Going Gray : What I Learned about Beauty, Sex, Work, Motherhood, Authenticity, and Everything Else That Really Matters
Anne Kreamer considered herself an impossibly youthful forty-nine until a casual glance at a family photograph stopped her in her tracks. There she was-behind carefully chosen clothes, meticulously dyed hair, and several rounds of Botox-looking (horror of horrors) exactly forty-nine. In one unguarded moment, all the years spent plucking and primping her way to a more youthful-looking self suddenly melted away, and Kreamer saw herself for what she really was-a middle-aged woman with her hair dyed much too harshly. She wasn't fooling anyone.
So Kreamer decided it was time to get real. To her friends' shock and her hairdresser's dismay, she ended twenty-five years of appointments with her colorist and resolved to let her hair go gray. She was finished with the tyrannical upkeep, the enormous expense, this vain attempt at preserving her youth. She wanted to move toward some measure of authenticity. And, frankly, she was curious to know what she actually looked like.
Is Kreamer's exploration of that journey, and a forthright, funny, and penetrating look at aging as a modern female obsession. From the Woodstock Nation's and feminism's affirmations of natural beauty to $300 hair sessions and routine lip injections-how did we get from here to there? Kreamer uses compelling experiments, interviews with both celebrated and ordinary women, and her own story in an attempt to understand the impulse so many women feel to hide, to mask, to undo the physical signs of life's progression, even as their lives become increasingly longer.
Why is hair color so central to women's identity? What are the personal and the professional pressures behind the thousands of dollars women spend in the name of keeping up appearances? And what are the effects of letting down that guard, if only just a little?
In this inspiring chronicle of middle-aging, Kreamer sets out to find her hair's true color and along the way discovers her true self. With humor, candor, and blazing insight, she gamely seeks to find the balance between attractiveness and authenticity-illuminating in a provocative and valuable way the politics and the personal costs of our definition of "aging gracefully."
Kreamer has been creative director of Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite and columnist for Martha Stewart Living. She has a loving husband (author and radio personality Kurt Andersen) and two daughters. She was 49 and still "pretending" to be young. So not only did she decide to stop coloring her hair, she set out to discover the practical implications of going gray. If she wanted, could she still find men willing to date her? Was gray a handicap in the job market? Not surprisingly, she found that it isn't so much what other people think, "it's how we feel." Her consultants reminded her that hair color is only one part of a woman's appearance; a new haircut, well-selected cosmetics, new clothes and even plastic surgery will affect the success of a woman's look. Kreamer's chatty, confessional style is appealing, as are the gray-positive cultural icons she invokes (George Clooney, Helen Mirren, Emmylou Harris). But when she declares, "I remain at least as vain as the next person. I intend to continue spending large sums to have my hair cut and styled," she undercuts her own argument that "repackaging" ourselves can be a dangerously "slippery slope." In the end, she's learned to accept her own aging; readers over 55, however, may find that premature. (Sept.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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Little, Brown and Company
September 10, 2007
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