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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

Some Books
I'm In...

Sleep Is
For The Weak

Chicago Review Press

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Let's Panic

The site that inspired the book!

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. → 

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

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)

I am loving my gray! I have a nice stripe of silver in the front, and I'm so happy I gave up the color a couple of years ago.
August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLucy
I can imagine it will look great. Good for you.
August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTilly

It's called "rocking the Silver". Welcome to the club. I joined December 2010.
August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Pond
Woo hoo! The Gray Girls website might be a fun place to find solidarity: "If deep down you’re looking for an excuse to stop dying your hair, now is your chance. Set yourself free. You can always go back."
August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSally J.
Some of the other people may have posted this (I can't read them all, lol) but have your stylist put some grey highlights in until your old hair color comes in naturally. And then once you get tired of looking old, color it back. :)
August 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermichelle gilliland
Just yesterday someone told me of my now silvery hair that it makes me look YOUNGER (former babysitter, 36 & silvery herself, & gorgeous I might add).

I start to see people covering up as looking a bit fake or overtired b/c they don't quite match up, hair to skin.

I wrote about this on my blog a bit ago, & many people came up to me afterwards saying they really were *thinking* about not coloring their hair. This line always kills me: "It looks so good on you but it wouldn't on me" (actually, I bet I said the same).

Bravo Alice!
August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Buttenwieser
Alice, I was so excited to read this post. My last coloring was in June and I have now stopped. I apologize if I'm repeating comments that have already been said,(but there are so many to skim through). When I made the decision to stop coloring I hit the internet and low and behold there are websites and books. Here is the one I'm hooked up with and loving it:

You are right the transition is a crazy time. I have very multi-colored hair right now. You have no idea what dye looks like as it fades out on the rest of the hair.

Good luck in your journey and please post pictures.
August 24, 2010 | Unregistered

(trying to activate the link, if it didn't work, use the old cut and pasts standby!)
August 24, 2010 | Unregistered
awesome. i can't wait to see the true silver. you will rock it, punk or no.
August 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commentertara
Awesome. I have never colored my hair. I have natural red hair and it is my signature. When it turns white/gray someday, I will let it and will lose a huge part of my identity, but I cannot fathom being fake with it. It's not like we have to get the obligatory old lady hair style!! Go for it!!
August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAngela
Yeah, ROCK THAT GREY! I started going grey (SILVER, thank you) in my 20's. It was never an option to dye my hair because I am too busy/lazy/cheap/frugal.

A with-it reader shared this informative link with me:

Basically it says we're rockin' it Gaga-style.

Work it.
August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShauna (Fido & Wino)
My boss at work is 41 and proud of her grey (short) curly hair. You should check her out, she makes grey look cooler than anything else.This is her
August 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenternova
wow, good luck. When I plan to get pregnant, I'm thinking of letting my natural hair color show, but we'll see.
August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTara
Although I do color my hair, a couple of appointments ago, I intentionally changed my color down a note or two to one closer to my natural color - the part that isn't gray yet, anyway.

This way (I hope), I can at some point start having her color just strands, like frosting it, so there might be a less defined line between when I stopped coloring it and letting the gray grow out.

This is my plan. I'm just not ready to implement it yet.
August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJan
One year ago today (my birthday) I decided to do the same and now I love it. I can't say I won't ever do some kind of rinse (blue or pink hair along with a matching toy poodle when I hit 70), but for now it's pretty cool to show the gray. Enjoy!
August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterElli
OMG...I have sooo been contemplating how to get off this endless merry-go-round of hair coloring I have been on for over half my life now. Sickening. Bravo to you for grabbing a spine and actually doing it!

My hairdresser may shrivel up and die (no pun intended) when I finally get up the nerve to kick the habit.

Oh, hey, a habit...that might come in handy.
August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLori
Can we see a photo sometime? I'm in the same boat. I've been highlighting and dyeing for years, and the intervals after the dye and before the roots are too long get shorter and shorter.

There's got to be lots of gray under there, and I actually like the way gray hair looks on people, assuming a modern hairstyle and otherwise youthful approach to life. But I think my gray is patchy and unevenly distributed, and I'm scared I'll just look like an exhausted 75 year old if I stop with the color. (I'm an exhausted 41 year old now).
August 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea
Hooray you! I betcha it will be fantastic. Now I'm going to be singing Alice was a punkrocker in my head all day long. I guess it's a step up from I just called to say I love you.

August 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChristine
I only have a few (a handful, really) of gray hairs but I have been spinning on the color wheels since my high school boyfriend suggested I get highlights. What a shit, huh? And I listened like a bigger shit.Must have been the shoulder pads and stone washed jeans poisoning my mind.

I am now trying to find out what my natural color is while the dental floss is popping up and I have no idea what to do. My current hairdresser over processed my hair a few months ago but I love her cut and the price and I am too cheap and lazy and busy to change. You inspire me to throw caution to the wind and see what grows in in the next few months.

May I be punk rock as well!


P.S. I went to Emerson with your husband and am close friends with Alex Cohn who turned me onto your blog. Great stuff. Small world.
August 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDorothea (Dotty)
First of all, why do we say 'prematurely grey?' You go grey when you go grey. There is nothing premature about it, when you consider we use to die at 35. Second, good for you! I am VERY grey as well. However I have decided that I can't go all natural until my kids are AT LEAST out of the damn house! But then, forget about it. Even the carpet will match the drapes then.
August 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLL
When I was little I threatened to dye my hair the minute I was old enough (I'm a redhead). But I learned to love my red hair and never went through with it. Well, except for that unfortunate "sun-in" period during the 9th grade. Some day when the white hair grows in, I hope I'll be brave enough to let it happen. I think natural beauty is more powerful and liberating than anything that comes in a bottle. Rock on, sister! You'll look great.

August 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKerry Ivers
Maybe this has been said already, but I think you should document your hair evolution in pictures!
August 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKatie
embrace the Grey! It's going to look lovely!
August 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermp
I think it's essential when married with kids to keep myself looking as hot as possible. And, Frankly, I just look way too old when I let the white hair dominate. You can't put a price tag on feeling youthful with teenagers running around..and it helps my love life with my husband too- I wrote about this in my memoirs.

August 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie Kaplan
You are brave, Alice! I don't color my hair, and it is truly mousy (dishwater blonde + some gray = mouse). But the expense, and the grow-out, and the upkeep -- ugh, too much. So I will stick with my rodent-style hair color. But you will probably have beautiful punk rock gray hair that I will envy. And then maybe I'll decide to color my hair completely gray.
August 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlesli

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