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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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Sleep Is
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Chicago Review Press

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At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it.

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« Here's a story about the bathroom | Main | An unpleasant encounter »
Monday
Aug232010

Coming out

I’ve been dishonest with you all for far, far too long. I can’t lie any longer.

Are you sitting down? You’re probably sitting down. If you’re not, you should sit down. Or lie down, with your legs slightly elevated. How and where you recline is entirely your call. I’m just saying, if you’re standing when you read the shocking truth I am about to reveal to you, I will not be liable for whatever happens next.

It’s about my hair. The color it is now? It’s ... well. It’s not real, per se. And by “per se,” I mean “at all.” It is not at all real.

My hair started to turn gray when I was in high school. I was not surprised, as the Bradley family has a long, illustrious history of premature graying. I didn’t mind the gray hair all that much. It wasn’t until my twenties that it occurred to me to color it away. Actually it didn’t occur to me at all—it occurred to my hair stylist, who insisted I “do something” about all the gray. It was making me look “mousy,” she declared.

I did not want to look mousy. Does anyone?

So I started coloring, and haven’t stopped, and now it’s been 15 years of my Adventures in Hair Color. I’ve gone from brown to reddish-brown to brownish-red, with a couple of horrifying forays into something approaching blonde. It never occurred to me, not once, to stop. The thing is, once you start coloring, you’re stuck. Hair color that’s growing out looks awful. Especially when the hair that’s growing out has morphed from silver-flecked brown to brown-flecked silver.

Because my hair grows unusually quickly (about an inch a month) and because no matter what I do, my hair color fades quickly, I have about a two-week window during which I actually like the way the color looks. For the first week, my hair color is so dark that my face looks like I have an awful virus; then it looks pretty good; then my roots begin to show; then all of a sudden my hair has turned sort of reddish-orange and I have gray temples and I count the days until my next hair appointment.

This is madness. Expensive madness. Once I realized that hair color from a box didn’t look anywhere near as decent as getting it professionally done, I’ve been spending upwards of $100 a month on hair color. That’s more than I spend on my gym.

All of which is why I’m not doing it anymore. As of my last coloring appointment (July 25th), I’m done. I have no idea what it’s going to look like. It could look horrific. It could make me look ten years older. I don't care. I want to see what’s under there. I need to find out what I look like. And I need to be okay with it.

I asked Henry what he thought about me letting my hair go gray. “I don’t know, Mom,” he said. “You might look like…”

I waited for him to say it: An old lady.

“…a punk rocker,” he finished.

That’s a little optimistic, but I’ll take it.

Reader Comments (116)

Been doing my own hair color for 20+ yrs. I'm an ash blond. So I brighten it. One day about 10 years ago I bought the wrong number. Mainly because my number was not available. Then the next time I found my number so used that.

The blonds in Malibu would always ask me 'who' did my hair because it was so natural looking. I hadn't even noticed.

So then I started alternating 3 different shades of blond and indeed, it does look natural and I'm clearly a genius. Now I tell everyone my trick.

The one time I let it all grow out and it became ash again I kept it for about a year. One day I'd had enough of the ash and asked my boyfriend if he thought I should go back to being more blond.

"You won't get mad?" He asked. I assured him I wouldn't and he said:

"Oh GOD yes."
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSuzy
My 1st gray came at 22.

Go for it girl!
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAimee@greeblemonkey.com
Wait, you mean you didn't know that it was TRENDY to have silver hair? You're totally at the front of the curve, Alice. There's a whole website devoted to this topic, as I'm sure you discovered during your late-nite Googling.
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCauloccoli
Good for you!!

