Monday, February 17, 2014

Going Gray: What I Learned About Beauty, Sex, Work, Motherhood, Authenticity and Everything Else That Really Matters

If you’re old enough to remember the TV commercial that asked “Does she or doesn’t she? Only her hairdresser knows for sure,” then it could be that your hair is gray. It’s also a good bet that you color it, like 55-60 percent of American women (and who knows how many men). But if you’ve begun to question whether the secret to eternal youth can really be found in a bottle of hair dye, Going Gray is the book for you.

This was the question that Anne Kreamer, a 50-something journalist and former TV producer, asked the day she saw, with horror, a candid photo of herself, her hair dyed its usual but very unnatural dark brown. She didn’t look younger, she didn’t look right, and it wasn’t a good look. She sheared off her dyed locks, swore off hair color, and set off on a fact-finding mission that resulted in Going Gray, a thoughtful examination of how our culture of youth rejects graceful aging in favor of struggling to look 25 until we're 95. 

Her research is thorough, beginning with the roots (sorry!) of the hair coloring revolution-- it wasn’t that long ago, after all,  that women with dyed hair were gossip-worthy. She then moves into surveys, focus-groups, and interviews with professional image consultants. She even product-tests herself on dating websites, comparing the hits she gets with colored hair vs. gray--and the results may surprise you. Regional and professional attitudes toward gray hair are examined (hint: don’t attempt to let your hair go gray in southern California, or if you’re a female senator) and the financial hit of frequent hair coloring also adds to the interest.

Kreamer wasn’t without her critics--friends don’t let friends go gray, at least not without a fight--but she’s clearly comfortable with her decision. Readers on the fence about whether or not to get off the hair color treadmill will be intrigued by the surprising discoveries she made about herself, and also by what Going Gray says about how, as a youth-centric society, we buy into the cultural norms created by corporate advertising.

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