Rapunzel Rapinzel trim up your long hair
January 3, 2009 7:34 AM   Subscribe

How to encourage a girlfriend to cut her hair ?

My girlfriend of 4 years is so wonderful in so many ways but I am becoming less and less enchanted by her v. long (butt-length) hair.

I have to take the vacuum apart every other use to cut her hair out of the spinning brush on the bottom. She regularly asks me to pull her shed hair from places on her body she can't reach. I have pulled her hair out of my own asscrack when showering. Her hair clogs the drains and god knows how it got there but last week I had to pull her hair out of our cat's rear end (bad. Never want to do that again as long as I live). She has allowed me to trim it 2x in the past 4 years, both times fairly insignificant amounts. She says it takes so much time to wash that she doesn't wash her hair more than maybe once every two or so weeks, and because we work out 3x/week it looks (and I can only imagine, feels) nasty. She has never in all her life worn it any other way and as we're now in our 40s
I think her hair length and style are really unflattering to the gorgeous woman I love who appears to have locked herself in the 70s. She's not 12 anymore and I'm frustrated by constantly cleaning up her hair. I've tried to have discussions but they so far have ended the same way: "No I won't". I love her, nasty too-long hair or not but her hair is strangling us.

posted by anonymous to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (56 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I think this is straddling the line of trying too hard to change someone after you've been with them for a while, but--it really does sound like she should cut it.

You're probably SOL though, any strategy you use to seriously drive it home is going to wound her. Maybe talk to her friends and have a semi-serious hair intervention, like on that WhatNotToWear show or Queer Eye?

But my best advice is this: Decide now whether its worth breaking up over. It isn't? Well then at some point maybe you should just let it go.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:51 AM on January 3, 2009

The only answer(s) are:

1- Live with it (make peace with it) until she decides its time for a change on her own. If she changes it and hates it because you asked her to is a recipe for resentfulness.

2- Talk to her and see if she will tell you why (or if she even consciously knows why) she likes it that way. Maybe there is some kind of identification she has with the long hair that she doesn't want to give up. For example, many people equate shortening their hairstyle with "giving up" and/or admitting they are old.

3- goto 1
posted by gjc at 7:52 AM on January 3, 2009

Dude. If she cuts her hair she's going to (think she looks and) feel old. That (and the normal desire to stick with the devil you know , and normal human orneriness) is why in her mid-forties, this will be such a fight.

You love this woman, you think she's gorgeous, believe me there are things worse than cat butts. Like break-ups, loneliness, age, illness, despair.

You're lucky. Don't try to change her. Maybe offer her a spa-treatment, and maybe the stylist will convince her to make a change. But you won't, especially approaching this as an argument; at most you'll get is her unwilling acquiescence and then months and years of her regret and resentment.
posted by orthogonality at 7:53 AM on January 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

I have long (small of my back-length) hair, and I don't have nearly the problem you describe with your girlfriend. I'm 24.

However, I also wash and brush my hair daily, if not every other day. Part of keeping her scalp healthy and keeping her hair on her head is washing her hair, and I think that's more of the problem than the length of her hair.

Granted, we do have to take the vacuum apart every once in a while to cut hair out of the brush--maybe once every five or six months.

Washing long hair doesn't really take long at all, so I don't really see the issue she has with it. I may spend an extra 5 minutes or so in the shower making sure all the shampoo/conditioner is rinsed out, but I don't see it taking a significantly longer time for the extra six inches of hair she's got in comparison to me.

If you really want to convince her to cut her hair, you may have to approach it from the hygiene angle. Leaving her hair unwashed for two or so weeks (!) isn't healthy for her at all, and maybe she could be convinced to cut it if you point out how much less time consuming it'd be if it were shorter. I have no idea how she goes for two friggin' weeks without washing her hair; I'm actually about to hop in the shower to wash mine and I've forgone it for two days. Already it feels gross!

Remind her that "short" doesn't mean a bob, or shoulder-length. She can still have long hair but keep it in line a bit more than she does. It's going to be difficult to change her mind, if you even can. Good luck.
posted by Verdandi at 7:57 AM on January 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

It might help for you to talk to her and ask her why she wants to keep it as long as she does. Hair and how we wear it says a lot about us, consciously and subconsciously. I used to have much longer hair, and suffered from the vacuum cleaner problem as well, but didn't want to cut it off - hair grows about 1/2 inch a month and that's a long time to grow it back if I didn't like it. I found a salon that did computer imaging. They took a picture of me with my hair pulled back and I looked through a catalog of many hairstyles and picked a few I thought I would like. Then they put the hairstyles on my picture and adjusted the hair color so I could see what I would look like. I looked horrible in two of them but pretty good in the other two, so with the confidence of knowing what it would look like, I took the plunge and had my hair cut. I was pretty happy with the whole process. There's a lot of online programs that do that sort of thing if you google it.

Also have you shared with her what you've shared here? The whole not washing it for up to two weeks is kind of gross and would be a big turn off.

If she won't budge, fine, accept it, but from now on make her clean the vacuum, drains, and (ugh) the cat's ass. Maybe it won't bother you as much if she's cleaning up after her own hair?
posted by NoraCharles at 8:05 AM on January 3, 2009

Maybe talk to her friends and have a semi-serious hair intervention, like on that WhatNotToWear show

The last time I saw a woman with hair that long on What Not to Wear, she refused to cut it, so YMMV (and yes, she looked completely ridiculous with new clothes and the same 'ole hair).

