I met Sue when I was a temp worker at a company back in 2011. I had not started wearing wigs yet and the thought had not even crossed my mind, although that journey would begin less than a year later. She was in the cube across from me and although quiet (and mysterious! she would say – but only because she is Korean and that is what people expect her to be, lol) she has the brightest smile, is very clever and funny, and has the most wonderful laugh – she thought I was hilarious and we were quick friends. I only worked at the company for a few months before moving to another state, but we stayed in touch and I soon knew it was for a reason, although it would be another five years before that reason was fulfilled.
When I moved back last summer, I asked Sue to lunch. I was excited because she had only known me as my former self – without very much hair and having very little herself I thought this may be a great opportunity to show her what wigs were about. I had told her I started wearing them and she seemed…skeptical. I thought she would be shocked to see me with hair. She was not – she absolutely didn’t believe me that I was wearing a wig! I even wore a long, curly wig – so completely opposite of my short, cropped, fluff of a ‘do that was my biohair – and I almost had to remove it in the restaurant to convince her it wasn’t mine!
I think a lot of people, including myself and Sue, have this preconceived notion that a wig = fake, obvious, costume, ridiculous and isn’t it such a pleasant surprise to find that this is not the case! This was the first of many revelations for Sue, who was going to be hard pressed to be convinced of giving wigs a chance still.
I didn’t want to pressure her, but I did want to offer her the possibility – so we discussed the matter further. Sue had started losing her hair when she was young, and as a Korean bride, was shamed on her wedding day to have so little. Her mother had offered to get her a wig at one point, but her offer was made decades ago and all they knew were the short, cropped caps of ill-fitting curls that some of us can still picture, possibly sliding off our dear grandmother’s heads. Not a fashionable look for a young mother and wife.
So Sue soldiered on, living her life and ignoring her reflection, focusing on her marriage and her son, earning a Master’s degree in computer programming. Here she was now, her son grown, divorced, and working – still ignoring her reflection (it is old habit, you know), carefully combing her hair, keeping her appearance neat and still with that smile made of sunshine and laugh so sweet.
During our discussions and learning these details about Sue (boy, could I relate to ignoring the reflection in the mirror, focusing on others and ignoring everything else) I found her arguments to be about wanting people to like her for her genuine self – and worrying that wigs would obscure that.
“I want people to like me for who I truly am, I don’t want them to think I am fake.”
Ah! Now there is an argument. And I get it! She felt as though she would be deceptive by wearing a wig. That not only would it look ridiculous, everyone would know, and they would think of her as a liar.
“Sue,” I said, “Are you wearing a bra?” Shocked, she replied, “Of course!”
“Well, that isn’t very honest of you, is it? Your boobs are probably a bit higher in a bra than they really are – it is kind of a lie.” She laughed but I knew I had struck a chord.
While there was much more to the conversation, the point was this – we wear clothes: pants, underwear, shirts, shoes – we are ill equipped for the world without them. We don’t think of people as lying when they are wearing these things, they are simply doing what is socially accepted and what is best to help them survive in the world and fit in with society. We tend to only give people who can navigate society successfully a chance – to see them for who they are. You aren’t going to have a meaningful conversation with a person in a coffee shop who isn’t wearing pants. You are going to be too busy wondering why the heck they don’t have pants on and probably trying to get away from them to listen to what they have to say or taking measure of the content of their character.
Hair, especially for women, is the same. We are expected to have a full head of hair. When we don’t have it is when it becomes distracting. While people will eventually see past that, it does make it a little harder, doesn’t it? It becomes a hurdle to seeing who you really are, as opposed to a deception made to obscure yourself.
Sue lost her hair when she was young through no fault of her own. It never hid her smile or her smarts or her hard work – and a wig wasn’t going to hide any of that either. She agreed to give it a go.
She came to my place – I kind of have a lot of hair 😉.
This is Sue.
And this is Sue with hair (notice the smile!). A couple hours and a few selfies later – Sue was on her way to becoming a believer.
Six months later, Sue came for another visit – I had more wigs I told her and she could take her pick! She had just come from a job interview and the change in her was remarkable. Friends and family accepted the new Sue and encouraged her, giving her compliments. I swear she was walking a little taller when she came over, and it wasn’t the heels. Sue felt good about herself and it showed. She was more confident – what makes Sue, well Sue – showed even more clearly now.
I was so darn proud of her. She was so scared of wearing wigs. Scared of what people would think. Scared of her own reflection, and she did it anyway.
Deciding to wear wigs is not easy as we all know. Losing our hair – for whatever reason – it wasn’t our choice and certainly not our fault. And we need to acknowledge that. And we can do something about it to make ourselves feel better. To help people see the real person inside – to see past our hair.
You can see all of Kerry’s guest blogger posts here.