Long, grey and mad at Mum

Commenter Susan wondered whether I'd seen the New York Times article, "Why Can't Middle Aged Women Have Long Hair?" by Dominique Browning; here it is.


Browning is disturbed by her mother's hatred of her long grey hair; her "worried sister" and "concerned friend" sing backup. This article could well end at para 2: "I feel great about my hair."

Instead, she catalogs and rebuts the complaints. To the rap, "You're still living in the '70s", Browning replies, "And why not? I like being 55 going on 15." Might a teensy bit of growing up be in order here? If a woman behaves, looks or thinks like a fifteen-year-old forty years later, she might better see a therapist than a hairdresser.

When family, friends or complete strangers comment on hair, it's data, not Ultimate Truth. But also consider the saying, "If three people come to your gate with a message, pay attention." 

Get an opinion or two from expert hairstylists, someone with a fresh eye, not the person who's seen you for a decade. Then do what pleases you

As for the belief that "it's aging": maybe in long and grey, you look fully your age or even a few years older. If you enjoy the pleasure, versatility, and aspect of your personality that your swath of grey asserts– so what? 

Your hair could well not age you, either– it's the critic's own projected fear of age you're hearing (and this is my guess about what Browning endures.)

If "is it aging?" is the sole criterion for choice, we are shackled to the vain pursuit of an ever-more-distant past. Isn't liberation the point of rebellion?

Browning notes that most mature women didn't wear their hair long and loose generations ago, grey or not. That's true, unless you were arty-eccentric or a member of certain religions.

Somewhere past forty, you put it up in a proper chignon or perky beehive by day, or cut it shorter. But times and styles change.

Harris' glorious grey
Two generations ago, no respectable woman (and there's a term you don't hear anymore) would let her bra strap or slip show. My friend Jennifer's 85 year old father still maintains that open toed pumps are worn only by prostitutes. Browning's mother, at least 75, is shaped by her times.

Today, some women with long grey hair look like they're out on a day pass, while others toss chic, shimmery manes. Much depends on the hair's health and how the rest of the package– makeup, teeth, clothing, even posture– reads. See Emmylou, patron saint of glam, groomed greys.

She says, "My mother still makes me feel like a 15 year old" and "My mother has a lot to say about my looks"– and I sense that isn't a shower of compliments. Browning's real challenge is what's between the two of them, not what's on her head.

50 comments

Nancy K said...

I got a lot of negative comments when I announced that I was growing my color out and really it was women being uncomfortable about their own aging. I did and do get a lot of compliments about how many people liked it when it was done. My hair is pure white and it's really flattering. Of course I also have a great hairdresser and don't dress like an old lady. The long hair, I haven't had it long in years because I am just not prepared to spend that much time and effort on my hair.
Her issues with her mother? My mother criticized like that and she was not an easy woman to be around. But, she died 13 years ago and I'd take all her kevtching to still have her around.
Some women see gray hair as giving up on being a sexual being. In our youth oriented society it's hard to age gracefully.

Susan said...

I just don't read the tone of the article the same way you do. I see her talk about her mother as describing what many of us have been through, but perhaps on different topics.

Maybe because I am one of those older women (see photo) with long gray hair, I read her rebutting of arguments with interest.

And for me, I spend LESS time and effort on my long hair (I keep it professionally cut/trimmed and conditioned) than when it was in a mid neck length style.

lagatta à montréal said...

I haven't received a single negative comment, but I have got some obviously judgemental glares from women a generation older of a specific type (helmet-hair, sleep in curlers, dyed an unnatural hue till they die)...

Nancy, if you are a boomer too, I think there has been a huge gap between the expectations our mums faced and those we fought for as girls and young women in a period of lightning social and cultural change. Imagine how Black mums reacted to their daughters who (horrors!) wore Afros! So many friends my age (same cohort as "Long, grey and mad at mum's") experienced the same torrent of constant criticism from our mothers - I think it is a function of that great shift, and hearing the same from other women means it wasn't just her - or you. Very few of us are happy about the loss or fading away of our mums; on the contrary, the loss of an opportunity to become friends as we become adults ourselve is very painful.

