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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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« 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)

I'm engaging in my own Operation Natural Haircolor. I haven't dyed since last November, but since I wear my hair longer, I have some sort of awesome two-tone thing happening.
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMiss Grace
Bravo! I would love to go natural, but I don't know what I would do while the roots were growing out. Wear a ponytail that was grey in the front and blonde in the back? Could I start some kind of trend with that? lol

Please post photos! Your loveliness will shine through no matter what color your hair is :)
You're going to look amazing! I took a pledge to myself almost 3 years ago to stop coloring my hair. So far I have not looked back because it looks better than ever without having "roots" every few weeks.
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMelinda
I have a couple of friends (early 40's) who have embraced their natural gray and it is GORGEOUS. And they are hot mommas. I think it could be pretty fabulous.
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterhi kooky
I think gray hair is beautiful! I totally support this decision. Yay!
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSunnyfergs
I'm in the same boat, dear Finslippy, but being the indecisive person that I am, I decided to let social media decide if I should go gray or not. I put a vote button on my blog, and I'll do whatever the final tally says on Sept. 15th. Surprisingly, the No! Don't Go Gray! button is winning. Equally surprising are the private comments I'm getting from friends and strangers telling me I should keep coloring it. I think it's a good public discussion to have. Why do we color, really, and for ourselves or each other?
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjuliejulie
It's going to look really cute, b/c you have the face for it and already the haircut. You must post a photo!

My mom never colored (she had super-thick hair that she never lost, even after the massive chemo she underwent before she passed away) and she always had short hair. I always had super-long hair, until mine started to go gray (began to be noticeable around 40- 2 yrs ago).

Then I began to understand the cute short haircut thing that many women wear when their hair is naturally gray. There are variations, but I get it, I love it, and when I get gray-er, I will get it. Until then, I am trying to love medium-long hair that has some noticeable gray....

When I do it (and maybe before) I am also going to get my nose pierced. By then my daughter might be old enough to tell me that I look punk rock. My husband already told me he thinks it's going to be hot (above & beyond my usual hotness as his wife).

So- something to look forward to! Rock on with your bad self, as we used to say back in the day.
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKaren Hawkins
My younger sister recently stopped dying. I was not a fan of this decision, since I feel it ages me, as her older sister (and it's all about MEEEEE!) but after an awkward month or two it looks very nice. She has dark brown hair and I've always loved the salt & pepper.

As for graying gracefully, I remember seeing a makeover show where a woman had salt & pepper gray and simply wanted *less* gray, so they only covered some of it. Technically, I believe it was kind of like getting lowlights. That might be something to consider. But you know what would be really cool? Dye your hair gray. All of it. Then the new growth will come in with some brown, and you'll be browning instead of graying. Freak people out!
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTracy
You have the perfect coloring to pull off gray hair. I'm sure you will look stunning!
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca
Colored my hair for years and got fed up...rather than spend a year two-toning, cut it all off a la Jamie Lee Curtis, then grew it back out...loving the gray, hubbie, kids and friends love it too!
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersowalgal
I'm 28 and have never dyed my dark brown hair before. I've tentatively wondered over the past few years what I'd do when it starts to go grey - how long I'd wait to become a slave to the Hair Dye.

I have maybe a dozen of them now, but I don't mind so far because they're all scattered around my head rather than concentrated all in one visible spot.

AND they're wavy!!! This is very exciting for me and my boring straight hair. I hope they all continue to come in wavy/curly - maybe I won't even bother with the dye! We shall see.
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie
you could have your stylist work in some grey highlights. to make the growing out process easier!

I've always thought grey hair was gorgeous. I had this teacher in high school who had this grey bob haircut. she was so chic. I've always, always wanted to look like her.

psI totally get the fast hair growing thing. mine too. it's impossible to keep a cut, a color, anything. people are envious, but if they knew how expensive it gets!
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterandygirl
I'm with Henry, you'll look gorgeous with strong potential for looking like a punk rocker. I stopped coloring my hair (I started at age 15!) and it took quite some time to transition since I didn't want to chop it all off. I just started finding white strands and I'm just going to embrace them. My mom's oldest sister has never colored her hair, and she always looks so chic with her lovely silver hair. The rest of the sisters all color their hair and somehow they look older than the oldest. Dont' tell my mom I said this!
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmy
I stopped coloring my hair almost two years ago -- at the same time I decided to chop my hair off. I had been coloring for over 10 years (started going gray in my late 20's -- it runs in the family) and decided I was tired of all of the maintenance (and cost). I was curious about what lay underneath...I had no idea how much gray had developed in that time! But I'm okay with it; luckily it has come in such a way that it looks more frosted than "old lady gray." I was worried that it would make me look old -- but everyone loves it. I'm loving the low maintenance more than anything!

