Excerpt: "Going Gray"

The vast majority of American women dread the idea of letting their hair go gray and avoid it at great cost.

Anne Kreamer was one of those women until she turned 49 years old and decided to stop dyeing her hair and let it go gray naturally. Kreamer said the experience was eye-opening and she wrote about what she learned in a new book, "Going Gray: What I Learned About Beauty, Sex, Work, Motherhood and Authenticity Along the Way."

Click here to take the Fountain of Youth survey, which Kreamer says will tell you if you're a skeptic, doer, follower or preserver. You can also check out before and after pictures of women who have taken the plunge and gone gray.

You can read an excerpt of the book below.

Chapter 3: Hello? Your Roots Are Really Showing -- My Bad Hair Year

I'd made my decision to let my hair go gray, but that didn't mean I was brave enough simply to stop coloring and go cold turkey. I'd watched my good friend, the novelist Susanna Moore, do precisely that. She'd quit her dark-brown dye jobs when they simply became more of a hassle than they were worth. Susanna, almost six feet tall and a former model and occasional actress, has a highly individualistic, almost theatrical style. On a day when she feels she looks her worst, heads turn when she walks into a restaurant or down the street. She has a kind of presence that I would love to have but that in a million years I could never pull off . Characteristically, rather than cut her long hair to minimize the unsightliness of her roots growing in, Susanna instead chose to amplify her transitional phase with a flamboyant gesture, adding a dramatic reverse-Susan Sontag streak of black into her whitening hair. She performed a magician's sleight of hand by drawing attention to her shocking black streak and away from her roots. It was a bravado stroke and quite successful. Imagine a beautiful, whimsical Cruella De Vil.

I like to think I have a pretty distinctive personal style, but it's nothing like Susanna's. At 5'3", I find that my look tends toward the quietly severe -- traditional silhouettes, never a plunging neckline or flounce, minimal jewelry, little adornment. More Audrey Hepburn than Audrey Tatou. More architect than artist. My one deviation from austerity has been my creative use of hair color. Watching Susanna let her gray grow in in such a visible way helped me think about how I actually wanted to feel as my hair grew out. And thinking about that forced me to acknowledge that while I was happy to be quitting artificial color, I wanted the transition to be as invisible as possible to others. I realized that I was not comfortable drawing too much attention to myself and never had been. I have never thought of my looks as anything other than regular, relying instead on my competence or humor for my self-esteem. But at the same time, like most of us, I wanted other people to find me physically appealing. I knew that having a giant white skunk streak down my scalp as my hair grew out wasn't going to make me feel good. I was more timid than that. And since I'd always been identified with long hair, I was vain enough to refuse to cut it. So I had a problem. How exactly does a person who's timid yet concerned about her looks handle letting dark dye grow out? Aside from Susanna, I'd not observed anyone else doing it.

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