of course you’ve already read it, and of course you very astutely called the author out on 55 and middle-aged. LOL!!!
At the rate that I’m thinning, I just hope to have a few hairs left by the time I reach my 50’s.
October 26, 2010 at 4:30 pm
I’d have to say that your definition of middle aged seems a little constraining. By your definition I’m, what, old at 47. Really?
October 26, 2010 at 6:11 pm
I didn’t say what came after middle age was “old.” I said I didn’t know what it was, exactly. I suppose one could live til 94, which makes you middle aged if that’s when you pass away. I was just going on averages. Really, the whole thing is so silly–that was my point, if inadequately conveyed.
October 28, 2010 at 4:44 pm
Right – made a decision already! – (and I’m not yet the big 40) I shall be growing my hair as long as Rapunzels, if just to make a point and laugh in the face of those who say long hair is for the ‘young’. Well Ok…Im exaggerating – my hair wont grow long enough to plait and hang over castle walls, but I wont be letting any ‘age hang ups’ send me to the hairdressers for a short back and sides anytime soon, nor when I’m ‘old’. I think the article author needs an early xmas present – perhaps a fabulously long and luscious hairpiece or wig – it may put a spring in her ‘middle aged’ step!
October 30, 2010 at 1:43 am
I think it makes her, at 55, ALIVE and loving life!
November 10, 2010 at 9:47 pm
I have to take issue with this. I don’t believe “middle age” is about a number so much as an attitude. No matter how old you are, if you still feel, and function, like you’re in the prime of your life, you qualify as middle aged.
That said – Great site and fun articles! Thanks for sharing.