The premature graying is on my husband's side as well (he started in his late teens); I recently noticed that my daughter has about half a dozen gray hairs...she is 12!! I'd hate to see her become a slave to the bottle; but I can certainly understand her not wanting to walk around with gray hair when she is 20. She's not bothered by it -- for now at least -- so I certainly won't make a big deal about it. Although I sometimes want to apologize for the unfortunate hand of genetic cards she was dealt!
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShannon
I actually decided a long time ago that as soon as I have enough grey/white (mine seem to come in platinum-y/silver, actually, which is fantastic) hair to be readily apparent, I will stop coloring my hair. But then, I have fantasies of fluffy cotton candy old lady hair, so the sooner that happens, the better. I've always had fine results with color from a box, though (even my hair person approved of the reds I was doing for the past few years). But now my hair is cobalt/purple, all cartoony and delightful. I've been keeping it up for the past 6 months, and will keep it for at least another 6 months -- too much time and expense not to have it for at least a year. But this is the first time I've had to have professional coloring and upkeep, and man, it is So Expensive! If it wasn't for something this impossible-to-do-myself, and fun, I would never spend the money on it.

All of which is to say, I'm enthusiastically pro-grey hair, and I think you'll look amazing.
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMiss B
The last time I let my gray hair grow out, it was for similar reasons--I just wanted to see what my real hair looked like, and also I was too lazy to get to the salon. (Sometimes laziness really can save you money.) At first I was okay with it. Then I got tired of looking faded and worn, and went back to a brighter, more youthful look.

I thought I'd never let it go gray again until I was 60 or 70, but now I've got four inches of roots again and it hasn't bothered me yet. So I guess my new rule of thumb is to keep my hair color options open.
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterZina
I think grey is wonderful and I'm looking forward to it for myself. Have you seen this site:http://goinggraylookinggreat.com
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMiriam
I went gray in my early 20s and too jumped onto the colouring hamster-wheel. Last year, when I turned 40, I decided it was time to stop. Best thing I ever did! The growing-out phase wasn't fun (especially when the roots were about an inch - eeek!) but I resisted the urge to go to the hairdressers and got clever with clips. My most recent cut snipped off the very last of the old colour and now I'm all natural. It has been so interesting to see what was happening underneath all those chemicals. I'm very light, almost silvery, in the front and a dark browny-grey everywhere else. It is quite striking and I have received more compliments than I ever did before. And it is delightful to be free of the expense, commitment and all that time spent with foils and dye on my head. It is so easy now.Best of luck to you!

August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHelen G
Hmmm, maybe I'll grow out my gray too.
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSheryl
My hair is the colour that it is. It is hair-coloured. I'm sure that your hair will also be hair-coloured when it grows out. And that will be fine. It is the colour that hair is.
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlb
Woah! Thanks for blogging this... it is something I think about often. When do you stop the madness?When I met you at blogger, I immediately noticed how TALL you are... maybe it was the shoes? Either way, I was as drunk as a skunk, and all I could muster was "Alllliccce! I loved the pictures of your doooog!" ;)
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSheryl
No, no, no, Alice. You will not look mousy. You will look foxy. My mother started to go grey in her twenties, and coloured it well into her forties before she decided to stop. When she did, she looked awesome. And you will too.
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMeredith
Alice, I stopped coloring my hair a few years ago. I started as a platinum blonde as a kid and my blonde hair got progressively darker as the years went on to where it was that lovely shade of dishwater blonde.

I love my gray hair and it is very liberating not to spend hours and $$$'s at a hair salon.

Go for it girl!
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Prince
You're a braver woman than I am. I just can't let go of the hair dye thing yet. I've been trying to absorb the lessons that Liz Rizzo has been passing along on the topic, but I'm not ready. However, I appreciate having you as another good example. I'll get there someday.
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAverage Jane
My mom had the same dilemma. She'd colored her hair auburn since before I could remember. She waited till she retired and then went to the hairdresser to get it (she's always worn it short) dyed silver/gray/white. Well, shocker, right? No such thing. At least not then (20 years ago!). Now maybe?

Anyway. So she just let it grow out. By then, she was about 95% salt with just a little bit of pepper. So for awhile she had really pretty bright white hair with brown tips. We decided it was ermine. We concentrated on the fact that it was often seen as things like luxuriant collars on royal robes and never talked about the weasel part.

It worked for us - give it a try.

Oh! Also, if it comes in with a lot of gray, ask your hairdresser about using ... what's the name of it ... some special shampoo that really makes white hair look nice. Not yellow and God knows not blue, just pretty white. Silver... Fox? Silver...Lights? Your hairdresser will know.
August 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJan

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