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Stop telling me to cut my hair just because I'm over 40

Sharisse Tracey’s work has appeared at The New York,,, The Los Angeles Review and various other online publications. Sharisse is an Army wife; mother of four, writer, counselor and educator who still doesn...

Just because you're over 40 doesn't mean you have to join the short hair club

If I hear one more person say that just because I’m "old" I have to cut my natural hair and stop wearing long weaves, I’m going to scream.

I'm a 44-year-old mother of four and I have long, natural hair with no intentions of cutting it. I also wear lengthy sew-in weaves to protect my natural style. The purchased locks preserve the fine texture I’ve grown into as an African-American woman, not to mention the convenience the weave allows.

I will be the first to admit that when it comes to hair I get extra excited. I was the 3-year-old-girl who stole a long black Cher-styled wig from the store years ago. “Cher, Mommy,” I said, while my mother apologized repeatedly to the lady who ran after me. Everyone at the corner laughed including the store owner. I cried. The wig was gone. And so was the feeling of joy I had for those brief moments while the me-sized wig swished on my back.

From that point on I was fascinated with extensive hair. The longer the better. For most of my life, my hair was an average length brushing at my shoulder. I didn’t think it was capable of growing any more. But as I grew into my 30s so did my hair inch by inch, even with the dreaded trim, that as a black woman you sometimes hated.

More: 14 Tips to style your hair based on texture

By my 40th birthday my hair was the longest it had ever been, extending to my chest in the front and bra strap in the back. I couldn’t believe it. The last thing on my mind was cutting it due to my age. It's only hair, and the longer length makes me feel good. At this stage of my life I'm all for what makes me feel fabulous. Period.

And where is the unwritten rule book that says long hair is only for your 20s anyway? Who wrote it and which chapter says that once women hit a certain age we have to chop off our locks and wear a shorter hairdo?

It’s been a trend for a while. Go short. Yeah, OK, short hair can be cute, sassy, chic, easier to maintain for some. I get it. Who wouldn’t want to work a look like Halle Berry on any given day? (My hand went all the way up just in case you couldn’t see it.) But even one of People magazine’s Most Beautiful People, known for her cropped cut, has gone long on occasion and looked gorgeous doing it.

Not being one to pass on a fashion craze, I did try to wear a short weave. The hair looked best with short curls at the crown that required daily hot curling because no one is trying to sleep with rollers in this decade. I felt pressure to always wear lipstick and have on larger earrings when I’m more of a clear gloss, lip moisturizer, Carmex kind of girl, or even Vaseline for goodness sake. (Makeup gurus may suggest that it’s best to have a little color on my lips every day but unless they are coming to my home to hook me up, they can have a seat, too.) I don’t need anything that prompts more work and, like learning to wear bold lipstick, short hair only equaled labor on my head.

More: 5 Things to know before dyeing hair pastel

The thing is, I love long hair and I always have. I prefer the options that longer hair allows. Ponytails, French braiding, head-banding, updos, low-dos, side-dos and the no-dos. So I’ll be damned if I’m going to stop wearing a style, just because I’m in my 40s, that makes me feel amazing and just so happens to be the easiest to manage for my lifestyle.

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