Enough With the Politics

It’s time to talk about something really important.

Dominique Browning, in an essay in today’s New York Times asks the question on all of our minds– ‘Why Can’t Middle-aged Women Have Long Hair?’

Long hair is not the appropriate choice of grown-ups. It says rebellion. Hillary Rodham Clinton softens her do, and sets off a bizarre Howl of Angry Inches, as if she had betrayed some social compact. Well, my long hair is indeed a declaration of independence. I am rebelling, variously, against Procter & Gamble, my mother, Condé Nast and, undoubtedly, corporate America in general. Whereas it used to be short hair that was a hallmark of being a liberated woman — remember the feminist chop? I do; I did it — these days, long hair is a mark of liberation.

Well, she and I are the same age, 55. Years ago I stopped coloring my grey hair (see earlier post Naturally Grey ), but I like it long. I also like it wavy, and Purple City Hair Salon took care of what Nature didn’t.

Another woman of this uncertain age covers the cutting edge of hair issues for women of color. Debra J. Dickerson at Slate’s XX defends her right to go short and natural in ‘Fried, Dyed and Laid to the Side’–

However we feel about our bodies, black women, as a group, simply torture ourselves over our hair. “Fried, dyed, and laid to the side,” is how a jingle I’ve heard all my life goes in sardonically describing this battle. Black women forego sex and exercise to maintain those expensive, time-stealing and often unattractive hair styles. Lye, ladies. Yes, lye (i.e., “relaxers”) and red hot pressing combs forged in open flame:That’s what most black women have endured since kindergarten or so. I freed myself from all that at age 32 and have been mostly “happy nappy” ever since, with what I like to call my “Malcolm Gladwell meets Sideshow Bob” hair. But most sisters wait until 55 or so to make this painful journey.

Who are we trying to please? If we’re okay with ourselves and our partners, what’s left to worry about? It’s nothing but heartbreak and futility to try to please men, but relatively easy to please a man you know well. And don’t even think about pleasing women– we are the most merciless judges since the Puritans looked for witch marks. We buy magazines that tell us which parts of our bodies we’re supposed to hate. I decided long ago to just please myself. I’m happier since I gave up Glamour for Scientific American. And I use the time and money I used to spend on hair color furthering my dream of world domination.

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One thought on “Enough With the Politics

  1. An issue close to my heart! I leave my hair grey as well, though I love, love, love it short. Who knew you could just walk out of the shower, towel your head and be ready to face the world? At first my grey was a default because I didn’t like the glint peeking out from under even professional dye jobs. Now I feel I look stately :)

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