Isn’t the customer always right? Even if not, this customer knows what she wants and that was not it.
That’s what I was thinking when I left my local hairdressers on Friday afternoon. I should have known better than to book somewhere new but I like to support local trade and it saved a drive to the next town. The place came recommended by a good friend (who if you’re reading this please don’t be offended, I’m sure the place is absolutely great, just not for my circumstances), so I took the plunge and gave them a call.
I wanted my hair shaved off….all of it. I wanted a Jessie J…. You see (and this is a big thing for me to explain so early on so bear with me) I wear a wig… I suffer from androgenic alopecia, have done for 17 years and I’ve worn a wig for 5 of them. Best thing I ever did. To be honest if you told me I could have my natural hair back tomorrow I’m not sure I would. I never have a bad hair day, styling my hair takes moments on a morning, it’s cost effective, easy to maintain. I love that at the end of the day when it is hot and sticky, I don’t have to tie it up and worry about putting a kink in it, I can TAKE IT OFF. All of it.
Y’ know that relief girls, you know what I’m talking about, when you know your “in for the night” and you take your bra off, flinging it across the room? Well I can do that with my hair…except I don’t fling it, I gently put it back on its stand. It is worth considerably more than a bra you see.
Of course there are disadvantages, sure, I can’t sleep in it so that can make relationships awkward… unless the guy is really understanding. Luckily for me I have had the understanding ones…but also the absolute arses like Mr H. You never know how a guy will react. Will he think I’m faulty? I’m firing follicular blanks…or will he see past that and see me for who I am?
There is also the issue of inclement weather. I will admit I have lost my wig to the wind not once but twice. Who cares? I laughed about it then and I still do now.
Underneath it I do have some natural hair… I’m not totally bald, I have my own eyelashes and brows, the alopecia only affects the hair on my head and has made it very thin. A trichologist told me when I was 14 that it would thin like an old ladies. Thanks to genes inherited from my mum’s side of the family most probably. My three uncles were all bald by age 30. On my dad’s side however all the men have a thick head of hair. That made buying the recommended Regaine Extra Strength fun. Available over the counter….to men only….men with bald patches. Cue a favour called in with dad’s mate and I had a bottle of the miracle cure. Only it wasn’t a miracle. Sure it helped, I managed to scrimp to the end of my school days with a side parting and countless bottles of Regaine, applied morning and night. It was expensive, £30 a bottle which only lasted 30 days and my parents were supporting me and my brother through full time education. Still, “if it had been £100 a bottle”, my mum told me, “we’d buy it you”.
I continued to use Regaine for around 3 years, swapping the branded version for bottles of the active ingredient ‘minoxidil’, purchased at pharmacies throughout Europe courtesy of my Godmother which only cost €5 each, until I was told to stop. There is a reason the extra strength version was for men only. It had not been tested in women. There was a chance it could cause infertility. With that I stopped. It was too high a price to pay for holding back the inevitable.
So I endured a further 5 years watching my hair get thinner, spending hundreds if not thousands of pounds on miracle lotions and potions, shampoos and conditioners meant to volumise from the root. I had to put Velcro rollers in my bob every morning just to a teeny bit of oomph – for about five minutes. I couldn’t wear hair accessories as my hair was too thin to hold them in place.
After my weight loss surgery in 2008 it came to breaking point. Kids would point in the supermarket and laugh at my “bald patch” of shiny scalp peeking through my baby fine tresses. It was thin to the point hairdressers were struggling to do anything with it and to make it anything like presentable took lots of time, effort and money. Money I could ill afford when I found out I was being made redundant. So I took the break in jobs to start wearing a wig. The one thing holding me back before that was that everyone at work would have known it was a wig.
Fat chance keeping it a secret. I wore the wig and I may have well carried a placard that stated “Thanks. It’s a wig!” as that became my automatic response when anyone complimented me on my hair. I’ve only stopped doing that this last year. I was scared that people knew and were just complimenting me to get to the truth. I now know they were genuinely paying me a compliment but I couldn’t take it, I wasn’t used to it. I do still tease every time my cousin tells me they likes my hair: “It hasn’t changed you know”…that’s cruel of me taking pleasure at their chagrin, how wretched of me! Perhaps my way of coping with getting the shit genes?
