The Tyranny of Sexy

I’ve had sexy on the brain today.

You see, Peter Lappin posted on his blog about the sad demise of ladies’ hats (go read him at — even if you don’t sew, the discussions on fashion history are always great fun). I wrote a response wherein I suggested that hats went out of style when it became desirable for women to look sexy rather than sophisticated — likely in the youthquake of the late 60s. The thought has stuck with me, not because I wish to wear hats — my tendency to fling myself about makes over-accessorizing a safety risk — but because I suddenly want long hair.

Something like this, only a bit shorter at the ends. I want it to sway in the breeze. I want to forego blow-drying. I want to put it up in a swingy ponytail. Never mind that I have the hair styling ability of a Lego minifig. Never mind that hair past my shoulders gets lank and stringy and tangles quickly. Never mind that I have enough cowlicks to pasture an entire herd.

I want long hair, and I’m not entirely sure why.

I belong to a gym in which I’m often the youngest or second-youngest person in the room (I live in an area with a lot of retirees). I’m the only woman under 65 with hair above her shoulders. Everyone else has long locks, dyed to cover gray. Dry, frizzy, unhealthy hair sometimes — but long and a socially appropriate color, often blond.

At the moment, I have a longish bob which screams “Mom hair!” at me every time I look in the mirror. It’s not that I wish to avoid looking like a Mom — I’d have to stop hanging around with the three people who address me that way, for one thing. Nor do I wish to be desirable to random passing guys — I have trouble fending them off even with Mom hair. It’s more that I don’t look the way I feel in my head. I dyed my hair dark so often that I let my hairdresser put in highlights because my color was starting to look decidedly weird. I’ve gotten a ton of compliments on my hair color, which is a very appropriate caramel brown with blonde highlights. It’s flattering to my skin tone.

I hate it.

My favorite hair was a purple bob I had a couple of years ago (think Hit Girl from Kick-Ass).

The trouble with this look is, purple dye is VERY high maintenance. It tends to dye everything around you. Forget about wearing a white t-shirt. Expect to wake up with a purple pillow. Understand that you’ll have purple on your skin for a few days after a dye session. Your shower will look like you murdered the California Raisins in it. I know I want to go back to purple, yet every time I think about it, I hesitate.

Because there’s a part of me that likes to blend in, sometimes. You can’t blend in with purple hair. Senior citizens and small children will ask questions (usually because they like it, but still). People will give you startled looks. Other responsible adults may be horrified. So, there’s a part of me that’s tempted to keep my current boring color and grow my hair long. To be “sexy” and conventional, even though I know it doesn’t suit me. And even more troubling, I don’t know if this is because there’s a certain way society tells us we should look in order to be attractive as a woman over 30. How do I separate being someone whose preferences change and grow from being someone who buys into social conditioning?

What do you think? Do you ever feel burdened by the obligation to look the way people expect? To be sexy, or to fit in in some other way?


Posted on August 16, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. A lot of times, I feel like my “look” does not belong with the other moms at school. For a long, long time, this made me self conscious. But, I decided just this last year that I can wear whatever I want and look the way I want without giving those mamas a second thought. No matter how many wayward glances I get.

    Also, I’ve been thinking about streaking my hair blue. Never done anything like it, but I’m excited.

    • DO IT! You regret the chances you don’t take more than the ones you do.

      My “look” doesn’t belong with the other moms in our neighborhood either, but it’s a little bit of a different consideration when you’re wearing a Misfits t-shirt with a grinning skull on it. At that point, some of the concerns are less, “Do I fit in?” and more, “Do I frighten toddlers?”

  2. I am at the stage where I either need to get my highlights redone or just let them go… and I can’t decide. I think I look younger and more “fun” with the highlights, but they’re so expensive and I always fall asleep under the dryer and bang and burn my head. Decisions, decisions…

    • I hear you on the price point, sista. I was shocked that getting color and highlights at my salon is a mere $30 less than bleaching my entire head and dyeing it some absurd color (THAT is a three-hour process, minimum, so the price is understandable). I can do the dye myself, but I’m not daft enough to try bleaching hair on my own.

      I think if it makes you feel more yourself, then that’s the sign to splurge.

  3. Purple clip-in hair extensions? At least then your bathtub would be safe.

    • I thought about that. However, given how much I shove my sunglasses on top of my head, run a frustrated hand through my hair, scratch the back of my neck, and shove my bangs away from my face…..I’d probably end up bald.

      Plus, I can’t DO hair — which I’m pretty sure includes clip-in anything. I’m missing that part of the girl gene.

  4. I am a tattooed giant living in Japan, I’ll never fit in (appearance-wise) and sometimes that feels burdensome (or maybe it’s just the endless stupid questions, whispers and stares that feel burdensome).
    But these are choices I’ve made, well mostly.

    If you can’t DO hair, good luck with the “carefree” sexy long layers in the first inspiration photo!

    • You mean they can’t just cut it like that and have it magically fall into place?? I should know this by now. Years of lanky hair….

      Asian culture is much less circumspect about making personal comments. I went to a high school that was mostly Asian, and some of my friends’ mothers would horrify me with their remarks. You seem to have a good attitude about the challenges of living in Japan! I’ve heard the worst issue for us giant Americans is shopping….

  5. When you say that you don’t look the way you feel, that means you don’t SEE yourself the way you feel. Tessa struggles with that because of her wheelchair and stuff. So I just bombard her with the way I see her. Sometimes I get through, and she starts seeing herself through my eyes. She doesn’t have much other choice, and it works.

    • The Hubs tries that sometimes too, but gets frustrated because I argue with him. I should know better than to argue with someone who thinks I’m fabulous…..

      Sometimes, it’s enough to just BE. Like right now, I’m being a lap for the cat. She doesn’t give an eff about my hair.

  6. Hey … please email me at djc at for wallet testing. I know I have your email somewhere from the Giveaways, but hell if I can find it now that I need it. Thanks!

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