I'm sure you're not the only person in her life who thinks she should cut her hair, but there must be someone who thinks it looks nice (Mom? best friend? little girl at church?), or thought it looked nice (first love? Dad?). I think before you'll be able to persuade her to change her hair, you'll have to figure out why she's so attached to it as is.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:11 AM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

People develop an incredibly emotional attachment to their hair. It signifies lots of things to different people - it can be an armor erected to hide self-esteem issues; it can be a signal of femininity ("don't cut your hair you'll look like a boy"); it can be a signal of dying youth ("Don't cut your hair you'll look old"); and so on and so on. I was 12 when I first cut my long hair and I cried in the salon chair. My mother was 49 and SHE cried in the salon chair. Watch any episode of What Not to Wear, and you'll see that nearly every women with long hair has the same experience.

That said, I don't think "Dude, your hair is grossing me out" will convince her. All you can do is ensure her that you don't think shorter hair looks boyish, that you don't think shorter hair looks old. That you love her whatever her hair looks like but that ilong hair is clearly becoming unmanageable for her.
posted by muddgirl at 8:16 AM on January 3, 2009

Looks like you are getting all kinds of answers that don't address your actual , original, question, and I hate when that happens to me, but now I'll chime in with more of the same.

It looks like you've asked her more than once, and she's said no. So there you go. There's not much else you can do. You can point out that it's easier to take care of and keep out of the way*, but you've probably done that already. Incidentally, was she raised with Pentecostal or Holiness influences? Because they have some religious points about women cutting their hair (and for Sikhs, about anyone cutting their hair).

The cat: hair drifted into the food dish and the cat ate it. You can try using this as further argument about cutting - that can't be good for the cat. So would hair perverts, come to think of it: I get strange men walking up to me telling me my hair is beautiful and asking me to never cut it. It can be disturbing.

Speaking as someone who also has very long hair, the vacuum thing is inevitable. I greatly prefer to live with hardwood floors, and that's one of the minor reasons why.

You can get hair traps to put over the drains. They're cheap and easy to use, and you just have to remember to always leave them in place and remember to clean them.

Washing: I shower and wash my hair at night, and sleep with it wet. Could she try that? It's dry enough when I get up, and usually completely dry when I leave for work. I do limit washing hair to every 2nd or 3rd night, because the ends (and my scalp) will dry out very badly if I do more often.

*As to the "easier to take care of" thing, I personally think that's a lie. My hair can be pulled back without annoying ends flopping into my face; I don't have to spend time having it cut every six weeks or so (although it should be trimmed); there's no "styling" to speak if; I don't use a blow-dryer, and my way of washing and drying works; and gravity itself limits the weird goofy stuff the hair can get up to (except when it dries looking like I have a big dent in my head, and I can wet that down to fix it completely).
posted by dilettante at 8:19 AM on January 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

She may have trouble imagining what she would look like with short(er) hair. Clairol operates this site (registration required) and i-village offers the similar makeover-matic (no registration required); both allow you to upload a photo and test out how different styles and colors work with your face. Here's someone's Clairol effort captured on Flickr which shows a wide range of hairstyle options ... but if you hunt around Flickr there are many examples of older people* sampling more conservative cuts with dark or graying hair too, so the tool isn't just for the young and pretty. Not all of the options assume the use of lots of product and/or wizardry with a blow-dryer and curling iron.

You can make this fun if you do it together or maybe you want to experiment on your own so you can edit out the ridiculous ones. Take the photo with her hair pulled back and out of the way, obviously.

*as well as guys and a few cats and dogs too.
posted by carmicha at 8:20 AM on January 3, 2009

To me, this is either a deal-breaker for you, or it's not. If she doesn't want to cut her hair, you're not going to convince her otherwise.

I had waist-length hair for 10 years -- from 18 until a couple of months ago. It was a very large part of how I saw myself. Then one day I was driving home from work and I thought "I'm going to get my hair cut." No actual reason -- I just decided to do it. And I did and I'm very happy. But I always resisted any pressure before that to get my hair cut. It was a part of me. I needed to be ready to let it go.

And yeah, maybe she should be washing it more than she is -- I think it's OK to nag her (kindly) about that. (I think all couples do a bit of that with each other -- I think they can be honest about such things.)
posted by darksong at 8:25 AM on January 3, 2009

Instead of asking her to cut it, perhaps you should let her deal with all of the hair related mishaps instead of you. Let her clean the vacuum, and the drains, and pull her hair out of the cat's ass. Every. single. time. After she sees how much trouble it is, she might decide it's time to do something about her shedding problem.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 8:25 AM on January 3, 2009 [21 favorites]

I agree with Verdandi that the bigger problem is not the hair so much (although I do think that very few women in their 40s can pull off hair that long) as that she's not washing it. When you wash and brush your hair, you don't just clean it, you also automatically remove any hairs whose time has come. Yes, you still have to clean it out of the brush/drains/etc and put it in the trash, but that's a lot better than your cat's butt. So worry about the length later and get her to wash it first. Every two or three days is fine.

If she's really insistent that it's just too long to wash properly, then I would ask her how she feels about her hair the way it is - how does it feel right after she washes it (or a day or two after she washes, which is my personal optimum), versus at the one week mark or the two week mark? If, as you and I suspect, waiting that long between washes makes her feel kinda grody, you could then ask her why it's so important to her to have hair so long that she can't take care of it. And then go from there.
posted by bettafish at 8:28 AM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

There are "no-poo" methods of washing hair if she's worried about damaging it with shampoos. Or buying a cheap conditioner like V05 and washing with that every day (it works!). Even rinsing it and scrubbing through it with her fingers is better than nothing.