In five years, I’ve worn 15 wigs in 6 different styles and various shades of Copper, Cherry Cola, Chestnut, Cinnamon Spice…yeah I guess I have a theme going. I have helped a small handful of women, colleagues and acquaintances through alopecia or chemo and the decision to wear a wig. I am not ashamed of wearing a wig. I am not ashamed that I have alopecia. So my treatment on Friday, from a place that deals with wig wearers came as a bit of a shock… I get there… The owner comes over to give me a consultation… I don’t want or need a consultation… By this point my wig is off (I have no qualms about being seen without it by other customers, I’m not ashamed of it)… She asks what treatment I’ve tried…
Really? The last thing I need when I explain my hair history to the hairdresser is to be offered a cosmetic hair thickening treatment in the hope it will boost my baby fine hair into anything close to my long gorgeous Jessica Rabbit locks… Really? C’mon! If medical intervention didn’t do it, do you really think a topical treatment (of which the active ingredient Aminexil is not even licensed for treating hair loss) is going to do it? Me neither.
I’m offered the full salon treatment despite my protests. To be fair to the salon, I think they were trying to ensure I don’t feel any different…perhaps this is a treat for me being in a salon. “We’ll give you an intensive condition that will bring your colour right back” I’m told.
I have at least once inch of regrowth….I hadn’t planned on there being any colour left to ‘bounce back’ after the cut I tell her, but she smiles and says “Oh, don’t worry go and have a head massage and we’ll do it anyway”.
After the wash I am asked if I would like it colouring….what the? You just told me you would bring it back with conditioner even though I want it shaving off…?
I politely decline and the cutting begins…snip snip snip…is that short enough? No,shorter please…snip snip nip… no shorter…shorter….shorter……. I begin to tire of repeating myself. The poor love is babbling all the time that other clients will be wondering what the hell she is doing to me, I must be mad, this isn’t the done thing… Which other clients exactly? There is one other woman in the chair and she saw me take the wig off… So we ain’t fooling anyone love. I understand that she was nervous…there is no going back once it is off, but in my circumstances, having fully explained my reasons. I am not going to regret it…just do it already!
Finally I accept that this is as short as she is going to go….she gets the clippers and I exhale with relief….only to be disappointed as she only tidies up the back of my neck. I consider slipping back accidentally but she hasn’t got a guard on, I don’t want to be scalped! I accept my fate, I will have to go somewhere else and get it finished off properly.
I am not happy… But I find myself smiling (too polite for my own good) and thanking her. She offers to blow-dry and style it (why woman WHY? I’m about to put the wig back on!) Which I politely refuse and pay the bill, wincing at the exorbitant price. My mum pays less and has her styled… My wig stylist doesn’t charge this much for a wig to be customised and that’s a LOT of cutting… I wasn’t in this place 20 minutes… Anyhow I leave. As soon as I get gone I observe in the mirror to my horror bits of hair sticking out from under my wig. I wanted it Jessie J short… It’s still probably longer than Noel Gallagher’s at this point. There are tufts sticking out above my ears like unruly pubes, from beneath my wig…too short to tie back, too long to tuck under. So off I trot to Argos in a huff and buy some clippers… Come home, bite the bullet and shave it myself with some help from Ma Willey to check it was even. It was actually quite liberating as the lengths came off (there was more left on than taken off with the first cut) and fell to the floor. 10 minutes later it was done… For £12.49 I never have to pay for another haircut again or endure being told I am mad, between the usual hairdresser quips of “are you going out tonight?” or better yet “are you going on holiday this year?”. I can run my hands over my head and feel the shape of my skull. Ok so I may not quite have Jessie J’s looks or platinum blonde locks… But I’m comfortable. I’m happy. I got what I wanted.
I was actually quite chuffed with the results. Perhaps not brave enough to wear it out in public but I am happy around the house and garden with it. I was more embarrassed by the wispy, faded mess of a non-style I had pre-cut. I posed for a picture and sent it to my friends….they actually agree. It suits me, it looks good. So what if this is not “the done thing”? I don’t have to conform to others views on what is the norm. I’m a Gemini so it is said I have a split personality. I do. On the outside, to the world I am Jessica Rabbit Red…a lady, curvy, glamorous, twinkle in the eye… on the inside, underneath, I am Jessie J, liberated, loud, outspoken, a bit of a rebel…but put those two together and you get…
Me….and I will never be ashamed to wear a wig, whether you see me with or without it!
And I won’t apologise if that isn’t “the done thing”…