I went to the wig shop last night for the very first time. My father and I were in the neighborhood of the one that people kept suggesting to me, so I decided to have him drop me off to check it out while he went grocery shopping.
As I walked through the doors, for no reason at all, I choked up. I'm still not quite sure where that came from - I didn't realize how nervous I was subconsciously until I immediately was faced with rows and rows of plastic heads covered with wigs.
It was overwhelming, and almost like walking through a Halloween store for me. None of them looked like me. I kept reminding myself that this wasn't for a costume anymore, this was for the real deal. I suddenly realized that I could easily make a wrong decision and it might end up looking hideous and ridiculously out of place on my head. I also suddenly realized that maybe I wasn't as ready as I thought I was, emotionally.
I don't know how to explain this to anyone so that they might fully understand. There are plenty of people out there who buy wigs; according to some of my girlfriends, it is becoming a popular trend among celebrities even. It's not an unusual practice, and just by wearing a wig, it isn't going to mark me as a freak. BUT...
this is new to me.
It didn't matter to me that there were about twenty people already in the store roaming around and trying on extensions and wigs. It didn't matter that they had rows and rows of hair products and a hairstylist section where you could sit down and have the wig shaped and cut to your liking after you had purchased it.
What hit me first was walking past the longer hair wigs. The ones that reminded me of what my hair used to look like. I think that because I have lived with this patchy baldness for the past two months already that I had grown accustomed to how it looks in the mirror. It wasn't until I approached the long haired section that I started to tear up. I touched the frayed ends of what is remaining of my hair now and realized that I almost couldn't remember what it felt like to have long hair. I almost couldn't remember what it was like to pull it back into a ponytail when it got humid and it used to stick to the back of my neck. I used to hate that, and it irritated me to the point of no return.
I would give anything to feel my hair press against my sweaty neck like that now. Anything.
That frightened me. I could barely remember. What did I look like? Why didn't I appreciate it more than I did when I had it? Did I really use to have those wispy bangs? Was I really able to have cute curls at one time? It might seem like I am clinging too much to a painful past, but I know for a fact that I never want to forget what that felt like. What it looked like. Because I know I have to keep the dream alive that I will get back to that girl again, for my own inner strength purposes.
My life seems to be filled with these complicated situations recently where I am flooded with an abundance of mixed feelings and emotions. Wanting and not wanting things, in particular.
A part of me was excited, hopeful, wanting to try every single wig on. The other part of me kept saying it wasn't time yet, emotionally, I just am not ready.
The girl who was walking around spotted me and came over.
"Do you need any help with anything?" she asked, with a smile, "Do you want to look at the wigs?"
"Well, yes, but I don't know where to begin. This is my first time in a wig shop. Do you have human hair and synthetic?"
"Yes, we have both. Human hair is marked with green tags, and synthetics are pink tags," she said, pointing to the rows on the wall.
"What is the main difference between the two, would you say?" I asked, nervously biting my lip. The longer I looked, the more the collection of wigs seemed to grow.
"Human hair can be styled with heat, and curled. The synthetic wigs cannot," the girl said, still smiling.
"Well, I noticed over there while looking at the longer hair ones that they were held on with a comb. Do you think that you have ones with Velcro holders?" I asked.
"The back comb ones? Well all of them come with the Velcro option. You just buy one of the hair wig nets and place them on first and then they connect with the top of the wig," she said picking a random wig off one of the plastic heads to show me.
My eyes widened a little at the unexpected move of how easily she pulled the wig off that plastic head. A minute ago it looked like an Asian woman's head with a nice full head of hair styled with girls, and now the hair lay in between her hands, lifeless. She turned it over to show me the inside.
"Do you see the clip here? You can adjust the inside so that it fits tighter on your head. Like a bra strap," she said as she unhooked the little piece inside of it and moved it over one to the next hook holder.
I nodded, "That's exactly what I was wondering. It's just that I have alopecia ...and I don't think I have enough hair to hold the back comb ones down."
I have gotten used to saying that word. I tried to incorporate it into my vocabulary so I wouldn't choke up anymore at the sound of it.
She nodded and didn't seem affected at all by my blunt statement of my abnormal-ness. What had taken me months to say outright in a few seconds, this girl took as a grain of salt. It's amazing how some stuff works like that.
After a short pause she walked back over and placed the wig back on the plastic head.
"So do you want to try one on?" she smiled.
No, no, no, said the inner me, it's too scary, it's too real. You're bald. You're bald. This is fake hair. Fake.
"Yes," said the outer me.
"Good, I'll be right back with a fresh wig cap," she said disappearing into the back.
In the middle of the wig section was a table and a swivel chair on one side and a stationary chair on the other. On top of the table with a big mirror.
The girl returned with a black sock-looking thing.
"Here," she said handing it to me, "Just put it on your head."
I stood in front of that mirror and slowly removed my hat. In the fluorescent lights of the store, my discolored scalp and bald spots looked red, irritated and enormous. I quickly stretched out the cap and placed it on top of my scalp and tucked in the ends of my hair.
"Alright, please pick out one that you'd like to try," the girl said once she saw the cap on my head.
I still was trying to get used to what I looked like with the black cap on. I turned around and looked up at the rows and rows of wigs.
After a few minutes of staring like a kid in a huge toy store, I looked at the girl with a nervous smile and laugh.
"I have no idea what I like... I want it to look real. I don't want it to look..." my voice dropped off. Mainly because the word I was looking for was 'wig'. Which was unavoidable at this point.
The girl gave me a kind of look. "Well, they are wigs. Just chose the style you want. Have fun with it."
I went to the other side of the plastic heads and stared at the row of mid-length hair pieces.
My eyes caught onto a mid-length black one with brown streaks. It caught my eye because it reminded me of the color of my hair before.
"Can I try that one on?" I asked, pointing to it.
"Of course," said the girl walking over to it already. She leisurely lifted it from the plastic head and motioned for me to sit in the swivel chair in front of the mirror.
I watched as she played with the "bra straps" of the wig on the inside to make it fit my head.
She motioned to the mirror to indicate for me to look into it while she placed the wig on my head for me.
I watched as she stretched the front on first, adjusting the hairline so that it fit on my head in the correct position. She reached underneath and towards the nape of my neck to straighten out the back of the wig.
And then she proceeded to comb it.
It was the weirdest, surrealist feeling I had ever felt before. I almost didn't want to look into the mirror because up to that point I had been staring at the table top.
When I lifted my eyes, I couldn't believe how real it looked. But it wasn't my hair. I shoved that thought into the back of my mind and tried to focus on the wig itself, and how it looked on my head.
At first it felt awkward, but once I started running my fingers through it, I got used to its look. It had wispy bangs, which would need to be cut once I bought it because they kept swiping into my eyes.
"I think it looks perfect on you," exclaimed the girl, standing back as if to admire her handywork.
"You do?" I asked, "you know, I really like it, too..."
But I didn't buy it. I had to sleep on it.
When I got home later on, I sat in my apartment with a glass of black raspberry wine and scribbled for three hours into my journal.
Today, I think I'll go back to purchase it. It's a big step. And even if I go out and buy it, I am not sure when I'd wear it out - whether I'd be comfortable with wearing it out or whether I'd spend the entire night wondering if other people thought I was wearing a wig. Or worse - knew I was wearing a wig.
One step at a time though, right?