Hey – we may as well have fun as we go sliding into old age, right?

Hair’s the Problem.

Why do we torture ourselves so over our hair?  I remember my mom going to the hairdresser and coming home furious nearly every time.  She’d go straight to the bathroom and start rearranging her hair.  Dad and I used to laugh about it (which annoyed Mom terribly!).  Back then she was getting an “up-do” (remember those?), and she was never satisfied.  It was too high.  It was too flat.  It was too curly.  It was too short. 

On a side note: my parents were avid snowmobilers, and I used to love that Mom would still get her weekly up-do, then carefully put her snowmobile helmet on so that it didn’t disturb the hair.  We’d pull into some bar along the trails, and when the helmet came off, there she was with an elegant French twist and carefully coifed hair, drinking a beer and enjoying a corned beef sandwich – always stylin’!  I used to tease her, but I actually thought it was pretty classy and cool.

Mom wasn’t at all unusual.  Women are just never happy with their hair.  If it’s straight, we’re paying for perms to curl it.  If it’s curly, we’re ironing it to make it straight.  If it’s fine, we’re adding volumizers to thicken it.  If it’s thick, we’re cutting out sections to thin it.  If it’s long, we’re thinking about cutting it.  If it’s short, we’re wishing it were longer.  Layers?  Bob?  Wedge?  We are constantly doubting our choices and cursing our DNA for giving us the hair we have.  If you tell a friend that you love her naturally curly hair, what’s her response going to be?  “Oh, God, it’s such a pain – be thankful you don’t have my hair!” 

Right now, I’m glancing at my hair in a mirror and cursing.  The left side looks FABULOUS.  Falling just right, looking casual but in place.  The right side?  It’s got this weird little dip halfway down, and then one section is flipping OUT instead of under, in complete defiance of how I styled it just an hour ago!  What the #%$!?

I guess that’s the price I pay for trying to wear my hair longer than I ever really have.  I had my hair cut into a “shag” when I was a teenager, and it’s been in some variation of that 1970’s cut ever since.  Short shags, long shags, pixie shags, permed shags.  But shags just the same.  Somewhere along the way, I was convinced (or convinced myself) that this fine, straight hair around my long, angular face could only be styled in short layers.  I’m not saying the layers looked bad on me – they really did complement my hair and face.  But after forty years of shags, my mid-life mini-crisis is pushing me to try something different. 

I’m pretty sure I’ll be heading back to short layers within a year or so (or sooner).  But the process of experimenting with my hair has been positive, if frustrating.  A couple years back, I started growing the layers longer, with my (excellent) hairdresser keeping things under control.  I wasn’t crazy about the look at all times, but I was loving the “feel”.  For the first time since I was in second grade, I had hair that moved in the wind, blowing across my face.  Don’t laugh – I’d never felt that before!  In my mind, I suddenly felt like a movie star, with my hair brushing my cheeks.  When I had my convertible (which I miss terribly), I actually had to wear a headband to keep my hair from whipping into my eyes.  At 75 miles an hour, that’s not sexy – it’s painful. 

Today, the experimentation continues.  The longer layers (which never went past my shoulders, but for me, that was long) are now a medium length bob.  But it moves, and I’m having fun rediscovering my hair.  All those years of having hair labeled as “straight and fine” put me into the mindset that I must then try to make it “wavy and thick”.  That’s what women do, remember – we want the hair we don’t have, instead of embracing what we born with.  So I always used volumizing shampoo, volumizing conditioner, volumizing mousse, and volumizing hairspray.  After all, if a little would help, more must be capable of giving me a thick mane of hair, right?  Newsflash – I don’t have a thick mane of hair yet.

One Saturday a month or two ago, I lazily just washed my hair and dried it, without adding anything to it, thinking that no one would see me all day anyway.  And I discovered something surprising – my “normal” hair wasn’t that bad!  It was a lot softer without all that mousse and hairspray on it.  So I did the same thing the next day.  And it actually had shine, which is something that volumizing products take away (they “puff up” the scales on each strand of hair to make it thicker, but then the shine is gone).  And that “helmet-head” effect that loads of hairspray can give?  I didn’t need it after all.  I have to admit, giving up the swirl of hairspray around and around my head in the morning has been tough.  That’s decades of bad habit to break.  I’m a bit of a control freak, even with my own hair.

I’ve been messing around a lot with my hair lately, with varying degrees of success.  But I’m slowly learning to embrace the hair that I was born with, rather than trying to turn it into something that, frankly, it just wasn’t ever meant to be. 

And that’s pretty much a metaphor for women facing our fifties, isn’t it?  We start messing around with our nicely structured, well-planned lives, and we start discarding the artificial trappings that we’ve always assumed we needed to have.  I think we start facing reality more after fifty, and hopefully, we stop fighting with it. 

Will I end up with a short, layered cut again?  Uh, yeah.  I know it’s still the best cut for my hair.  But I’m having fun learning to like my “real” hair in this little rebellious phase of mine, and, even when it’s short again, I hope I can just leave it alone and let it do its thing without killing it with hair products.

Does that include letting it go gray (I’ve been coloring it for years)?  ARE YOU CRAZY???  Of course not!  I’m not that into facing reality.  I love my color, and it really is the natural blonde color of my youth, even if it’s not obtained naturally anymore, and I’m not giving it up, honey.  Not yet, anyway.  After sixty?  Probably…  It’s a personal choice, of course, but for now, gray just isn’t where I want to be.  But having hair I can run my fingers through (or Hubby can run his fingers through!) without causing pain?  Having hair that shines again, even when it is misbehaving?  I like it.

Comments on: "Hair’s the Problem." (2)

  1. Joanne, loved your article on hair! A few years back I decided to let my hair grow long. I’m not sure why since I moved to Florida and it is too hot to have long hair. In the past 2 years I have had 6 inches cut off and it is still down to the middle of my back. 99% of the time I have it piled up on my head or in a ponytail, so the real question is, why do I keep it long? Because I love going for a swim, bike rides, walks at the beach, boating, etc. and I don’t have to worry about a style and getting my hair wet. And, when I do decide to go “gray”, I figure I’ll just braid it. I went the other day to get my hair trimmed, the stylist didn’t suggest how I should wear my hair, she just commented ‘Why do you have long hair’. She had no tact. Your mom and her hair sounds just like my mom and her hair. LOL. I can’t wait to show her your article.

    • Ha! Guess what I did tonight? Cut my hair super-short again! I feel like me again. But that’s the whole point – wear hair that makes you feel good. And if long hair makes you happy, who cares what anyone (even a tactless hairdresser) says? I love women who can wear long gray hair, so when the time comes to go gray, go for it!

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