Grey hair as giving up on being sexual doesn't seem to apply to men though - is that because we lose our fertility suddenly, or because a head of lush silver hair is the exception in men, as most lose some first?

The short chop is definitely a refusal of sensuality though, as the "mum cut" is something many women underwent long before greying.

I do disagree with Duchesse that "55 going on 15" necessarily implies an immature person - it could imply sparkle and creativity, but of course we'd have to know how others see this person.

lagatta à montréal said...

I do have to modify something I wrote (oh, early mornings). I don't mean short hair is necessarily anti-sexual (as in monks and nuns); was speaking of an expectation placed on women once they were married with children, or over a certain age. Sorry if I inadventently slighted anyone with a sexy short cut because she or he wants to!

Susan said...

I do know (because I've done some research) that the author is an accomplished professional woman who has authored several books. I see her choice of words in her short article as artistic device aimed toward getting our attention and stirring up some conversation.

I also saw her comment about being 15 as talking about a certain youthful attitude instead of implying that she is indeed immature.

Some say (I read a lot of the comments to the article) that long hair is about sexual availability, while shorn hair is sending the opposite signal. I would never have thought that, but several people mentioned it.

One man who commented even said that older women with long hair are almost always interesting (LOL--he doesn't elaborate).

At any rate, the article has me closely scrutinizing every older woman with long hair that I see.

Deja Pseu said...

Excellent points, Duchesse. I've posted frequently about some of the "rules" I grew up with, and "no long hair after 40" was definitely one of them. I haven't had long hair since my teens, once I realized my hair just doesn't have the volume or body to look good long, so I don't have a dog in this fight, unless it's the cultural assumption that my short hair is an intentional announcement of asexuality. But I also read more reaction than assertion on the author's part. I also think we'll continue to see "going grey" as a stage on which our cultural angst about aging is played out.

Love this: "Isn't liberation the point of rebellion?"

Toby Wollin said...

I think a lot depends on the quality, texture and color of your hair. If I had hair like Emmy Lou Harris, I'd wear it natural, too. But mine is iron gray with a big splotch or yellowish-white on one side in the front, extremely course and curly. I once sat down and gave it great thought in terms of exactly what bothered me about my hair - it wasn't the length; it was the color. The multicolored thing just drove me nuts and made me feel drawn out and tired. So I keep my hair short, curly, and dyed.

Staircase Witch said...

I definitely agree with you that all women should obtain expert opinion (if possible, more than one) on how to wear their hair, and then make their own best judgment. I'm not sure Browning would disagree. I think, rather she was trying to dispel what appears to be a cultural taboo against long hair on older women--the same one that insists that we relinquish our right to be attractive to men--even our husbands--after a certain age.

Your short, curly hair is gorgeous, by the way. Mine, when worn short under duress, was what always aged me prematurely...when I was very young, I looked like fifteen going on a very unhappy forty-seven.

Tish Jett said...

Dear Duchesse,

Before I get to the point -- I always take a circuitous route -- I had to laugh when I saw your post. Three friends had forwarded the article to me.

Your take on the psychological aspects of the argument are more interesting than the hair itself. Hair is symbolic of so much angst for women it's almost terrifying. If we can't find a "do" and stick to it, we are incapable of making decisions, if we let it go gray we've realized, "it's over, what the hell, go with the flow," if we color it some crazy hue (I have a French friend who has a carroty color red choppy cut and it is who she is -- I love it).

Since our hair is so personal, so intimate, represents myriad complexes or defiant confidence why can't we just let the whole thing go. If a woman is happy with her hair, more power to her.

I agree with Pseu, just love: "Isn't liberation the point of rebellion?"

Duchesse said...

Nancy K: Your hair sounds stunning! And I second your point about your mother, that's my experience too.

Susan: She begins and returns to her mother, what can I say- it's quite clear to me that this is her most prominent critic.

As for 15 implying sparkle and creativity, I do not associate 15 with those particular characteristics.

Her last line, "The short of it means that long hair means there is always, at least, hope" also annoys, not because of what it implies about short hair but because of its welding of viability to looks.

Pseu: I'm grateful that you (and not surprised it is you) got my major and deeply felt point.

