To dye for: Author unearths truths about going gray10/24/2007 01:00 AM EDT
By ELLEN SIMONAssociated Press
Going Gray author Anne Kreamer
Little, Brown and Company / Chris FanningNEW YORK — As author Anne Kreamer researched her book, Going Gray, she did some head counts, looking for famous gray-haired women. She found only one gray-haired Hollywood actress (Jamie Lee Curtis) and no gray-haired women in the U.S. Senate in 2006. At the Fortune magazine conference for the most powerful women in business, only 11 out of 324 women attendees had gray hair.She sent her friends everywhere from parks in Oregon to new-parent orientation at the University of Vermont with the same outcome: A tiny handful of gray-haired women in a sea of dye. Kreamer decided to quit covering her gray at 49. The book followed a popular article she wrote for More magazine about dropping the dye. In it, she argues that hair dye is a form of dishonesty the Baby Boom generation may be ready to shed. Dyeing, she figures, cost her hundreds of hours and tens of thousands of dollars. More importantly, “I’ve come to understand that I really don’t want to look like some majority-approved standard-issue version of age fifty or fifty-five or sixty or sixty-five,” she writes. But going from artificial dark brown to gray brought its own issues.
Her colorist tells her she can’t simply strip the color from her hair. “The result of stripping would have been a ghastly, horizontally striped, porcupine-quill effect,” she writes. So the book follows her “bad hair year,”from some gray roots, to gray roots and blonde highlights, to an earlobe-length gray cut, followed by a super-chic steel-gray style.In some ways, Kreamer’s is a classic makeover story: She loses ten pounds, hires an image consultant, clears her closets of the 1980s power suits from a job she no longer has, gives away the vintage Chanel from her every-hair-in-place mother and buys new clothes for the first time in 10 years. (One great piece of advice from the style consultants: Your gray and black hair is its own pattern, so don’t wear patterns.) With the help of a social scientist friend at the National Science Foundation, she devises a survey on how gray hair is perceived. One finding, using gray-haired and non-gray haired pictures of the same people, is that, unless you’ve truly gone prematurely gray, gray only adds three years to people’s estimates of how old someone is. Her takeaway: If you’re dyeing your hair, the people around you are on to you. She finds going gray has both given her the best hair color of her life (“I love the way it shines in the sun,” she says) and made her a more honest woman.