I've been in the "long hair to butt" camp and it really is difficult to see yourself without that hair. One day I got it trimmed so I could grow it out longer, and due to the incompetence of the stylist it was taken off at the shoulders. I was heartbroken for all of three hours, until I realized that my hair was lighter, didn't have horrible stringy split-end bits everywhere, looked healthier, and felt great. It was shiny and attractive for the first time in my life. Seriously, unless your wife is one of those who is able to maintain hair that is of even length and thickness down to her butt, with minimum split ends and maximum shininess, she doesn't realize how much better she's going to look without the long hair.

There is also a point with hair that long where there simply is no repairing the damage. All you can do is cut it off and start over.
posted by schroedinger at 8:33 AM on January 3, 2009

Cutting the hair to a shorter length won't necessarily cure the issue of hairs shedding and getting everywhere.

My very thick, dark hair was mid-back length for a long time and shed like crazy, causing many of the same problems you describe. I did cut my hair to shoulder length and it STILL sheds a lot, especially during certain times of the year (winter seems like the worst). My hair still gets caught up in the vacuum, ends up digested by my pets and clings to everything. As a result, I'm the person in my household responsible for vacuuming regularly and cleaning the floors and then maintaining the vacuum.

There are some fabulous looking things that can be done to style long hair that might help keep it from flying free. Hair clips, hair sticks and braids can also help prevent that Manson hippie child look. Also, I can relate to the not wanting to wash super long hair regularly. Long hair takes a long time to dry and over washing it can dry out the ends. When my hair was super long, I used to shampoo just my scalp every few days and let the soapy water trickle down to the ends. I also used to go outdoors and give my hair a good brushing every day with a natural bristle brush to keep the hairs from getting everywhere in the house.
posted by pluckysparrow at 8:48 AM on January 3, 2009

You get get her a gift certificate to an upscale spa/salon. Sometimes hearing things from a professional makes a difference.
posted by Ostara at 8:50 AM on January 3, 2009

She regularly asks me to pull her shed hair from places on her body she can't reach.
Stop doing that for a start and get her to clean the drains, fix the vacuum and remove hair from the cats bum. She wants long, dirty hair, she can deal with the consequences. Maybe you could ask her to remove it from your ass-crack on a regular basis and see how that makes her feel ;)
posted by missmagenta at 8:52 AM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Have you suggested something like Locks of Love to her? That might make her feel like she is cutting her hair for a reason.
posted by radioamy at 8:59 AM on January 3, 2009 [6 favorites]

1) Make her do all of the maintenance and cleaning related to her hair herself. It's not your hair, so it shouldn't be your job.
I had long hair for the first part of my life (not nearly that long, and it was until age 22, not 40), and I got so sick of all of the things you mentioned, like the vacuum thing, and the drain thing, that I decided myself that the hair had to go.

2) Ostara said what I was going to say-- get her a gift certificate for a spa/salon day. Maybe a professional trying to convince her will help. Of course, at 40, I'm sure she's had many hair stylists try to get her to cut it.

3) This is the longshot-- get her on What Not to Wear. There was that one woman who refused to cut her hair, but there have been many others that did cut it. They were all really happy with how it looked, and I bet that holdout would have been, too, if she wasn't so damn stubborn. Hair grows back.

If she refuses to cut it, you may need to sit down with her and tell her that if she isn't going to cut her hair, she needs to be brushing it at least once daily to keep the hair from shedding so much all over the house.
posted by fructose at 9:04 AM on January 3, 2009

I agree-- "let her deal with the consequences of her long hair," and nag the hell out of her to keep herself clean. And no, I don't think you're a controlling asshole for wanting her to cut her hair. What you describe sounds gross and unacceptable for an adult. And I say this as a woman who used to have very long hair, who dealt alone with some of the issues you describe.

Obviously talking is key, but here's an idea from another angle: set up an appointment with a stylist at a high-class salon or department store, one where they take you through and make wardrobe, makeup and hair style suggestions. I mean, like really high class-- shell out a few hundred bucks for the full makeover treatment. Make it a birthday present, Valentine's present, or something else if you want to aim for subtlety.

If she can see herself in other styles, while feeling pampered by women focusing on/working for her for a few hours, she might decide to cut her hair and try a new look.

That's all I got. Good luck.
posted by vincele at 9:12 AM on January 3, 2009

This kind of seems like a no-fly zone to me, as well.

BUT - I can tell you how the hair got in the cat's butt. The cat ate it. Cat's eat hair. And it just didn't clear the hangar, if you know what I mean.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 9:13 AM on January 3, 2009

The thing about really long hair is that it's romantic. With hair that long, you are a different sort of person from everyone else. It's the kind of hair that, while it may seem out of place to other people when you're wearing business attire, is the only style that would ever really look right with the clothing of a medieval princess, or a French queen, or an English peasant girl. If you cut your hair, you're never going to look that way again. If you've ever seen someone in period costume with contemporary hair, you'll know what I mean. There's just no way to make it look right.

So, if you want to leave that behind, you need something else good to look forward to. A new ideal, maybe. A new vision of beauty or goodness.
posted by amtho at 9:14 AM on January 3, 2009 [5 favorites]

I usually grow my hair out about that long, chop it off for Locks of Love, and start over. On my quest to produce better-quality hair to mail off, I found a website for growing longer hair that recommends daily or every other day washing -- but only actively scrubbing/lathering the crown of your head. Basically what you're doing is giving the real scrub to the new growth near the scalp that can take the abuse, and the act of rinsing saturates the rest of the more fragile hair with a soapy water solution to lightly strip it of oil and debris.

