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.