Keeping My Long Hair and Three Other Aging Myths I’m Personally Busting
When I was in high school, one of my friend’s mothers had hair from another era.
Long and straight, with bangs across her forehead, sort of like Joni Mitchell. I probably remember her and her hair so clearly because I cannot think of another mom at that time who had hair like that. (Of course, while writing this it occurred to me that that mom was probably more than a decade younger than I am now, so … ouch?)
As I get older, I am continuously inclined to rebel against the myths about what women should or shouldn’t do with their hair, their clothes, their face, their everything. From narrow beauty standards to damaging body shaming to limiting fashion pronouncements, I’m over them all, but especially these four aging myths I personally bust every day: and you should, too.
My hair is long with natural gray streaks (when it’s not purple)
I’ve spent most of my adult life growing my hair out, then chopping it all off, then growing it out, then chopping it off … you get the picture. But since my last chop in 2015, I’ve been growing it out.
I do not understand the myth that women should have short hair once they reach a certain age, but there is no end to internet debate on the topic.
My hair is one of my favorite features. I spent years battling its natural tendencies, but once I figured out how to handle my hair to bring out its best, I’ve absolutely loved it long. Have I continued to change how I care for my long hair as I get older? Yes. If you’ve got gray hair, even if you color it, that hair is going to be coarser than your non-gray hair, and you may require different products, a different approach to layering, or different maintenance tools. For example, I now sleep in a satin bonnet to prevent waking up with a halo of frizz.
Point is: long hair offers me all the versatility I want to achieve in whatever moment I’m in, from working out to a night out, and I don’t see why I should change it.
I wear what I like, including leggings
I was pretty sad to find the number of articles telling women over 40 to forswear certain style approaches.
This one, for example, lists 40 supposed no-nos for the 40-plus set. Some of the “rules” are classist, as in don’t buy fast fashion, don’t buy inexpensive t-shirts, don’t have worn shoes or handbags, don’t have a cheap watch. Some are definitely based on the premise that older (is 40 really “older?") women should not bring attention to their old bodies and faces: don’t wear leggings, don’t wear “skimpy” bathing suits, don’t wear revealing clothes, don’t wear clothes with sheer or mesh, don’t wear chokers, don’t wear colors that are “too loud.” And some seem to be advising against a stereotypical Golden Girls look, like don’t wear sequins or matched sets.
People who write these articles have clearly never even seen pictures of a beach in Europe, and they’ve never seen style maven Trinny Woodall extol the virtues of a great “coord,” but more than that the rules about “appropriateness” make so many assumptions about how we move in the world, like there’s some mythical Stepford 40-year-old we all turn into, living the same lives in the same contexts, and with the same preferences.
Pandemic or no pandemic, I wear leggings. I like my legs, and leggings are comfortable. Check, check. Some of those leggings even have sheer mesh panels. Because if I’m not breaking more than one rule at a time, what even is the point?
Sometimes my lips are (gasp!) glossy!
Among the “guidance” for women 40+ that I find the most nonsensical, the no-lip-gloss rule ranks high.
I love how beauty poobahs will tell you in one breath how you can’t wear matte lipstick because older lips are drier lips and you might get creases, but you can’t wear lip gloss because being moist and shiny is for the young?
I do not have the time to find just the right “acceptable” point on the shine-to-matte spectrum, I buy lip products that make my lips feel moisturized and come in great colors I like (even loud ones).
I wear interesting and notable colors on my sometimes long-ish fingernails.
Similar to the idea that women 40+ shouldn’t wear chokers because they draw attention to the neck, and God knows we can’t have that, conventional wisdom states that your manicure draws attention to hands, and we don’t want that either.
Let me see if I can list the places we don’t want to draw attention to … our necks, our hands, our legs, our lips, our cleavage …
I switched to pastel nailpolishes like light green, light blue, and light purple. Sometimes I even wear different colors on different nails because it’s fun and I like it.
The rationale in most of the above cases is that not following the rules results in drawing attention to areas that might show our age, and our age is, above all else, something to hide. Honestly, I think there are two other things I possess that show my age more than my hands or neck, namely my wisdom and my utter lack of f***s to give if you can tell I’m past 40, 50, and I’m sure when the time comes, 60 too.
Who’s with me?
Elisa Camahort Page is a speaker, consultant, and entrepreneur, best-known for co-founding BlogHer. She’s the host of The Op-Ed Page podcast and This Week-ish newsletter, and co-author of Road Map for Revolutionaries: Resistance, Activism, and Advocacy for All. Learn more at elisacp.com.