I tried it, still do it when my hair's very long, and this really does work, keeps the whole head of hair clean, dramatically reduces split ends, and (the selling point to your wife) takes the same amount of time as washing short hair. Another part of this advice was to only condition the ends, which may also help with her buildup and time invested.

Locks of Love, by the way, is a fantastic "cut your hair" guilt-trip. I know several folks with really long hair who were only motivated to cut it when they heard about the program. Locks of Love only needs 10" of hair to make wigs for needy children; at the length your wife's hair is, she could take off 10" and still have youthful long hair. I'm not the only one of my friends who grow their hair out for just this purpose, and it's a totally work-free way to do something good for kids. Many hair salons will even do the work of mailing it off for you.

Another thing that might help with the shedding/hair everywhere is her giving her hair a very thorough brushing either outside or in a designated area. I started doing this when a roommate complained and it was very effective.
posted by Gianna at 9:15 AM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I was also going to suggest buying her a bunch of ugly clothes and getting her on What Not to Wear. I'm sure that's easier said than done, though.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:15 AM on January 3, 2009

Oh, and when I was losing my hair due to health issues, I used to regularly vacuum my head with the vacuum tube. I left the vacuum out and would vacuum my head every couple of hours. Even so the apartment was covered in hair, but I was doing far more than normal shedding. Vacuuming once a day might be enough to cut down on the shedding.

Also, I've found with my (shorter, but longish) hair is that combing with a wide-tooth comb in the shower while the conditioner is in cuts back on day-to-day shedding. I think it prevents breakage, and it does remove the hair that's no longer attached to my head.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:20 AM on January 3, 2009

OK. I have long hair (not down to my butt as I can't grow it that long, but close to waist-length). And I am around your girlfriend's age. And I have to say that when I saw the above-the-fold question, my response was "What the...?" Hair is part of your body. It's personal. Insisting that someone else change the way they wear their hair - even a boyfriend - seems very, very intrusive to me.

Which brings us to a request for clarification: you mention two objections, one practical (you don't like cleaning up the long hairs she sheds) and one aesthetic (you don't like the way her hair looks). Which is the primary driver of this wish of yours? Because various people have given you practical suggestions for dealing with long hairs lying around or making her deal with them, but if your true objection is dislike of the way long hair looks on her, these aren't going to resolve the problem. Conversely, if she starts styling her long hair in a way you prefer but it's still long, and if your real problem with it is chore-based, that's not going to solve it either.

(For what it's worth, I don't wash mine often either - every week or so, sometimes two, more often in summer. My hair is very dry - and this is common in women in their 40s - and washing it too often damages it, even if I condition it within an inch of its life. It doesn't take long to wash, but it takes forever to dry, so it's not terribly practical to wash it every day. It doesn't get gooky since my scalp doesn't produce much in the way of sebum. I do massage my scalp every day. I like it long, and I like the way it looks and feels.)

I can't speak for your girlfriend, obviously, but the cut-your-hair suggestions here wouldn't work very well on me. Having a stylist tell me that my long hair was unacceptable in some way would probably have me walking out. If you don't like the way it looks, you might try bringing home some style books for long hairstyles, with a playful attitude - "Let's try something new!" - if you think you can pull it off. She's far more likely to be receptive to a change in style that doesn't require waiting years for it to grow it back if she doesn't like it. But only do this if you can do it lightly; coming across as "I want you to change your hair because I think you look ugly the way you are" is, well, inadvisable.
posted by jaed at 9:20 AM on January 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Here's another angle. Maybe she's not cooperating because she knows that it bothers you. It could be revenge for something you did (or won't do), or a way of requesting a certain kind of attention, or a way to avoid sex, or a way to get you to break up with her so that she doesn't have to break up with you.

Only you can know, but I would advise you to consider all those possibilities.

Fights about hair are probably not really about hair, just like fights about X are usually not about X.
posted by bingo at 9:41 AM on January 3, 2009

Just wanted to share two other hair donation programs, in case she becomes interested:
Pantene Beautiful Lengths: Makes wigs for women who have lost their hair from cancer treatment. They need 8 inches, no permanent dyes, only strands of gray
Wigs for Kids: Makes wigs for children who have lost their hair from a medical condition or treatment for a medical condition (like cancer). They need 12 inches, no permanent dyes, gray is fine.

I know some people have issues with Locks of Love because of some of their practices, so I wanted to share these others in case your girlfriend does want to donate and prefers other options. I donated to Beautiful Lengths because my hair wasn't 12."

I would also advise not bugging her too much about donating her hair because it could make her even more defiant about keeping it. I was part of a long-hair online community to get care tips and the ladies in there would constantly bitch about people telling them to donate their hair and how stupid they thought donating hair was. It was kind of weird, really.
posted by fructose at 9:46 AM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I agree with the people who say that she should be responsible for her choice -- that is, she should clean up after herself in the shower, etc. I don't think that disguising another request for a haircut in the form of a gift to a salon will be well received.

But, I have another idea that's not been mentioned yet. Do you have a habit or physical attribute that really irritates her? Something that's been part of you for much longer than your relationship? Something that you are very reluctant to change? Maybe even something that society rewards you for (as long hair is often seen as sexy by some men), or something that has become part of how you see yourself? Offer her a trade -- you will change if she does.
posted by Houstonian at 9:51 AM on January 3, 2009

I think the advice above pretty much covers it. I realize you want her to cut it, and she probably should, but I think it will not be easy to convince her (and might not be worth the pain and suffering you would have to go through if she is really invested in it.)

