You will have gathered from the lack of posts that I’ve been swamped lately. Exploding Head Month started early this year. But this afternoon I was working in a coffeeshop, and while I was in line for coffee, the following exchange took place:

Man Probably Younger Than I Am: Hi.

Dame Eleanor: Hi.

MPYTIA: Your hair is really misleading.

DE: Why is that?

MPYTIA: Because you look so young.

DE: [Absolutely refusing to touch the question of apparent or actual age] I think so many women dye their hair that a lot of people don’t really know when hair starts to go grey.

At that point I got my coffee and went back to my table. And the conversation played over again in my head. Was MPYTIA saying . . . that I should dye my hair? That he was about to hit on me, until he realized that I’m probably a decade or more older than he is? That I am dressing too young for my age?

Should I have channeled Gloria Steinem and informed MPYTIA that this is what 40-whatever-I-am looks like?

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4 thoughts on “Strange conversation

  1. Fk him. Really. What was that?I hate the more than established belief that women over 40 can't wear their hair longish, can't color, without being accused like that…Or am I being too sensitive here?

  2. What he means: "I am an asshole, and I am so in such a way that prevents me from seeing you as a whole person rather than as an incongruity in my system for understanding female beauty." Virtual high five for you and your natural hair. Vaguely related question: do you find that academe is a profession unusually friendly to women aging as they are meant to do? I do, but occupying a young body as I do, there could be a lot that I miss. It seems to me there's prestige in grey hair and a lined face, but that could also just be a generalization of my own personal aesthetics. Hmm.

  3. I think he was trying to compliment you but not being very successful at it.Moria, I think it's that academia has more varieties of styles for women who are older: long natural hair put up with one of those skewer things/dangly earrings/flowing skirts, etc., a look that wouldn't fly anywhere else. If you're older and trying to get a job, though, it's apparently hostile, according to the Chronicle boards.

  4. Moria, I think you're probably right. Certainly it seems to me academic women are more likely to have natural hair than those in other areas, at least in my part of the world. I have always had a young face (partly bone structure, partly devotion to sunscreen), so I really welcome my grey hair as giving me some needed gravitas. And then it surprises me if people assume I want to look younger, because I do not.

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