(I would go for trying to get it dyed to what might possibly be your natural color to make the transition a little easier)
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBria
Hi Alice. I'm new here and think I'll stay! My mom just turned 83 and still colors here sparse "do" bright red. It's hysterical but I've never known her otherwise. Surely it would skew my image of her from "colorfully aging" to "doddering debility" if she turned white. More importantly is the effect it would have on her self-image. Between the hair and her 35 shades of lipstick, all coral, she could be a granny punker herself! Sure you'll pull off your natural transition with ... um...flying colors!
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersusie
Your son's comment was very cute. I stopped dyeing my hair for all the same reasons as you when Obama got elected and it's finally grown out now. I think you'll look very good -- you have a young-looking face -- it'll be seen as "premature gray" which is always kind of hot. In my own experience with not having dyed hair anymore (cannot call myself "gray" -- some kind of weird block, ha), I need to wear more eye-makeup and never let myself get pale, or it doesn't work as well. Also -- beware -- your personal color scheme might need to change. When I changed mine from autumn to winter (re: makeup & clothes) all was well! Good luck! Please let us see it when you're feeling ready!
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNan
I've been coloring mine since I started going gray in my twenties. I made my stylist promise me that when I got too old to be coloring my hair, she would ease me into the gray. That way, it wouldn't look too, um, blunt as it grew out. Maybe that's a happy medium?
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterall things BD
Oh Alice--just one more reason to love you!! I've just done the exact same thing. Last August was my last dye job. I'm fully grown in with total salt and pepper all over and a silver streak up front. I won't say it was easy--I'm still adjusting to it. And I also won't say that it didn't make me feel a bit older. It was a big shock for me because I've always had long hair, so not only did I stop coloring, I also had to cut it into a very short pixie style. One thing that helped in the transition was getting my colored hair highlighted. It blurred that awful silver line.I'm just now getting to the point that I can imagine proudly sporting a long mane of wild silver hair. I'm glad I did it after pouring that toxic (and it is) dye on my head every 4 weeks. It is really freeing not to have that hanging over your head (no pun intended). Please keep us updated on your progress!!
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFrannie
Also, you may want to check out www.goinggraylookinggreat.comIt has a lot of photos and stories of women at all stages of transitioning to gray.
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFrannie
Wow, I only hope I can be brave enough to go natural when I have enough gray. I really respect that and I think you will look absolutely stunning since you are already beautiful. Good luck! Let us see how it looks as it grows out.
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJ Sweet
I am actually reading this with my hair soaked in henna, plastic cap on my head.I feel like a cheat.
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFigbash
I am WAY older than you: not going there, but suffice it to say - - oh, never mind.

Unlike you, I did not gray early. (my mom had her raven locks (if not her mind) until she was 50; & I'm assuming my timetable was similar but I don't know because I have not seen my actual color for about 25 - 30? 40? - years. . . started fooling around with hair color during my twenties and continue to do so to this day, in my XXXties)

One early experiment with "frosting" sent me screaming into the woods - THIS is how I will look with GRAY Hair? Yikes!

It all kinda blurs, but I do remember a longish henna period during which my hair got more and more auburn/purplish which was ok because it came across as vaguely fashionable at the the time in NYC where I lived.

And then I married the future father of my children, who was seven years younger than me, and I spent a lot of time trying to recreate the color I was born with. . .later, (how hopeless!) the colors our daughters were born with.

My daughters are adults now (told ya!) and have survived their teen years of dying and redying and etc. . . well, one of them is still a platinum blonde, but then her sister was too, until she went to work. . .so I have hopes she will recover in due course.Anyway, I have not seen the actual color of my hair since about 1997. I keep trying to match (the historical) it (I usually look at one of the daughters' heads and think "mine was sort alike that, wasn't it?"

But at the moment I am still chestnut ash brown, with gray roots sometimes.

I would so love to go with the gray. Many of my friends have and they are lovely. . .but I just can't seem to get past the stage of bad roots, weird transitions.

All I'm trying to say is, kudos! Good for you.

Post pictures!



August 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermarnie whelan




i hate the commitment of salon color and normally opt for a demi permanent color gloss (purchased at sally's). i caved and got low lights and high lights (varying shades of chestnut, bronze and strawberry) in salon this summer and already feel froggy about the slight commitment.

good luck. you're brave.
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlori
O wow. I have never once colored my hair. At 43, I have grey-white streaks in dark brown hair, mostly around my temples. I was toying with the idea of dying the streaks pink, just for fun.
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBeth
Rock on, Henry.
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSusan
Good for you! Simplify your life, experiment. Keep up posted.