Just a comment on the appearance thing. I used to have long hair (though not as long as your girlfriend or others here). When I hit my late 40's my husband convinced me to cut it off. I now generally keep it chin length - shoulder length. He finally convinced me to do it only when I myself realized what he had subtly been trying to tell me for a while. After a certain point, really long hair on an older woman tends to *emphasize* that you look older. There is something about the contrast between the long hair and your aging face that does *not* look good. It does not matter if you dye it or not. Most people I know my age with long hair wear it up or pulled back; they no longer wear it straight/loose. The one person our age who still has long straight hair (sadly) gets talked about behind her back by pretty much everyone. We all agree that she would look much, much better with it shorter, but she is so invested in having it long that we know she would bite our heads off if we say *anything*. We are trying to subtly get her to realize it herself, but no luck so far.
posted by gudrun at 9:59 AM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

My wife has very long hair. Early in the relationship, she cut it, partly for me. She was not happy with short hair and it was a sore point in the relationship. This was an early lesson in not sweating the small things.

These days, her hair is long, though occasionally she trims it for Locks of Love. I let her be who she wants to be (up to sleeping with Rob Thomas and/or LL Cool J) and buy Draino about once a month to clean out drain in the tub. It's all good.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:09 AM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

[comment removed - answers not rants please.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:11 AM on January 3, 2009

On the practical side, you shouldn't have to clean up your girlfriend's shed hairs and their consequences any more than she should have to clean... well, what do you that's gross? My point is, if one of you is doing something with your body that requires clean-up (shedding hair, sweating, pooping), the person whose body it is should do the cleaning. I think you should be able to have a conversation about the impact her long hair has on your chores and comfort level in your home (i.e., "When you keep your hair this long and don't wash/brush it frequently, I end up having to do things I find really revolting, like pulling hair out of the cat's ass and unclogging the shower drain, and I also end up doing things that are just generally a pain, like having to cut hair out of the vacuum. If you don't want to take over those chores, what can we do about this? Would you be willing to cut your hair somewhat or change your washing and styling routine?").

On the aesthetic side, is there anything that you do (to yourself) for her, like shaving or not shaving your beard, wearing particular clothes, using or not using a certain kind of cologne, etc.? If so, then maybe you have a leg to stand on there in terms of asking her to try a new hairstyle just because you'd like to see her with a new style. If not, I'd stick to the practical issue here.

This reminds me of an Ask.Me thread from a while ago about a girl whose boyfriend rarely showered because that was his personal preference (sorry, can't find it at the moment). If memory serves, the general consensus was that it's ok to ask your SO to bathe regularly. It's not as if your girlfriend really likes wearing her hair in a bob and you think it's ugly: your girlfriend really likes keeping her hair dirty and gross, which isn't a style--it's a hygiene choice.
posted by Meg_Murry at 10:13 AM on January 3, 2009

I had long hair (waist-length) for well over a decade, and no amount of grief from others would have made me cut it. Your girlfriend will cut it when she wants to, and not before.

If she has to deal with the hair cleanup, she may be more inclined to cut it, but it's not, uh, cut and dried. I could put up with a lot of inconvenience for the sake of my hair.

It sounds like the main issue is that you clean up the long hair all over the place. Try talking to your girlfriend about your frustrations, that you're tired of cleaning it up the hair, that long hair in the drain and the vacuum bugs you, and that you need her to take care the cleanup.
posted by zippy at 10:24 AM on January 3, 2009

What about getting her a day-spa package that includes a facial, massage, pedicure/manicure, make up and a hair wash cut and style. Perhaps showing her what it could look like, might make her want to keep it up regularly? Perhaps go talk to the stylist ahead of time and tell him/her your concerns and see if he/she could tell her that her hair would be healthier if she cut it to her mid back... (a compromise). After the initial cut, she might love how it feels and how much easier it is to handle, that she may go for cutting the rest a little shorter. Baby steps.

Also... I haven't read others write this... (or I may have skimmed too quickly) but she may be suffering from depression. I remember, a family member of mine didn't like washing her hair or taking care of herself (she had short hair that only took 10 minutes to blowdry) and it was more so a depression thing. She didn't think she was worth it. Also, depression can make you very tired and unmotivated. I would seriously consider finding out the symptoms of depression and seeing if your wife fits the description. I'm not suggesting drugs or anything like that... but subtle life changes that could make her happier and more willing to care for her hygiene.
posted by DorothySmith at 11:02 AM on January 3, 2009

MY hair is very very long (I sit on it when it's loose). It's naturally wildly curly and when it's shorter, I have to have a "hairdo". The weight pulls the curly out straight. I keep it braided, and spin the braids up onto my head for work or fancy. In my case, it's a practical and time-saving choice. 3 minutes to brush and braid vs at least twice that amount of time spent fussing with the above-mentioned hairdo.

When I say "keep it braided", that means all the time. I wash it (every few days) with the hair loosely braided; I 've never sent hair down the drain. My vacuum doesn't need hair cut from it.

Everyone's hair and scalp is different. What works for me is to only shampoo/scrub my scalp, quickly sluice the suds down through the braids by squeezing, then rinse.