Toby: Agree, each woman should look at herself and do as she pleases. Men, too. But OMG I dislike those little ponytails some men have; one of my friends calls "Chihuaha's dicks".

Duchesse said...

Tish: Thanks; I too was more interested in how deeply she took her mother's criticism to heart. But then if she just said, "Tough, Mum, I like it", I suppose there would be no article to publish. I too absolutely enjoy the enormously varied approaches to hair on my friends- every length, every colour and not one frumpy, sexless style.

Duchesse said...

Staircase Witch: I don't experience long grey hair as taboo, possibly b/c I live in a cither of 3 million+ that is the most culturally diverse city on earth. Maybe in a small, conservative town it would be read as rebellious, but here, merely unusual but not transgressive. For that, you need the tattooed scalp.

Susan: I am wondering if your reference to Browning as "an accomplished professional woman who has authored several books" is an attempt to enhance her credibility? I'm not attracted a person who aspires to "55 going on 15", despite some commenter's perceptions about the charms of mid-teens.

materfamilias said...

I wouldn't have read the article if I hadn't been alerted to it by a comment in an earlier post here. When I did, I found much to admire in the writing and in the writer's attitude to life, but I also noted what most bothered you, the notion of someone making present-day style choices based on an adolescent relationship with her mother. Reaction is never the best place for developing a convincing style -- I noticed, in a post of my own recently, that the word "defiant" had slipped into a description of an outfit and I winced. In retrospect, I realized that I simply liked the length I was wearing, it felt good on me, but I was posturing defiance as a kind of convoluted apology for wearing something that stretched the norms a bit -- and then found out it really didn't bother anyone else (duh! surprise, surprise).
But as much as we may try, I think in some wee place, many of us are still 15 going on 55 or 65 or whatever, so I felt some kinship with the writer even as I thought impatiently she needed to get past trying to please or piss off her poor old mum.
Once again, you've gone for the gusto with this post and got us chatting!

Staircase Witch said...

Duchesse,

Sadly, I no longer live in such a mecca of diversity, though I once did, and agree that the requirements for transgression are much more challenging. Now, I do indeed live in a midsize, Midwestern town, where most women, after a certain age, seem to cut their hair off. I am, fortunately, somewhat insulated from this conformity through my membership in the University community.

From the large number of responses to Browning's article decrying long hair on older women as a demonstration of "mutton dressed as lamb" and "desperation to hold onto their youth," it would appear either that there are a large number of Times readers in conservative small towns or that the unspoken rule against long hair on older women is surprisingly widespread. I was a bit taken aback by the harsh tone of some of these comments, myself.

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

Hair is so personal and it is the ultimate accessory...
I wore my hair grey and short for several years and then one day I decided I could grow it long, to heck with that rule about short hair over 40...
I felt the tide of rebellion rising and decided to throw caution to the wind.
In fact, short hair did not suit my face, as my cheeks and face are round...
I am still growing out my hair and have been having highlights and lowlights...I am currently using a flat iron and am much more content with my look...
I am sure there will come a day when I return to grey but for now it is not in the foreseeable future...
and I'll be 56 in the new year.

nodue said...

There was a comment to the original article that mentioned in South America, Nepal, India, Vietnam and a few other locations, women do not routinely cut their hair as they grow older. This issue seems to be a Western/Caucasian societal norm and I would think with the US having so many immigrants, the societal norm will change in time.

Belle de Ville said...

I think that getting away with long gray hair depends on the entire package. Some women are so chic that they can carry any color of hair. (Note: I just watched the 'September Issue' and Grace Coddington just wouldn't be Grace Coddington without her huge red hair.)

Nobody has mentioned it here, so I will, but men on the whole, don't like gray hair, long or not. Don't take my word for it, ask them.

Even though I find long gray hair to be incredibly chic on certain women, I'm keeping my almost waist length hair blond instead of allowing it to go gray. If for no other reason than the fact that my 59 year old gray haired beau thinks that my long blond hair is sexy. He doesn't want me to cut my hair, or let it go gray.

So assume that I don't count as liberated, because I style myself for men and not necessarily what is considered in good taste for my age.

Jean S said...

