The long and the short of hair and ageing
My husband was recently driving along, listening to a debate on the radio – as you do when you don’t have two kids squabbling in the back and a swimming lesson to be at in four minutes – when he spotted a striking blonde.
As he tells it, he simply glanced at her from behind but, being a trained observer, he managed to take in her tight white jeans, crop-top and foxy heels. But what he most recalls (and remember, he only had that nanosecond) was the glossy, platinum hair flicking against her tanned back.
As he drove past, he checked her out in his wing mirror – because you never know when a girl might trip on her heels and need roadside assistance. That’s when, he says, he nearly drove the car into the local chicken shop.
“Talk about false representation. She was hot from the back but, from the front, she was literally old enough to be my mother.”
“Ha,” I snorted, “she’s a 1661 – 16 from behind and 61 from the front.”
I waited a few days – OK, a few hours – and asked whether he thought I might be in danger of committing, if not a 1661 then, say, a 1640?
“Darling, of course not,” he replied, wisely judging this was a “Does my bum… ” moment.
Anyway, it got me thinking: how long is too long to keep your long hair? Especially if it’s your best feature. Or, in my case, my second-best, after my finely turned ankles. (You can’t see them in the picture, which is a jolly great shame because, if I’d been born in the 16th century, I’d be shacked up with Henry VIII. Well, until he cut off my head.)
I’m all for playing up your assets, or what former French Vogue editor-in-chief Carine Roitfeld calls “being best in your category”.
It’s fine if your category is ‘beautiful neck’ like my friend Jacinda, or ‘perfect skin’ like my mate Penny, or ‘all-round gorgeousness’ if you’re Sarah Murdoch. Keep playing to your strengths until you reach 106.
But hair’s different because, unless you’re Brethren, Amish, hippie or Cher, at some point you’ll probably consider cutting it. But when?
A generation ago, women lopped off their hair the minute they turned 35, making middle age synonymous with bobs and body waves. Or, in the wrong hands, inmates from Prisoner.
But now we have a whole slew of glossy-tressed, fabulous-looking girls refusing to snip: Elle Macpherson, 47, Christie Brinkley, 57, Demi Moore, 48, Jaclyn Smith, 65, Liz Hurley and Sarah Jessica Parker, both 45.
My friend Sarah plans on sticking with her long red hair until she carks it. “Sensible hair says sensible life,” she says. “The longer you have a delicious head of hair, the more it’s your trademark, so why lose that one outstanding feature just as you succumb to the anonymity of middle age?”
Long hair suggests youth and vitality, which, ironically, is why it isn’t required when you’re young and vital. But, as you age, a swag of hair is the perfect cover-up for crow’s-feet, and a tight bun gives a fabulous mini-facelift.
Recently, I did consider a chop, canvassing friends with a plaintive email and a picture of Sarah Murdoch’s choppy bob. They didn’t point out that to pull off a ‘Sarah’ you might also need her face. But Penny was honest: “I think it would suit you beautifully but, in the humidity or after a swim, you might end up with a frizzy pyramid.”
So I trialled it on Hairstyle Lite, an app that allows you to drop your face into any haircut you fancy. Yep, pyramid. I’m sticking with long.
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