There's a great book about the adventure you're embarking on:http://www.amazon.com/Going-Gray-Embrace-Authentic-Grace/dp/B003STCRG0/ref=sr_1_8?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1282618094&sr=1-8
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJen
Good for you!

I don't dye my hair because I don't want the expense and bother of keeping up with the roots (my hair grows about an inch a month too). I was blond as a kid, but it's now that bland, mousey "dishwater" color, but that's OK; it's what nature intended for me.

I think people look best in whatever their natural color is (I mean whatever their color is NOW, not when they were a kid or when they started dyeing). Our coloring (hair, skin, etc.) changes with time; people who fight this by dyeing aren't fooling anyone. Their hair looks fake and doesn't complement their skin tone. I realize I'm probably offending a lot of people, but hey, it's my opinion! If you WANT to dye (and look fake to me), it's your right. :)

I'm 52 and finally starting to get a few gray hairs. I do not plan to dye them; I'm looking forward to having a full head of gray (or salt-and-pepper, whatever it turns out to be). My problem is that my "regular" hair is smooth and straight, but the grays are wiry, kinky, and unruly (sorry Stephanie, they're NOT curly!). So when I finally have all gray, it will be a wacky afro.

The teachers at the beauty school say that there's no product or treatment that will make gray hair un-kink. I guess if that's what nature intended for my hair to do, I'd rather live with it than spend lots of money fighting it.
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMargie
i LOVE women with grey hair, especially younger women. i know two woman in their mid-twenties who are going grey, and they look great. i am going grey too but have blondish hair so you can't really see it. i guess i'll have to wait a few more years. it's really so unique and beautiful. i cannot wait to see a photo.
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbeyond
You have a beautiful face and a darling haircut...so you can probably pull it off. I am a bit curious, what does your husband think about it?



August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMommyMogul
I used to color my hair for similar reasons. Then I said "enough!". Now I use this Henna Shine Enhancing shampoo from Nature's Gate and my hair color looks fine. I still have the grays (it's not magic shampoo), but my hair has a nice even brown color and it's shiny and healthy looking. Turns out I'm fine with the bits of silver showing up.
August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCindy
Your father uses a shampoo called Silver Fox - I think he likes it because of its name but it does make his hair a very pretty platinum shade. I envy your decision - wish I could do the same but having very very fine hair I will miss the volume hair color gives me. But to be completely free of hair maintenance, I am tempted every month to abandon this silly very expensive practice. Go for it Alice - you have beautiful thick hair and perfect coloring for silver locks. Bravo for you!
August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMary Anne
After my initial hesitation, I fully support you. especially if you use the money you save to buy me a small to medium-sized gift. good luck!
August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarinka
Good for you Alice! I have thick, gray hair strewn, dark brown hair. I started getting gray hair when I was 20 and now 12 years and 2 kids later, they are really starting to creep in around my temples with some stragglers around the top of my head and even the back. I have never dyed it and don't think I ever will. This drives my fashion crazy, city girl, younger sister crazy. I don't like chemically stuff on or near my body and I am way to cheap to spend that much money on my hair. Glad to hear you are coming over to the "going natural hair color" side. I hope more are inspired to join us!
August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChristine F.
I've just discovered your blog. You are an amazing writer and have been added to my favorites.
August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTessa Gochtovtt
Bravo! for you. I've toyed with the idea, and several friends have gone on the same voyage of self discovery, but I can't quite pull the trigger. Being of advance maternal age (pushing 50) with a 5 yr old, I am reluctant to go without color, not because of me, but because I'm worried it will make dear daughter feel bad that her mama is old enough to be her grandmom. She hasn't figured that out yet. I figure she'll feel bad enough when she does, that I don't need to go rubbing her nose in it. Not at least til she's a teen and annoying anyway. Then it's pixie and gray,gray, gray.
August 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenternina

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