When I originally read the article, I just felt sad for Dominique. She's my age and she's still fighting with her mother? Oy.

That said, Mom may be a bit of a red herring, linguistically--remember that Dominique lives near New York. When I think of prominent journalists/writers in NYC, I think of people like Nora Ephron (70-ish and still dyeing her hair quite dark) and Barbara Walters (who knows how old and still highlighting her hair). My guess is that letting your hair go gray in that milieu is Just Not Done.

Duchesse said...

materfamilas: She says "My mother *makes me feel like a 15 year old*" which is says it all, for me. Perhaps because the years of teen autonomy (occasionally spilling it defiance) are in recent parental memory, I spotted the tone and it assumed precedence over her more "intellectual" arguments.

Staircase Witch: Yes, local may well affect what is judged as atypical. I recall the first time I saw a woman in grey hair and navy nail polish- the chock of something new.

nodue: I saw so many women with long grey hair yesterday at our municipal polls; I live right next to an Indo-Pakistani neighbourhood.
The long braid and the sari or salwaar kameex is to me so graceful.

hostess: And thank goodness we have he technology to experiment!

Belle: I wouldn't label a woman who "styles herself for men" unliberated. I've heard many men say they don't like gray hair and have also heard some partners of grey haired women say they love it...

Social conditioning equates grey to no longer fertile, so there is a sociobiological explanation of our behaviour.

Duchesse said...

Jean S: Won't it be a moment when a major female TV broadcaster shows up grey? (I bet on Rachel Maddow.) Walters has that indeterminate many-shades- of-blonde colour, which is getting close.

Vivienne Westwood and Grace Coddington are both 70 next year, and still red, which comforts me, 8 years younger. Are redheads the last to give up the colour?

Anonymous said...

At 60, I am suddenly experiencing dramatic hair loss for no apparent reason. Perhaps that's why I'm feeling just a tad bitter about these long-hair discussions.

Duchesse said...

Anonymous: That's very common (whioh makes is no easier to bear); you might enjoy my previous post on hair loss: http://passagedesperles.blogspot.com/2009/11/thinning-where-you-least-want-it.html

LPC said...

Duchesse - Ha! True! Succint! Trenchant!

Susan said...

I think the idea of long hair on an older woman DOES make some women bitter. I think it's a complicated issue and raises lots of questions about the underlying feelings behind certain comments.

I'll say it again: I just wasn't bothered by the mother comments in the article. I saw them as part of a framework to hang the other parts of the article upon. (The sort of device I've used before in writing.)

Do I think the author's successful career and published books give her credibility? No, not on this particular topic, but it does show that she is far from 15 and has managed to accomplish some significant career goals in her 55 years.

If I had been writing he same article, I would not have used the mother reference. But, other than that issue, I did find myself being able to identifying with the author.

Like another poster here, I also noted the harshness of many of the commenters in the NY Times.

Alienne said...

I don't think the author's style has done her any favours - she sounds like a sulky teenager rebelling against her mother. I have not yet gone grey (I am 54) so I haven't had to consider this too hard so far but I don't think I would go for short hair as it does not really suit me; mine is shoulder length at present and I suspect I will keep it there or slightly longer. I think short hair ages me so it does not appeal. When I was 17 I worked in my father's office for the summer; one of my co workers was a 48 year old woman with long hair which was more grey than brown. It sounds as if the author of the article must have hair about the same length. My co worker said that she knew most women of her age had short hair but that she wasn't ready for that. I thought she looked great - her hair was shiny and healthy - what more could you want, and why should age have to dictate your hair length?

Susan said...

I doubt that the author realized that her tone would draw as much comment as her subject matter. And I agree--her tone has not done her any favors.

If you want to see a photo of her, google her by first and last name. There are plenty of images available.

By the way, I'm with my own 87 year old mother today and asked her if she thinks I am too old for long hair. She said "No, because you don't have any wrinkles. What sort of face cream do you use?"

The implication is, when the wrinkles DO come, I will THEN be too old. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Anonymous said...

I think there is definitely something about social acceptability and hair underneath all this.

Firstly, I read with interest this spring that grey hair had become fashionable, so long as you were young (http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/apr/04/grey-hair-young-fashion-trend).

