Should older women not wear long hair?

Long hair isn’t just for young girls anymore. More and more middle-aged women are proudly wearing their locks long and gray, society be damned.

But women who wave off the shears and hair coloring are getting pressure over it — from their hairstylists, their peers, younger friends, even their mothers.

“Some people are constantly telling me to cut my hair. Some people tell me it’s inappropriate,” said Dominque Browning, a writer in her mid-50s who wears her dark, graying hair well below her shoulders.

Browning, a former magazine editor and author, was appearing on TODAY Thursday after writing about the subject in The New York Times recently. Her article — “Why can’t middle-aged women have long hair?” — prompted a huge online response from readers, who took positions both for and against.

Browning told TODAY co-anchor Meredith Vieira that among the biggest critics of older women who let their hair grow out are mothers — including her own.

“I think all of America’s moms are on their daughter’s backs. It’s their way of exerting control of their kids,” Browning said.

One of the other people who has been telling Browning to get her hair cut is celebrity hair stylist Sally Hershberger. In fact, she’s been doing that for 10 years.

Hershberger told Vieira that she’s not against long hair for older women, per se, but has long felt Browning’s hair was just a tad too long and unruly. Yet to Browning’s delight, Hershberger complimented her hair Thursday, saying she had softened it somewhat.

Share your thoughts: Should women over 50 have long hair?

Both women offered Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton up as someone who looked “softer” since she grew out her hair after the presidential campaign.

In her article, Browning writes that the typical criticism of middle-aged women who wear their hair long is that they are either rebelling against something or trying to recapture their youth somehow.

“No one seems to have any problems when a woman of a certain age cuts her hair off. It is considered the appropriate thing to do, as if being shorn is a way of releasing oneself from the locks of the past,” Browning wrote. “I can see the appeal, and have, at times in my life, gone that route.”

As for any stigma being attached to woman like her who wear their gray long and proud, Browning said she believes that can easily be overcome by what they have done with their lives, their skills and how they speak.

“I think it’s what comes out of your mouth that makes you serious or not serious,” she said.

Although she defends her long locks, Browning concedes that they do come with a price. Long hair, she wrote, is high-maintenance.

“I’ll admit that it is a look that requires tender loving care,” she wrote in the Times. “It is impossible to body-surf without getting seaweed tangled up in it.”

Maybe Browning’s next piece should be entitled, “Why can’t middle-aged women go body surfing?”

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