Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Hair Today Gone Tomorrow

My D day is looming and I have one last thing to do before I step onto the treatment treadmill which will, I have no doubt, change my life forever. That last thing is to go get a wig. It's not that this is an enshrined pre-requisite to having chemotherapy. From my own research and talking to people I know that many don't do the wig thing for a whole host of reasons and opt for a headscarf or hat or even go au naturel,  but I want to be ready for all eventualities. I also secretly harbour a desire to be incognito and to have a wig that is so unlike my natural hair that no one will recognise me and therefore throughout this gap year I can ostensibly be undercover. I know, I know. Most people would be angsting and agonising about the hairloss, but I see it as an opportunity to be someone else. I think Freud would have a field day with my fucked up psyche. But it's much simpler than that. I am a bit of a show off and a frustrated wannabe thespian so this allows me a chance to sink into a fantasy world where I could be anyone or go anywhere else other than here having to face my own immortality. I also quite like the idea of going blonde!

For this task I need to chose my shopping companion wisely as I cannot be trusted to do this momentous task on my own. I have very little sense of style (or indeed any style) and am sure in my panic I will buy something that resembles a merkin or leaves me looking either like Paul Daniels or at the other extreme Bet Lynch.

Anyway as my last post shows I am truly blessed with the most amazing friends all with their own wonderful qualities and strengths. I therefore need someone from amongst this group who will be brutally honest, is stylish and won't let me leave the shop looking like a very very poor excuse for a drag queen or a reject from a reality show with really bad hair extensions or WAG aspirations. I need a fashionista straight talker who won't bullshit me and there is only one person who keeps popping into my head. The lovely Anne-Marie whose sense of style is unique and always looks fabulous, and whose Liverpudlian 'no-nonsense-or-won't-suffer-fools-gladly' roots ensures that this will definitely
be a 'no bullshit zone'!

My only experience of buying wigs is at novelty or joke shops for parties or Halloween so therefore don't think it makes me a very good judge of what would be right. I have been very good at masquerading as Morticia Adams, Cher (circa Sonny and Cher) or Ronald McDonald, but I have no experience of buying wigs for aesthetic purposes and had no idea that a shop in Hove called Trendco, that has been supplying women with wigs for years, even existed. However it does and I make an appointment.


We arrive at a very unassuming building which looks more like an office block than a wig shop. Though I have no idea why I say that as I don't know what I imagine a wig shop to look like. Maybe like a hairdressers or a beauty salon. However I think it's initial unassuming appearance is such as not to make women feel self conscious about having to go to a place like this. It's always said that a woman's hair is her crowning glory so to be in a position whereby you are having to face up to losing it, admit you are already losing it or you've lost altogether must be such a difficult situation to find yourself in and to have to face. So in order to make these women feel less distressed they make it less obtrusive and obvious to others. Not a good analogy but it reminds me of how sex shops use to market themselves with no advertising and maybe just signage above the door informing that it was an "Adult" or "Private" shop with a clientele of very sad looking middle aged men in macs trying to get in and out of the shop without being seen clutching a brown paper bag filled with their illicit goods with descriptive, but not very imaginative titles such as "Big Jug Lovers". It feels quite quaint remembering the secretiveness of these shops in our out there world of social media, twerking and Snapchat and the like, where it's participants are keen to share the most intimate of details and images in a heartbeat. The shops now have names like Taboo, Sh! and Harmony... And nothing is hidden. It's all out there for everyone to see with nothing left to the imagination.

Maybe this revolution will one day extend to women's hairloss. But not today. Today hairloss and wigs are safely tucked behind a blank veneer allowing the company to provide a discreet and, I have to say, very professional and empathic service to its customers - helping them to face the changes ahead in relation to their personal appearance in a sensitive and supportive way. 

I have tried to approach this in a different way. One where I see hair as not important especially as I don't believe that the hair I already have is such a great crowning glory as to be mourned. I fear less about my hair falling out, more about being so ill and weak wracked with fatigue that I am incapable of doing things for myself or at least severely compromised in trying to. So I think my attitude is about approaching this purchase as a bit of fun. I may never ever take it out the box, but I'm going to enjoy the process of selecting it. I have also definitely chosen the right person to do this with as we certainly have a laugh at the ridiculous looks that emerge in the next hour. 

We are greeted by a woman with glorious hair. I so want to ask if it's all her's, but think better of it. She is very attentive and extremely helpful and knowledgable. She really knows her wigs. My initial thoughts are that I am not going to be hiding my hairloss so I am not trying to replicate my own hair (not that I would want to and pay for it!). If I was going for a long hair look I'd want bounce and body. I'm thinking Farrah Fawcett-Majors (or actually any Charlie's Angels a la 1970s or the 2000s version would suffice). However I am thinking this is a good opportunity to go short and gamine. However what no-one points out, which is the elephant in the room, is indeed the elephant in the room - me! Pixie haircuts and short sassy crops look great on slim, elfin girls and young women, even well groomed and maintained older women. But on someone carrying a bit more flesh than is probably necessary it doesn't have the same effect whatsoever. Every shorter cut wig just looks fucking hideous. I at least had hoped I would look like Halle Berry's older and slightly fatter sister. But the image looking back at me couldn't be further from that imagined truth. 

I just look and feel like a menopausal (though well coiffured) middle aged woman desperately trying to look younger. At worst I feel fat, dumpy and a little bit butch - a cross between Big Mo from Eastenders and Wee Jimmy Krankie. I am feeling anything but "fan-fucking-dabi-dozi"!

We all decide that maybe short isn't the way to go and we start to look at longer versions. Bizarrely and contrary to what I thought I appear to look better with hair that a WAG would fight me for. Lots of bouncy curls and incredibly girly, though somewhat on the fake side. However there was me thinking I would look like mutton dressed as lamb, but I'm looking like a smokin' rack of BBQ lamb. Not sure that's a good analogue but you get the drift. I looked pretty hot. However again these styles fall into the category of look low maintenance, but require high maintenance input which I knew I could not sustain and after a few wears the look would very quickly descend into a look more like that of Neil in The Young Ones or Lemmy. I needed length, but practical (as the bishop said to the actress...) God how boring, but true. It needed to be that low maintenance looking to low maintenance input ratio. However we are running out of options at the lower cost range. Anne Marie picks up on my sense of disillusionment. She spies a blonde wig which looks fun, just the right length and not as tousled and teased as the others I have tried. She urges me to try it on. We had joked about me trying on a blonde one and as I am here it would seem churlish not to. I put it on and the image staring back at me looks amazing. It's the right length and looks really natural. It has a nice bounce to it and is a bit sexy too without being too overt. I wouldn't feel self conscious or fake in it. It's does feel slightly retro circa 1950s but with a less styled look. However I think it's because it's blonde. I feel a little like an extra from Mad Men. 

As much as I want to be reckless and approach this wig purchasing with a two fingers up who-gives-a-fuck swagger I know that I may have to wear this wig often and as much as the fun of seeing people's reaction to my new found blondness I fear the novelty would wear thin very quickly. I need longevity so I enquire whether this style comes in another colour resembling my own. It does. It's the right price too and with the £60 deduction on the NHS for medical purposes it's a steal. With my wig called Carrie (very Sex and the City-esque) in its box in its plain carrier bag I leave this unassuming building ready to face the world and more importantly feeling better equipped to face the one side effect I know I will definitely experience. Chemo do you worse. I've got a 'Carrie' in a box which I'm not afraid to use along with a plethora of crazily coloured headscarfs that would give Camilla Batmanghelidjh a run for her money. Hair loss - I laugh in your face. Bring it on...

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