Secondly I have had long hair almost all of my entire life and at EVERY age there have been people who have suggested that I should cut my hair short and people who thought it was beautiful. I found when I did try shorter styles that they were a lot of maintenance for my fine, pin straight hair, were not really compatible with my lifestyle, and were not all that attractive on me.

In college I thought I'd cut it at 30 and even had a picture of a short, breezy hairstyle I loved. I carried it around for years. Then 30 came and I said I'd cut it at 35. 35 came and went as did both 40 and 45 and I have now settled comfortably into feeling good about my hair. It is long, it is going grey and it's mine.

My mother occasionally does have the ability to jolt me with comments. She colors her hair and I think watching me slowly go grey is hard on her because if I'm grey I must be old and that means that she must be really old. She does not mean to hurt when she makes comments like, "There must be something wrong with my camera because this would be a lovely picture of you but it made you look so grey".

Duchesse said...

Susan: I think Anonynmous @5:15 has nailed it re some mothers: "If my daughter looks old, I must be *really* old."

LPC: Thank you very much.

Alienne: I'm glad there are role models for all lengths and colours though 48 is a mere child to me :)

Anonymous @5:15: There are some women, who, when they become mothers, go positively gooey if someone says "My, you look as young as your daughter!" The most extreme can be quite competitive.

My mother was nothing like that, but she didn't like me looking "too grown up" when I was in my late teens.

Rubiatonta said...

I think ultimately a woman's hair is a great asset when it is clearly an authentic expression of who she is (and at a certain age, who she has grown to be). Biology aside, gray hair to me often correlates to wisdom, and I find that very attractive. To my mind, my paternal grandmother was at her most beautiful when she stopped dying her hair black and wearing a wig. It was a beautiful pearly white, and cut in a short feathery style that made the most of its soft, fine quality. The pity is that she didn't make the change in her "do" until she was in her 80s (she lived to be almost 98). She was always insufferably glamourous, in that old-school San Francisco matron way, and her softer, more modern style did absolutely nothing to detract from her chic.

It saddens me that there's still so much judgment attached to how a woman wants to wear her hair, especially when that judgment relates to desirability. (Which in turn relates to fecundity, yeesh.)

While it's true that there may be some bio-historical reasons for certain physical preferences in both sexes, surely we're at a point in our history as a species where we learn to value something other than what worked for us when we all lived in caves and life was "nasty, brutish, and short."

Tiffany said...

Interesting. I read that article and felt strangely irritated by it. I think you've nailed why - a sort of whining adolescent tone. I'm glad Lagatta modified her comment about short hair, as I wear my hair very short simply because it suits my face (and my hair type) better that way. When I have enough grey I plan to grow it out (at the moment it just looks grubby), but I will keep it short.

Frugal Scholar said...

I agree w/ earlier comment that the article was designed to provoke--obviously successful. Also, Browning is a beautiful woman, and has the beautiful woman's confidence.

I have a near-70 cousin with grey medium-length hair. She has a VERY young face and body. I asked her why she didn't color her hair and she said that she would, in fact, look older. People comment on the contrast between the young face/grey hair.

I think this is true for Browning as well. I definitely think she's showing off--a whole lot of things in a whole lot of ways.

Susan said...

Like Anonymous, I have fine, pin straight hair--and no cute memorable facial features or fine bone structure to be set off by a cute short haircut. In some ways, I guess you could say that my HAIR is a feature to be set off by a round face. Another example of how this is a very personal thing.

And I agree that the desirability argument is not a fair or valid one.


And yes, I also think the article was meant to provoke.

Susan said...

Oh look! IF you want to comment to the author directly, you can do it here:

http://www.slowlovelife.com/


She has written a short piece about her article on her own blog. And, it already has comments. Perhaps someone should ask her about her preoccupation about what her mother thinks.

Duchesse said...

Rubi; biology aside, perhaps to women but I think most men have not accepted that wisdom thing. A friend of mine ran a high end introduction service for male clients (not escorts). She said they talked a good game about other qualities but selected on leeks every time.

You could have heard a pin drop when she told a dozen women this.