It sounds like you need to put the responsibility for the loose hair into her lap. In my experience, a hair trap for the shower/tub is helpful, but hair will go down regardless. The braiding works to prevent this. It's not rocket science to fish out the hair clogs; it's now her job. If she washes it so infrequently that it gets skanky, tell her it stinks. Tell her she's got hair BO.

I meet many elderly women with lovely long hair; it's also usually braided or coiled. I hope I can grow into that look.
posted by reflecked at 11:23 AM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Reiterating that she should be mostly responsible for the maintenance issues. Just not fair for you to refuse to vacuum because of her hair. Nail scissors do a pretty good job of cleaning the hair out of vacuum cleaner bristles. Is it really such a maintenance problem? Sounds like it takes no more than 15 - 30 minutes of extra cleaning a week, which isn't that severe.

Some people believe that their hair won't ever grow long again, once cut. False. If you can grow it long once, you can do it again. I have long hair to my mid-back, and have trouble keeping it trimmed. I dislike going to the haircutter, and it grows pretty fast. Growing ling hair isn't an achievement. It's just hair. It takes me @ 10 minutes longer in the shower when I wash my hair 2 or 3 times a week, plus time to put in gobs of gel & shine serum. But the days I don't wash it are really fast.

People respond better to encouragement & praise, so when her hair is clean, talk it up. "Mmmm, your hair smells so good, looks so shiny, feels so nice, clean hair is soooo sexy..." etc. When she does trim it, tell her how much nicer it looks. Find some great pictures of women with not-such-long hair. Sit down with her, tell you you would love the way she'd look with hair a bit shorter, show her photos, and ask her to consider it. Offer a spa day with massage, facial, etc.

If she says no, give it up. It's her hair, her body, etc. Presumably, she doesn't make demands about your hair length.
posted by theora55 at 11:40 AM on January 3, 2009

As someone who used to have butt-length hair for 15 years, who cut the hair out of the vacuum and pulled it from the drain and the dog's butt/throat (and sometimes even my own), I'm going to say that nothing you will say can prompt her to cut it. It's a part of her identity, and changing that will make her feel like less of herself. I know. I tried to cut my hair a few times before I finally did it, and I cried each and every time. Yes, hair grows, but change is so hard - especially when it's a fundamental part of who you are. Since I've cut my hair to longer-than-shoulder-length, I do love it, but I feel like a different person. This is the direction I was going, changing into, but the haircut was a big part of that change.

If she's not taking care of it, however, I'm willing to bet there's something else going on like depression, as mentioned by others. I shampooed and conditioned mine every single morning and got regular trims to keep it healthy. I spent time braiding it, pulling it up, leaving it down. Because it was part of my identity, I wanted it looking good.
posted by rhapsodie at 12:08 PM on January 3, 2009

I have hair going a bit below my waist, and I've loved it so much that I would sometimes literally growl at anyone suggesting a shorter cut ;) That's not a suggestion to be made lightly to someone who invested several years into such a defining part of them. You just don't do it, especially if you already did once and were already met with resistance. Don't do it. No touchie. She'll know when it's time to make the change - last night, I decided to get it cut shoulder-length completely on impulse for example. (Looking forward to that appointment today.)

Concentrate on her keeping it clean. It -is- an investment, and needs taking care of to be in top shape. That should be your angle.
posted by Bakuun at 12:24 PM on January 3, 2009

I'm a woman of a comparable age and have had my hair all lengths from buzz to butt. Various things occur to me:

1. As others have pointed out, after a certain age you simply can't wash your hair daily – it'll turn to straw. If you do insist on washing it daily, you either damage it with a hair dryer or spend an hour or more every day waiting for it to dry.
2. After a certain age, again, extra-long hair stops looking bewitching and just looks witchy. But functionally, a woman looks acceptably feminine if the hair ends anywhere past the shoulder line. The trouble of washing all that hair (I've likened it to having to drag a bulky garment into the shower with you and wash it there) can be cut in half by keeping it trimmed at that length. All the extra hair hanging past that length, getting damaged over time, is not a net bonus.
3. Maybe she just does not like salons. There are freelance hairdressers who will come to your house or arrange haircuts in non-salon-like settings. Check the classifieds.
4. If she can't face the hassle of washing it daily, she's got to brush it with a good brush, completely but gently, at least once a day. Basically you want to distribute your natural oils throughout the length.
posted by zadcat at 12:46 PM on January 3, 2009

If the hair is here to stay, I second getting a hair catcher for your drain. After years of clogging up every shower drain I came across with my flowing locks, I finally found one of these things, and haven't had a clog since!
posted by gueneverey at 12:48 PM on January 3, 2009

Seconding Jaed. What's bothering you? If you have a cat, it can't really be the shedding. You probably already check your clothes for extraneous hair from the cat, right? And from your girlfriend? Why does one annoy you more than the other?

If it's the hygiene, well... yeah, she really can't wash it daily and blow dry it. She can use dry shampoos, right? Even if it's to brush talcum powder through her hair? Does her hair stink? Unwashed hair can seriously reek. A few drops of essential oil on her brush, though, should help with that. Or is it the idea of her not washing it that bugs you? Surely she's getting baths in between, minus the hair washing.

Getting her hair trimmed every six months or so? Unless she wears her hair in braids or wears it up all the time, she has to have split or ragged ends going on. Maybe she needs to give her hair some sort of treatment or more regular maintenance to make it more attractive, rather than chopping it off?

