Is Short Hair More Professional?

Every so often, an article comes along that prompts women everywhere to send scathing, opinionated e-mails to all of their girlfriends. Like the "Time" magazine cover story with the mom breast-feeding her decidedly un-toddler of a kid. Or the one in "The Atlantic" a few years ago, urging single women everywhere to settle for Mr. Good Enough. (That one still rankles my innards.)

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Yesterday, my own e-mail inbox looked like the pitch center for "The New York Times" Opinionator column thanks to my friends' feelings on a certain Vivia Chen's career advice diatribe on why women over 40 look unprofessional if they have long hair.

Chen, a former corporate lawyer turned career advice columnist, writes: "I know this doesn't sound very liberated, but I find women over 40 with very long hair unsettling -- particularly if it is straight and hangs more than a few inches below the shoulder. They look rather sad and dated to me."

Come again, Ms. Chen?

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I know plenty of 40-somethings with gorgeous long hair that look pulled together and professional -- not sad and dated. They look like real-person versions of Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Jennifer Lopez, and Salma Hayek -- all very successful, all very over 40, and all who look decidedly beautiful and not at all like they're trying too hard.

I'll give Chen this: She makes a compelling point when she says that playing with long hair can be distracting. Twisting and twirling your hair is a surefire way to look unprofessional -- but isn't that as true for a 20-year-old intern as it is for a 40-year-old lawyer? And, isn't that a matter of etiquette and grooming -- not standards for achievement?

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Here's what I find unsettling: The fact that women have come so far in the workplace, but are still criticizing each other over such frivolous things as hair length. Don't we have more important things to talk about?

What do you think? Should women over a certain age cut their hair if they're trying to look professional? Or is that "advice" just a load of antiquated BS?

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