Tiffany: I think that'z the best basis for choosing.

susan: From your earlier comments, I searched and realized I'd read an except from that book, and had the same reaction of distaste- something I picked up that repelled me- an incompatibility that I have no interest in promoting to others.

lagatta à montréal said...

Tiffany, as soon as I sent off my post, I realised that I had not only misspoke but that what I wrote could be hurtful - not only to people who simply look better with short hair or who prefer it for a variety of reasons (they are athletes, don't like any fuss etc) but also to people who had experienced hair loss for a variety of reasons. Posting too soon after waking up is almost as bad as phoshting drrrunkkk...

I don't have as much hair as I did as a young woman, but I had hair like Janis Joplin or Pam Grier (Foxy Brown), so it is still of a decent thickness. It is true that I'm absolutely terrified of losing my hair - I've never been a svelte long-legged blonde, but have had abundant healthy hair and striking eyes.

I dunno, Duchesse. We react different ways to different things. Perhaps because I've never been a mother to actual sometimes obnoxious 15-year-olds, I really took that post as an image of a kind of carefree youth carried in one's head like a treasure - although actual 15-year-olds might be anything but carefree. At least she didn't refer to her "inner teen".

Susan said...

Duchesse said: " She said they talked a good game about other qualities but selected on leeks every time."

I don't understand the term "selected on leeks" Can you explain.

And I totally understand about not liking an excerpt from her book. I'm not a big fan of nonfiction self help or touchy feely tomes.

Fritinancy said...

I don't remember growing up with a proscription against long hair after a certain age, but I did have a father who detested long hair on women. He was an immigrant who associated long hair with the Old Country, superstition, excessive vanity, and everything anti-modern. My mother and I always wore our hair short, partly to please him and partly because our fine, thin hair couldn't support length without becoming split and ratty looking.

Maggie said...

I admire any good healthy head of hair..on anybody, young or old, male or female! (My mother was a hairdresser, so I guess it's in my nature to give it more thought than most.) If the hair is nice and thick, full of body and shiny, the gray won't matter a bit. And for the length, well what ever looks good and makes you happy is the best solution. Just as long as you're not equating long hair with youth that is. Let's face it, a 20 something isn't going to look old just because she has a short hairdo. So the reverse could be true.

Anonymous said...

Wow--this topic has obviously touched a nerve or two. When I read Dominique Browning's piece, I thought it sounded unlike her usual thoughtful voice. As she and I share the same recent October birthday, I can't help wondering whether she went through a small patch of rough emotional weather then, as I did (though generally quite contented and comfortable with aging) and wrote an ill-considered article "under the influence."

Critical mothers, grouchy husbands, self-absorbed children, friends with axes to grind--most days we can shrug them off and live as we think best, but sometimes things hit us when and where we are most vulnerable. I'm grateful that I had my brief meltdown alone with a cup of tea, and not in the pages of the New York Times!

As for long gray hair, I think it's like mini-skirts on the middle-aged: a hard look to pull off, but if you can, more power to you.

Duchesse said...

Susan: That's a typo. Should be "select on looks."

Fritinancy: Thanks for the reminder of the era when short hair, not long, was modern and even-in some circles- rebellious.

Maggie: When I read comments like, "I'm not ready to cut it yet" I wonder if more women than might admit equate their long hair with youth, or at least as not-old.

Anonymous: re "like mini skirts in middle age", is a good analogy, and I realize that look is not appealing to me either. (There are some very attractive inches lower than the mini but far from dowdy.)

Marguerite said...

What about men with long grey hair? Are they in a fog of youthful delusion? Don't get me started on the little ponytail look. In my opinion, it never looks well groomed or "hip". Get a decent haircut mister. Sorry, I realize this is a bit off topic.

Susan said...

Duchesse, Interesting comment about "not ready to cut it yet."

I DID cut my long hair when I was younger. I started a teaching career at age 31 and thought my long hair wasn't professional enough. I cut it mid neck length.

If I was teaching now, I would not cut my hair. The idea would not even occur to me.

I thought leeks might be some Canadian idiom I was not familiar with. And yes, men will almost ALWAYS choose on looks if no other information is available. I think once they know a woman, the looks are put more in perspective along with other qualities.