You can tell her that you think she'd look better with shorter hair, if that's true. Or tell her what's really bugging you. (shedding/hair trap/not washing/smell/maintenance) It's her choice. Telling her to cut her hair is really akin to suggesting plastic surgery for her. She will cut it when she's ready. In the meantime, why is this bothering you now, after four years? She's had the hair longer than she's had you. She and the hair came together. What's up now that wasn't up then?
posted by Grrlscout at 1:16 PM on January 3, 2009

Like Gianna, I was just going to suggest that more brushing will help with a lot of the issues. Brushing will help distribute oil from her scalp to the ends, make all of it look better. She probably does not need to wash it more often (unless it's really oily), but brushing would be good for it. And anything caught in a brush is stuff that won't end up in the drain, the vacuum, or anywhere else.

And might I suggest, that many people find having someone else brush their hair to be a very intimate and sensual act - she may be more than willing to let you brush it in the evenings.

I would mention that she might want to trim it - using the words "straggly" or "ragged" might get her to trim 3 or 4 inches, so the ends are nice and even.
posted by timepiece at 1:23 PM on January 3, 2009

Why not suggest that she get a longer cut? There's no reason for her to get it cut short. Maybe just take a couple inches off, and get it layered or something.
posted by All.star at 1:38 PM on January 3, 2009

I don't know much about waist length hair -- my attempts to have long hair have made me feel unkempt and weird -- short hair is more feminine and stylish-looking to me. However, I think the advice to get her out to a salon is a good one. If she has female friends who are stylish, enlist their help in picking a salon and spa. Buy her several visits if you can afford it. Many spas are also co-ed. Go with her on a first visit and get yourself a little sprucing up. If you can work it in, ask her stylist for their best tips for keeping long hair clean and healthy -- I bet that person's advice might be similar to some of the above. I think that you need to start a dialogue about it that is about both of you keeping up appearances. She may not decide to cut her hair very short but you might get her half way or at least feeling good about herself and keeping the hair cleaner.
posted by amanda at 3:58 PM on January 3, 2009

I see this as the equivalent of, say, my boyfriend wanting to grow a mustache, and me saying, "ah, hell no!"

As much as I would be appalled if he grew a mustache, the high road is to let him do whatever the heck he wants with his body hair. (*cry*)

Still, I can empathize with you. A "gentle" approach to your problem would be to be playful, and tell her how lovely it is to feel her nice, clean hair, or see the nape of her neck. And yeah, sure it's obvious to her you're trying to persuade her, but so what. She'll still enjoy the attention and affection. She washes her hair, buy her some flowers. Or something along that line. It's over-the-top, but also pretty funny, and no bad feelings involved.

Keep reinforcing what you want via compliments. Be lighthearted, and generous with them. That's how my bf has gotten me to wear sexier outfits at home, without me ever feeling resentful or pressured.
posted by uxo at 4:08 PM on January 3, 2009

Another comment from someone who used to have their hair long...

I definitely think it would be fair for your girlfriend to take responsibility for the drains and the vacuum. I did. Gosh... in college my roommate and I both had hair down to the small of the back. I bought a carpet rake and raked the carpet before vacuuming. We shed like nobody's business.

I'll confirm that my hair felt like a big part of me. A few years after college I realized it actually wasn't flattering. The first year I had my hair short I felt like a completely new person. Now I would never have it long again... I have strong feelings about my hair length.

When I had long hair I'd often get compliments on it, and not only from sleazy men (yech). I would get compliments from moms and little girls pretty much constantly, and it was nice. Your girlfriend might be hanging on to that benefit.
posted by halonine at 4:27 PM on January 3, 2009

I see this as the equivalent of, say, my boyfriend wanting to grow a mustache, and me saying, "ah, hell no!"

sorry, but that is not the same thing. your bf with a mustache isn't stopping up the vacuum and the bath drain with his mustache hairs. you aren't pulling his mustache hairs out of your ass or your pet's ass. his mustache isn't getting all stinky stanky from not getting washed for up to a week or two at a time because it's on his face and (most likely) getting washed every morning at least, and especially after sweating it up after working out.

After a certain point, really long hair on an older woman tends to *emphasize* that you look older.

amen to that. women over a certain age, say 40, really need to understand this. getting a good, stylish haircut is going—and that doesn't necessarily mean chin-length short or pixie cut—will make you look infinitely better and more feminine than Broomhilda hippie, social-worker hair.

but if she really insists on keeping it, i have to go with what a lot of others have suggested: make her clean up after her own hair and ask that she keep it clean—and i say this from the perspective of someone whose hair sheds a lot. because subjecting you to grody, funky hair is both disrespectful to you and offensive and by keeping it clean and well-maintained, she would be showing you the same respect that you are showing her for not insisting that she get it cut.
posted by violetk at 4:46 PM on January 3, 2009

This is a touchy one. Long but unkepmt hair is the issue it seems, not just the length. I recently cut 15 inches off my hair and donated it, now I have a super cute little bob.

I washed my hair twice a week, but even then mostly I only put shampoo and scrubbed on the scalp. You can either coat the length with conditioner to not strip it with the shampoo or you can even keep the length dry completely if you are careful.

Does she wear it up? It stays much cleaner and contains the shed to keep it in a braid or twist or whatever. It might also inspire some more flattering styling of the hair if you but some neat hair implements (long hair people call these hair toys). I would keep it up all day and then sit down down and run my fingers through it for 10 ,minutes or so to pull out all the shed. When I washed the whole thing I would always wet it and coat with conditioner then again just run my fingers through all of it throughly so that I could throw the hair away rather than it stopping up the drain.

