Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Caryl writes: Splitting Hairs

In this unrelenting recession, I am making my own budget cut--or rather uncut. I am letting my hair grow longer, lengthening the time between my expensive cut and color treatments. And it has caused me to rethink the connection between hair and age. There has been much ballyhoo recently about women of that so-called "certain age" letting their hair go gray. A piece by the inaccurately named Dominigue Browning (shouldn't it be graying?) drew more letters to the editor than any other that week. For the record, I think grey can be gorgeous. My oldest friend-- we're talking tenure, not years--has had white hair since her twenties. And she is renown for her beauty as well as her intelligence. For MK, her hair has been her hallmark, not a road mark on the chronological highway. That's not true for everyone going grey. I admire women who own their age but there is no doubt in my mind that gray hair signals maybe even shouts older. We have choices. An attractive auburn-haired woman I met while we both were trying on eyeglasses yesterday told me: "I've read those stories about going grey but I'm not going there. I am an actress. It's hard enough to get roles at my age; with grey hair I wouldn't be working at all. "

Despite the expense, forgoing my color treatment is one cut too deep. There's a week or two now where my roots are more noticeable but I try to time it to less important events in my life. But I have another worry. My new concern is that longer hair can tip toward inappropriate--like a too-short skirt on a woman of that so-called certain age. (Can someone please tell me the taboo number, the double digits of that certain age of which no one can speak? Is it 50? 60? the dark side of 45? That number is as mysterious to me as the right length for my locks.) Right now my hair is shoulder-length but between salon visits it dips below. I look in the mirror and ask: Is this the hair of a coifed career woman or an aging hippie hanging on to a past long gone? Okay, that's extreme but you know how scary those early morning reflections can sometimes be. It's not enough you see your mother's face in the mirror but you see your mother when you were already grown up. Your old mother. I'm all for individual choices and free will and being whomever you want to be (Remember Marlo Thomas's anthem: "Free to be You and Me"). But I'm looking for consensus here. I've started asking my friends to tell me when my long hair gets too long. After all, I don't want to look like That Girl. (Am I dating myself? That's another post.) I want to look like the most attractive woman I can. I want to look the best I can at the age I am.

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