I’ve still got lots of hair but it’s thin enough on top for me not to want to leave the house without a hat/turban/scarf. My confidence about how I was looking had dipped to an all-time low, worse than post-babies, and I had gone through upset and resistance and was actually quite looking forward to the experience. It was Time.
So me and my entourage (my gorgeous sister and my delicious six month old niece) bowled up at Joseph’s Wigs . It was all very discreet: you have to ring on the doorbell, the shop front has blinds across it, and we were shown through to a private room at the back. Surrounded by polystyrene heads sporting wigs of all colours and styles, I sat down in front of a big mirror to have a chat about what I needed and what sort of things I might like to try, and have my head measured (not as small as I’d always thought, incidentally).
The lovely, kind, gentle woman who was looking after us (discreetly) sussed out my budget (the deal with referral from a hospital is that you pay £60 and the NHS pays the rest, up to a max of £120. But if you want a more expensive wig, you have to also pay the extra, and decent wigs are more like double that).
We started with a top-of-the-range wig: a classy chick called Sophia (£250). This is a ‘classic chin-length bob with a light fringe’, according to manufacturer Feather Premier. I quite fancied a fringe: in pre-syrup life I’d always been told by hairdressers that my low forehead and hairline made a fringe a no-no. It is handmade, with each bit of nylon hair hand knotted, and is made from stuff that is soft and comfortable on the skin. Apparently it also has a ‘double monofilament layer and a fine lace front to provide an undetectable front hairline’. (A whole new vocabulary!)
I was told not to panic until it was properly on and styled, because at the moment of putting a wig on, everyone looks like Rod Stewart. To put a wig on, you don’t dip your head; you look into the wig, with one hand holding the front and the other holding the label at the back, and bring the wig up to your head, holding onto the front while you pull the back down. Then there are two little tabs near your temples to adjust it so it’s straight.
Me and my sis were seriously impressed. It looks like actual hair. In fact, it looks like my hair with a really expensive haircut and highlights. Off my head, you’d never call it a red wig, but the ‘Autumn Harvest’ colour actually blends in perfectly with my own hair. My sis was saying all the right things about looking pretty, young and groomed, and I liked it so much I was pretty sure it was The One.
I did try on a few more, just to be sure. It was good fun, now the fear factor was removed. The longer wigs look a lot more…wiggy, somehow (and not in a lapdancer way, as DH was hoping). As do the cheaper ones: you really do get what you pay for. It is possible to get cheaper wigs cut and styled so they look more natural – Trevor Sorbie is behind a wonderful charity called My New Hair, which trains hairdressers in salons across the country to cut cancer patients’ real hair and wigs.
A wig in a much darker red just looked odd – I had been thinking of playing around with a new colour but I just don’t look myself in anything a lot darker or lighter than usual, and that wasn’t going to make me feel less self-conscious.
I also tried on a very short wig, just to see. If my own hair gets a lot thinner and I decide to wear the wig a lot, it would make sense to do an Emma Watson (without the youth, Ivy League degree and Burberry modelling contract). I was a bit shocked because I always had quite harshly short hair as a child, and there was an eight year old me starring back in the mirror. With bigger eye bags, obvs. But at least I know now I can get away with really short hair if required.
So Sophia it was. She was bagged up and I had a crash course in Wig Care: they need washing and conditioning with special products every two weeks (in the basin, not on your head) because the inside gets a bit sweaty and smelly (nice!). I also need to use a metal brush or comb to prevent static, presumably so I don’t become a frizzy fire risk, and when the ends get a bit dry, it needs a special oil treatment. And she needs keeping away from cats (looks like a dead rodent) and all sources of heat so she doesn’t, well, melt.
I left feeling really pleased, quite elated. I called DH to tell him I was bringing my new friend home. I said while wearing it I’d looked in the mirror and smiled at myself because I liked the way I looked for the first time in many, many weeks, and for a moment I was overcome with emotion and I could hear his voice cracking (in the middles of Wickes, of all places), too.
I put it on after school to see what the kiddies thought. DS looked at me strangely and said ‘What you doin’ with your hair mummy?’ so I showed him it was a wig, and he lost interest pretty quickly, since it isn’t anything to do with Toy Story. DD wanted to feel it and try it on (she looked like a tiny pageant queen: weirdly too grown up!), and this morning said she liked me with the wig better than a hat. Phew. When DH came home and clocked me, he was a bit shocked, because it’s so different to how I’ve ever had my hair, but he says he likes it. I suspect he’s more interested in me feeling confident and relaxed than anything else, and if I’d declared a purple ‘fro was going to be my look for the next six months he’d be cool with it as long as I was happy.
Sophia accompanied me on the school and nursery run this morning. I was a bit nervous because I’m just learning how to get it looking right, but I got loads of compliments from other mums, the wonderful school-crossing-slash-dinner-lady, the nursery team, and DD’s teachers. And popping into the hospital for a meeting with the breast care nurse about recovering from surgery (of which more another time), I found myself striding in with my head held high, in the way I used to walk everywhere. I hadn’t realised until that point how my much self-consciousness had affected my posture and bearing.
Tonight we’re off out for a girls’ night in to plan The Holiday. I wasn’t ready to meet her before now, but I think I’m going to like Sophia tagging along, she seems quite smart and fun. She certainly makes me smile, anyway.