Last week, I mentioned that Ken had worn one of my wigs to a meeting and that I was planning to wear one during a virtual meeting to which my friend Elaine from Elaine’s Blog asked to see me in it. I did indeed wear it for “Wig Wednesday” where I encouraged my team to wear wigs for our daily check-in (some of them did—it wasn’t just me, you know). Here’s how I hoped I looked:
Here’s how I really looked (difficult to be cute when all your best reading glasses are back at the office):
But I’ve always loved wigs. I grew up in an era where it wasn’t unusual for women to wear them frequently, and every department store had a wig department, with all kinds of exotic looks that a young girl could fantasize about. My mother had at least two wigs that I remember, and my brother and I used to put them on, jump on the beds and pretend we were rock stars. And by “rock star” I mean Donny and Marie Osmond, who were very popular at the time. Being the eldest, I always insisted on being Donny, relegating my 5 year-old brother to the role of Marie. But he had a great singing voice, and it was a hell of a lot higher-pitched than mine. My brother has a very nice baritone now, but I still sound like a bagpipe-playing duck caught in a trap. We were too young to listen to actual rock, of course, whose musicians all looked like they WERE wearing really bad wigs. I remember going with our mother to visit one of her friends who had an older son. He took us to his bedroom and showed us a KISS album. “This is the best band ever,” he informed us solemnly.
“They look like girls,” we giggled.
“You’re a fag if you don’t like KISS,” he told my brother. We didn’t know what that exactly meant, but it sounded like he was being insulting so I defended my brother the way only an eight year-old can. “No, he’s NOT,” I said, and we left him alone with his precious “men wearing wigs and make-up”. And I’m glad I live in an era now, where your sexual orientation is no longer the fallback for musical criticism. Or at least it shouldn’t be.
Back to wigs. In retrospect, I’ve had a lot of wigs. When I was a teenager, I had a long ponytail hairpiece that I wore on fancy occasions. As an adult, I’ve had more than one hairpiece that made my hair, which is thin and fine, look like it had a substantial bun at the back (not unlike the hairpieces that hipster guys used to give themselves the dreaded “man bun”). Then, I branched out into “musical theatre”, which is to say that I began to take part in the Christmas assembly at the school where I used to work. Every year, the staff there lip-synched the songs of contemporary or well-known music stars. The first year I did this, I played the role of—guess who?! The lead singer from KISS. Full face make-up and a curly, long black wig, complete with a black leather costume and platform boots. It was an exhilarating experience, and now I know why KISS did it for so many years. Then we were sent home due to a terrible snow storm. I got my car stuck in a snow drift a block away from my house and flagged down a pick-up truck to help push me out. When the guy got out of his truck, he stopped and stared at me kind of fearfully, at which point I realized that I’d taken off the wig, but was still in full KISS make-up. “I was in a play,” I tried to explain, but I think I would have been more believable if I’d been wearing the wig.
Over the years, I’ve donned a long brunette wig to play Lorde, the blonde wig seen above to sing along to Taylor Swift, and “gotten my wig on” for Hallowe’en on several occasions. But I’ve never actually bought a full wig just to wear. Until a couple of years ago, that is. I’d gone out for dinner with a friend, and we may or may not have indulged in the $5 drink special more than once. On the way back, we went into the underground shopping mall near my building to get some wine. Then we passed the Wig Store. We were window shopping and talking about how much fun it would be to try on a couple, when the owner came out. “Come into my shop! I have something that would really suit you,” she enticed us. Well, being as tipsy as I was, I wasn’t hard to convince. The next thing we knew, she was pulling hair off plastic lady heads, whipping out hair nets, and getting us to try on all kinds of things. When she popped the “Cleopatra” over top of my own short hair, I was sold. Of course, “Cleopatra” is a bit of a misnomer, unless the Queen of Egypt had blonde highlights, but I knew I had to buy that wig. And I did. “What are you going to do with it?” my friend asked. “I’m going to wear it home on the train on Friday and surprise Ken!” I said, which seemed like a great plan at the time.
On Friday, at the end of the day, I was starting to get a little nervous about my plan. Would it be obvious? Would people think I was weird? I took Cleo into the bathroom and maneuvered it onto my head. It was a little harder to adjust than when the wig shop owner had done it, but I finally got it looking symmetrical. When I came out to get my bags, a few co-workers were still there. “Wow!” said one, “It looks so real!” “Your husband is going to LOVE it!” said another. This made me feel a little better and not quite so self-conscious. On the train, when the drink cart came around, the female conductor did a bit of a double-take, mostly because I order from her every week. “I’m wearing a wig today,” I whispered. “That’s OK,” she said, like I was asking her permission, but she did assure me that it looked very natural. So I tipped her, which I don’t normally do, because technically she’s not a waitress, and because the train is such a big rip-off in the first place.
When we finally got to the train station, I saw Ken through the window. I couldn’t wait to see the look on his face. And sure enough, when he saw me, he looked away, then back in confusion, then surprise. And then he frowned.
Me: Do you like my new look?
Ken: What are you doing?
Me: I wanted to surprise you.
Me: What do you think?
Ken: Yeah, I don’t like it.
Me: You get that it’s a wig, right?
Ken: I like your hair short, though.
Me: It comes OFF. It’s a WIG. My normal human hair is still underneath.
Ken: Oh. It makes you look really different. I don’t like the bangs…
Me: Never mind.
I understand Ken’s reaction because he does the same thing when we’re out shopping. If I see something cool and ask him if he likes it too, he always says “No”, even if he does like it, because he’s worried that if he agrees with me, I’ll buy it. It’s taken 30 years to get him to understand that I just like to window shop. So I think he was concerned that if he said he liked the wig, I’d never take it off. We’d be like 90, and in a retirement home, I’d still be wearing “Cleopatra”, and all the old guys would want to “play Bingo” with me because I had the best hair. At any rate, I kept it on until we got to the store where K worked. Her reaction was a little more favourable—she laughed pleasantly, hugged me and said it “looked good”. And then we got home, where Titus met me at the door.
Titus: You’re home! This is the best day ever!
Me: Do you notice anything different?
Titus: Is that Swiss Chalet chicken?! Can this day GET any better?!
Me: So nothing?
Titus: Your hair grew. Give me some french fries!