My natural hair is soft, fine and useless; was prettier on its own when I was a kid, then went all mousy brown when I got older because of course it did.
(My brother’s went luxuriously curly, mine went.. brown. I’m not bitter or anything.)
I grew up, bleached it variations of golden blonde over the years, and always used a crap ton of hair product every day to get it to look right.
*Yes. Sorry/not sorry, I am one of ‘those women’. If you see me out without makeup or hair done, you can be sure that I’m either camping, deathly ill, or a major disaster has happened and the world is possibly ending.*
So alopecia happening to me was pretty much horrifying. I was low-grade terrified as time passed, every day watching the bald patch get bigger, teeny bit by bit.
Heartwarmingly, I got good at doing a combover – so many times I thought “aww, Grandpa Bott is looking down from heaven and is so proud of me right now”.
I was keenly aware, as the days and weeks passed, of two things: my son’s high school graduation coming up, and how it was gradually getting more difficult to hide the bald spot. I knew that a tipping point was coming; one morning my expert combover skills would be unable to hide the bald spot. Considering how it seemed to be playing out like a tragicomedy already, my educated guess was that the tipping point would most likely be the morning of my son’s grad.
So I decided to take control while I still could.
I made an appointment with a lady who sells wigs in a town not far from mine, and took my mom (a former hairdresser) along as my trusted second set of eyes.
Realistically, I was hoping we’d find something… tolerable. Not hideous. Preferably something that looked like my actual short hair so it wouldn’t even be a change and nobody would notice or ask questions. BLEND. I wanted to blend seemlessly with my current appearance.
Judy, a warm and friendly lady in her sixties, welcomed us into the basement of her home. Rows on rows of wigs in the one room! I could see a few that looked promising, except for one (literally) big snag – I have a massive head.
Judy tried my first choice, a short hair one, and couldn’t even slightly get it on me. She says, “okay. 90% of these won’t fit you,” gesturing allll around the room and at pretty much all of the short hair ones.
*Hail Mary full of grace I’m not even slightly Catholic but please help me out amen or whatever..*
(Side note: my Catholic friend told me this was okay to leave in; if it’s not I offer my most sincere apologies, please yell at my friend instead)
Tried a couple of the remaining possibilities. Long hair looks ridiculous on me now; I have no idea when or how that happened but it is just not at home on my head anymore. A longer bob looked like the ‘do my mom did on me every Sunday morning when I was four years old.
Next we tried a golden blonde bob, shorter in the back. It fit. Great, in fact. And looked… GREAT. Oh my gosh! SCORE!! 🎉
Judy says “do you want to try any other colors?”
Me: “I don’t think so, this is perfect! Thank you so much!”
Mom: “hey, for fun, try this platinum blonde one. It’s the color I wish I could get my hair to go when I dye it, and I know this color is in style with girls even younger than you.”
*Me, in my head: “Bless your heart, Mom, I’m almost 40. ‘Younger girls’ aren’t really that difficult to find.*
Judy: “YES it is very popular. I really like this color, too. Just for fun, humor us old ladies.”
So I caved to the peer pressure and put on the ‘old lady/younger girls’ grey wig. Okay fine, ‘platinum blonde’, but it looked so grey and elderly to me at first glance.
I did not expect it to look at all good.
And yet… with the ability to change back and forth between the two hair colors, the best one was undeniable.
Platinum is clearly better than golden blonde on me (at this point in my life, anyway). It makes my eyes ‘pop’ and skin colour and everything look more dramatic.
Who knew?! Thanks ladies (*and Mary, perhaps*)!
So Mom and I went out for lunch. And I was TERRIFIED that people would be able to tell I was wearing a wig. Nobody seemed to be staring.. much.. a couple that looked at me for slightly longer than usual but I assumed were just noticing my limp or something. So far so good..
I went to the washroom, as you do, and when I looked in the mirror I was startled as all hell – SWEET MOTHER OF PEARL, I LOOKED LIKE A MILLION BUCKS!! Oh my holy crabcakes!! I mean 😍 but also 😬 – what am I going to DO?! This is not ‘blend in to look like my regular short hair and don’t draw attention,’ this is ‘Marilyn Monroe effing bombshell’!
How was this going to go with the people who see me all the time?!
I mean really, I couldn’t go from short hair to a bob overnight without getting questioned – surely some logical, rational human would be like “what the heck?! Are you wearing a WIG!?”
Answer: nope. It does NOT look like a wig to even hairdressers, and non-hairdressers were like “wow! Did you get extensions? Looks great!”
You can’t do extensions on short hair, but apparently that is the only logical possibility people could imagine.
Side note: anybody else think it’s fascinating that in our culture, extensions are normal and desirable and we happily admit to having them, but a wig is just.. not? Similar to how orthodontics are normal and desirable but plastic surgery is also.. not.
Completely unexpected response, people just accepting that I magically hatched fantastic hair all of a sudden. I was incredibly happy, of course, but felt.. off-balance. Like I’m living this socially acceptable.. lie. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I still kind of don’t, and it’s been months.
To make the whole mental game of it more interesting, my wig feels distinctly not-nice. A lot like a tight, itchy, less-than-glamorous, possibly half-ridiculous, hat. It’s not hard to imagine that it looks like I’m wearing… I don’t know, Medusa snake heads. Or funny clown hair. But apparently from your point of view, it looks normal.
Meanwhile I take Claritin every morning to tolerate the itching.
I’ve seen people take pics of me on their phones really quick.
I yank it off as soon as I get home a lot of days.
I’ve had women cross stores to tell me how much they love it: one crossed a busy mall hallway.
I confess that it’s a wig sometimes, I don’t with most. Too often telling the truth then plays out in a predictable, disappointing script where they ask why, I say alopecia, & they launch into hair regrowth suggestions. I then have to nod and smile while rolling my inner eyeballs until I strain my inner cornea.
I myself am never really sure who I’m going to tell the truth to until it just falls out of my mouth.
One time in particular, a lady complimented my hair. Nay, gushed about it. So I confessed that it’s a wig, inwardly cringing in fear of the impending Script of Disappointment.
She didn’t miss a beat.
Smoothly switched to gushing about how much she loved the wig, & how natural it looks, & how much she might need to go get one she loves it so much.
She was so sincere, I felt super warm & fuzzy & nearly pulled it off to show it to her just because she was so kind & authentically interested in the hair and not any further details.
(Just FYI, so you have an idea of what a GOOD response would be. 😊)
And that’s pretty much all I plan to share on alopecia and my spectacular experience as a wig-wearer (for more on my saga see my previous post, How Not To Cure Alopecia Quickly and Effectively). Honestly, I can hardly wait to go back to my natural sissy mousy hair to color, trim, style and hairspray into submission like a normal person.
Below is a link to the website for the wig shop I went to – it is now owned by a different lovely, helpful lady named Annie. 💖