Duchesse said...

Susan: In fact, they had a ton of other info available. My friend gave both the men and the women she presented extensive tests, various profiles; she interviewed all parties extensively. (She was proud to provide this level of assessment.) She found that men professed to want intelligence, creativity, optimistic temperament, professional achievement etc. but choose the women they wanted to meet based on looks every time. She became very cynical. Eventually she closed this business.

Leslie said...

I grew my hair out to its' natural color in my early 40's. I've never gotten more compliments. It's silvery white with some dark toward the bottom and a nice texture. Would love to have long hair, but it starts to look like witchy. I also haven't been able to come up with an updo that would look hip and not old. A chignon could look good - or bad. So I have a layered cut with some length. Whether to color and the best length really depends on the woman. It's more of an instinctive judgment than anything else. I agree with you - if you get several negative comments, you should consider whether some change is needed. I decided I could be gray, but would work to stay slender and wear color near my face in jewelry, scarves, etc. Makeup too, but simple with color on the lips and cheeks.

Suburbohemian said...

I love the idea of 55 going on 15. Life is more than some dreary linear progression to the grave and we are more than insects trapped in the amber of someone else’s limited expectations of appearance and behavior. I think we travel between the decades at the flick of a switch somewhere and that is delicious. A song, a fragrance, a word or texture can send us reeling through the years. To wake up and feel in a different place from one day to the next is an opportunity not a neurosis. It means we experience newness with an eye to the wisdom of experience; invigorating, mystifying and maybe bittersweet, but not bitter. The woman still criticizing a middle aged daughter’s appearance has issues of her own as do those NY Times readers who appear to seek gratification by pecking angrily at the who just won’t recognize her place in the hierarchy.

Duchesse said...

Subbo: I appreciate your poetic ode to "travel between the decades". I only admire such 'agelessness; it when an writer's tone is expansive and nuanced, rather than defensive and peevish. Browning's tone in this piece reminds me of the worst of age 15: self-absorption, intense concern with physical appearance, very limited historical perspective and the abrogation of responsibility by stating that others 'make you feel' a certain way.

Duchesse said...

Subbo- that "it" is a typo, I'm rushed.

Susan said...

Duchesse, I should have explained my comment more clearly. I'm not surprised men still chose based on looks when the other info was on paper, or even in a video. My experience is that men will choose based on all qualities when they actually know a woman--or take the time to get to know her. Looks alone, as we all know, can be quite brittle.

Of course I know that the challenge is getting the men to get to know the woman in the first place.

I also know women who only choose men by their looks. I'm glad I didn't do that in my youth. My husband was not a looker as a young man, but has grown into a handsome older man with qualities that would have been a shame to pass up.

Lynda said...

Duchesse, I am not sure you will ever get this email, but here goes. Your hair looks very similar to mine and I was wondering if you would be so kind as to tell me the shampoo, conditoner, and styling products you use. Your hair looks lovely.
You are my favorite blogger. I am always very interested in what you have to say.
Good luck on your move. It truly is wonderful to be near ones children.

Duchesse said...

Lynda: Yes, got this and thanks for your encouragement. I use L'Oreal EverPure shampoo and conditioner, but only use *shampoo* once a week to ten days. (I wash daily with water and a teeny dab of conditioner instead of shampoo.) This or another non-sulfate shampoo is very friendly to curl. This method also preserves colour very well.

Every several weeks (depending on weather and my piggybank) I use a deep conditioner, no one brand, currently Phytologie Phytocitrus Mask.

In dry winter, I'm addicted to Phytologie's Phyto 9, a leave in product- but ration myself, it is expensive! Does not build up and you can use it daily. Impt: Phyto 9, not Phyto 7.

To style, either Fructis Curl Sculpting Cream-Gel or for nasty humidity a product materfamilias intro'd to me, Tigi Catwalk Curls Rock Curl Amplifier which is amazing but does build up in your hair.

Main thing I've learned: apply styling product, scrunch and then leave hair alone, no fluffing, combing and certainly NO blow drying of any kind- otherwise the product seems to just lock in frizz.

Good luck and tell us how it goes.