When I was younger I would mentally sneer at women age 40 and up not “dressing their age”.
I know, I know. Not great behavior. Mommy always did and still does maintain that I was an awesome kid; but, like all teenagers, I still had some ways to go as far as wringing out all the idiocy of childhood before I could become a decent adult. And as I learned and grew, I saw how willing society was to tear down women past age 25 for any little imagined infraction, especially as far style choices were concerned, and resolved to mentally police other women much much less (still side-eyeing socks with sandals, not sorry).
Then I turned 25, and got style-shamed for the first time related to my age, and not my texture.
The picture's a little blurry, but I'm the one in the middle.
I happened to be able to roll my birthday party into a French Revolution themed event, and although I like to have fun with my outfits, the French flag colored bows were clearly part of my costume. But during the 'How old are you now' portion of everyone singing me the birthday song, an acquaintance chimed in with 'And way too old to be wearing bows in your hair!'.
Yeah, what she said.
I was incensed, naturally—firstly because how DARE anyone tell me I can't do ANYTHING in this life, and secondly, because it embodied that same policing that I've been trying so hard to shed. But it did get me thinking.
Is there such thing as 'too old' when it comes to adorning your curls? If one can be too old for ribbons, can one be too old for fro-hawks? Cornrows? Elaborate Pintrest worthy fishtail combos? Funky colors? If there's a cutoff date, is there some sort of grace period? And who enforces this stuff anyway?
You always hear about the concept of 'Aging with grace/dignity', but honestly...I feel like that's code for 'Aging in a way that I find acceptable'. And what's deemed acceptable somehow seems to tie back to not standing out, or not taking up too much space—not too big, not too loud, not too visible...basically the easier you make it not to notice you, the more approval you get.
Don't get me wrong! Understated style is still style. I certainly wouldn't tell Oprah that she had to look like Grace Jones lest she give in to her own oppression. I just wouldn't accept a vice-versa. Also I'm 100% sure that trying to tell either of these great women anything would get me thrown out of the nearest building à la Uncle Phil and Jazz.
Furthermore, we here in the states spend a lot of time putting ourselves in a constantly preparatory stage. I feel like I've heard 'You can't wear your hair out NOW, what will happen when you have to go to debate championships/get into college/get a job/get promoted/become president-pope' for years! And then once you're retirement age, the line becomes 'Well, you're far too old for THIS'. Leaving the bounds of professionalism aside, when exactly am I supposed to be able to do what I want?
Side note, if anyone knows that what's considered professional is heavily biased against naturally curly hair to begin with, it's everyone here. But that's another article...
Bottom line, my take is that even if I don't LIKE something on someone, due to usually seeing it on younger people, no one makes it to X age to not do what they want. Having your curls get their own cool look is a triumph in and of itself, I say bring on the purple pigtails and hair bubbles no matter where you fall generationally. As long as it's coming from the heart, and you look good to you, the naysayers can go pout elsewhere.Also, two years later, and beyond, I'm not going to stop with the bows until I'm good and ready . So there.