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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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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)

Color from a box never works, but it's not hard to by pro color and do it yourself. Then you need never have roots. Ever seen the Killer Strands blog? She gives you step-by-step directions.

http://killerstrands.blogspot.com/

I think Goldwell is the best prof. color.

The biggest drag is to get it half way grown out and to realize that the front half of your head is silver and the back half still brown. There's no way to pull that off.

If you do go all grey/silver, your cut has to be more radical than you might normally wear or you look not just old but drab.
August 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterOdessa
Congratulations on the Big Decision. You are a brave brave woman. You know, if you hate the way it looks growing out, make an appointment with your salon to have your hair stripped of color. Because it's short and grows fast, any drying out done by the stripping will be gone before you know it and you won't have to deal with the roots issue.

I have to say, a few years ago I was out to dinner in lovely Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and I saw a group of women in their 30s and 40s having dinner together and at least three of them had gray hair -- like, an entire head of gray hair. Two of them wore it long, past the shoulders. And they looked BEAUTIFUL. I thought -- how brave. And how very non-East-Coast of them! I thought it was fantastic. I hope you'll share pictures!
August 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer
I have always thought that a young person like you, would look beautiful with gray hair.

I can't wait to see, and hope you do it.
August 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlexandra
Hey Alice,

Same dilemma, happy outcome, which you can read about here: http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/magazine/2010/0703/1224273601676.htmlIf your hair grows that quickly you'll be out from under the tyranny of the dye job in a few months. In the meantime spend the extra cash on a selection of hats. Good luck.Catherine
August 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine Cleary
Love it!
August 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCalindrome
Oh, Alice, heartless wench, going all authentic and stuff. Now we look like wusses!

Oh well. You know we'll still love you.

EVEN THOUGH you're becoming a punk rocker.
August 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSit At My Table
I agree with Karen Hawkins, grey hair can look really hip when cut in a short, spunky style and especially when worn with dark-rimmed glasses! I'm 27 and have so far discovered a grand total of 1 grey hairs, which I think is a miracle as I have black hair and my mum went grey in her early twenties and is STILL colouring at 55. I suppose I'm taking after my father's side, but when I do go grey I am going to embrace it by keeping it natural and getting a spunky hair cut as I hate hair colour and after having some bad experiences with a bottle of peroxide and some purple 'Fudge' on the night I finished high school, I have vowed never to colour my hair again!
August 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterOp Shop Mum
It sounds like me. Like you I've coloured my hair for 15 years. I've forgotten the colour beneath all the dye. I just can't face the grey streaks, I look completely washed-out. So I continue every 6 weeks.
August 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSophie
You know what else is awesome about not coloring your hair? Avoiding all of those revolting smells. I hated the nasty smells emitted by the highlighting chemicals I used to get--to camouflage the gray. You'll look divine. And you'll no longer be living a (hair color) lie. It feels good. Really.
August 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterReid
Way to be all liberated. As for me, I think I would feel like I was naked and taped to the school flagpole with a big pair of granny panties flying above me if I stopped coloring my hair.

Which probably means it's something I should consider. :)
August 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLoralee
I concur with those who suggest a weave to approximate what is most likely your natural color. I did this when I decided to stop coloring and it made the growing out process much less painful!
September 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBetsy
Congratulations! My mom and everyone in her family all have tons of dark, beautiful hair. My dad started going gray in his early 30s, I would say. Of course, my natural color is so uninteresting (sort of the color that can only be described as "dishwater") that I might not notice, but I hope to handle it with grace when it happens.

I can't wait to see your totally hot, punk rock hair!
September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKendra
and here I was thinking that I would color my grey out of my hair for the first time at age 37 (my grey started in at 13)... maybe not.



September 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterrobb
Yay yay yay! You have no idea how happy you just made me. I am 30 years old and grays started showing up in my dark brown hair when I was 20. I started coloring it out of shame about four years ago and stopped last year. The people who truly love me, like my husband, don't mind it, and I just feel like eventually I'll have to be comfortable with my hair showing maturity, so why not now? I feel like I'm putting off the inevitable. Also, like you, I only liked it for two weeks. Hated it at first, then liked it, then hated it. And that's expensive for liking my hair 8 weeks out of the year.

Anyway, my point is that I could not believe the push back I got for stopping coloring. Could not believe. Close friends called me to say really, "it will be distracting." My stylist mocked me (got a new one). My sister teased me about how bad I'm going to look. It was like I had pushed everyone's secret button. It only cemented my desire to have REAL hair, when at first I was just planning on giving it a shot and seeing how it went!
September 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMolly
I know I'm a good month + commenting on here, but I just came across this article. I'm 30 and getting the long, coarse WHITE strands from hell, only to have a much older co-worker (who dyes her greys) tell me it's hip for young people to have grey now.

Just weeks ago, I began noticing more and more grey, and actually considered dying it. I'm on a budget and can't afford monthly touch ups from pros, nor do i have the patience or skill to go the box route and surrender to a botched dye job, courtesy of yours truly. Hearing the comment from my co-worker, as well as reading this post, has given me the pride and confidence needed. Think of all the money you'll save!
September 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermeg

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