Oh and yeah, her hair is her clean up problem, not yours! I would be horrified if I found my bf hunched over the drain pulling of scummy hair gunk.
posted by stormygrey at 5:15 PM on January 3, 2009

I am 43 and I love my long hair. It lacks a couple of inches of reaching my butt but it has layers in it to make it easier to style. I cannot think of anything that would make me cut the length at this point in time.

A few years ago I was in a bad wreck that damn near killed me and caused me to have to go thru numerous surgeries. The anesthesia from all of them did a lot of damage to my hair, made it fall out, dried it out and really had it looking like a mess. Not to mention the washing thing was a pain in the ass, but we got thru it. I know I really enjoyed having my husband wash my hair for me. It made me feel really spoiled. In fact, we still do it now just for fun! You might try incorporating something like that into a weekend of fun.

As for the shedding thing, I found that using Image Intrakera leave in conditioner when I washed it and Image Intrapak once a week stopped the shedding and actually seemed to make my hair grow faster, which was a plus since I had cut off quite a bit of dry damaged hair in an attempt to stop the shedding. You might try suggesting that she add some layers to it instead of just cutting it off. It makes it easier to deal with it any way you look at it. It takes less time to dry, less time to style and she will still have the length that she seems so attached to.

When we went out for New Year's Eve this year ( the first time since my accident 4 years ago ) I had complete strangers stop to tell me I had beautiful hair and I loved every one of the compliments.

You are not going to get her to cut her hair before she is ready but maybe you can help her with the cleanliness thing and the shedding thing that seems to be bothering you. I order my Image hair care products off of Ebay and I won't use anything else in my hair.
posted by Jules22871 at 5:26 PM on January 3, 2009

I found this just for comparison poll on longhair fourm about how often they wash their hair vs. washing their body. The highest two responses are I shower daily and wash my hair 3 - 5 times a week. 55 22.00%
and I shower daily and wash my hair twice or less a week.

Also there are a lot of long hair forums to that might her help with the issues tha bother her.
posted by stormygrey at 6:14 PM on January 3, 2009

I have long hair and it clogs up the drains. Luckily it's curly- like "Far and Away" curly- so it only sheds in the shower when I'm combing conditioner through it. When it's dry, the curls keep the loose hairs attached to my head so it absolutely does not shed at any other time.
I don't much care for unclogging the drain, sure-- but there is NO WAY I would cut my hair to spare a little housework. That argument will not sway her one bit.

You might as well make her deal with her own hair mess. I suspect she'll find this reasonable and not complain too much: hair clogs are gross and it makes sense that you'd rather avoid them. By the way, tell her she can make a clog zipper by using scissors to cut barbs into a drinking straw or long zip-tie- these are great for pulling out big clogs quickly.

But - cut my long hair because of some once-a-week drain chore? Ha! Never! I don't even equate the icky clogs with my hair, they just feel like a part of the bathroom. I'd sooner get rid of the shower than the hair.

I love my long hair because it looks nice and suits me. I've had every length from pixie to waist- and a lot of awful, unflattering cuts along the way- and my conclusion is: the longer the better. I'm expecting it to be long like this for the rest of my life, and if I do choose to cut it, it's not going to be because someone else convinced me to. I'm just saying, you're probably fighting a losing battle.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 7:19 PM on January 3, 2009

Is there anything she'd like you to change about yourself you could do in exchange? I'm kind of a believer in accommodating reasonable partner requests (I like my hair short, but Mr. Llama likes it longer, so I wear it longer). He is always accommodating when I ask him to wear big boy shoes instead of sneakers.

That said, neither of us feels that our identity is tied up in hair length or sneakers but your girlfriend might feel like it's emblematic of something deeper about her, which makes it less likely she'll feel she can change it. You can argue for a shared accommodation of superficial preferences between you and your partner, and you could maybe enlist someone else in suggesting she'd be "even more attractive" with shorter hair, but I think you have to let it go if after doing this it really seems like you'd be taking a load-bearing characteristic of her self, by asking her to remove it.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:50 AM on January 4, 2009

(A bit late here): I'm surprised only one commenter, I think, has alluded to this: if a viable option, offer to shower with her once or twice a week, and spend some time washing each other's hair. Even if she hates washing her own hair, having someone else wash it may be too enticing to turn down (to me, it'd be like turning down a massage).
posted by astrochimp at 10:37 AM on January 4, 2009

(Addendum: my above comment doesn't address the length factor. But, the cleanliness factor seems to be half your battle, and a regular, thorough wash would likely significantly reduce the amount of hair ending up in the carpet/cat).
posted by astrochimp at 10:41 AM on January 4, 2009

Regardless of what other approach you may take, please don't suggest that she donate it to Locks of Love, Pantene whatever, etc. Nearly every woman with long hair is SICK TO DEATH of strangers and loved ones suggesting that we cut our hair and donate it somewhere. Please avoid that particular sore point.

(That said, I feel that you're probably wading into some seriously dangerous territory--I have very long hair and have never had any of these hygiene problems, even though I certainly don't wash it every day due to overdrying. Sounds like there's a lot going on emotionally on her end and, I think, on yours, so I don't have any good advice other than staying well away from the donation thing.)
posted by wintersweet at 6:45 PM on January 4, 2009

Write to Oprah. Does she like Oprah? Maybe Oprah will fly you to Chicago and gussy her up.

And hey... offer to do something else in exchange - lose a beard, lose some weight. Fair's fair.
posted by lottie at 10:01 PM on January 5, 2009

« Older How to make and keep friends when most people suck...   |   Ipod Touch without the Wifi? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.