My Wig Story
by, Rhea Parsons
Everyone has a unique wig story – why they wear them, how they began, how they learned, how they deal with hair loss and more.
My story began when I was about 30 years old and I developed several autoimmune disorders. In addition to the painful and debilitating symptoms, I started losing my hair. Visits to doctors, testing, and treatments, none of it helped. My hair got thinner and thinner and practically, stopped growing. Since I was so sick and housebound for 18 months, my hair wasn’t my top concern. Later, when I went into remission and started at a new job, my hair loss made me very self-conscious. I thought everyone was staring at my head, and the weight gain from my illness didn’t help.
One day, I was waiting for the bus and I noticed a beauty supply store across the street. There were wigs in the window. Now, wigs were not new to me. My mother wore them for most of the time I knew her. She had the same autoimmune disorders, but the last thing I wanted to do was have to wear wigs like my mother did. They didn’t look very real and people would rudely ask her if they were wigs. I spent my childhood putting makeup on Styrofoam heads and watching my mother wear wigs but in my early 30s, this was not what I wanted for myself. On the other hand, I didn’t want to be seen in public and I was teaching classes, in front of dozens of people at a time! So I went into the store.
I remember the owner being nice, and letting me try a wig on in the back storeroom. It was a shoulder-length, wavy, layered, brunette, and about $35. I knew nothing about cap construction or fibers. My mother’s wigs were simple, basic pieces, and she used bobby pins to hold them in place. So that’s what I did. I bought the wig and wore it outside. Back at the bus stop, I felt like a spotlight was on me and every person in the world had nothing better to look at than my head. It was windy and I was so scared the wig would blow off. I was torn between loving how pretty it was and worrying that it looked totally fake. After all, when you’ve had the thinnest hair and hair loss, suddenly having a full, luscious head of hair feels unnatural. I went to work and no one said a word. If anyone noticed, they didn’t let on. It took a long while before I let my mother see me in the wig. It felt like I was now part of a club I didn’t want to join.
I’d like to tell you I acclimated to the wigs rather soon, but that’s not my story. For over 20 years, I wore wigs that were identical in style and length, so as to not draw attention to myself, and only in my bio color of darkest brown. I chose simple wigs, not too pretty, not too beautiful, because I didn’t want any attention. It always felt like people were looking at my head. I lived in fear of someone touching my hair, pulling it, or worse, pulling it off.
When I had more money to spend, I’d look at m wigs. Lace fronts were just becoming available and it scared me to even try and deal with those. My first brand-name wig was “Allison” by Henry Margu – mono top, no lace, curly, and cute. But not too cute. I wore her until she was discontinued. Then I moved to “Brittany” by Amore – double mono top, no lace. Having a realistic-looking part was my biggest concern.
Wearing wigs meant dealing with so much – socializing, dating, intimacy, swimming (what if someone threw me in a pool?!), weather, people asking, people staring, what to sleep in, and on and on. I hated every moment of it as a huge burden had befallen me and it was a cross I had to bear, a punishment for something I must have done. I hated wigs and I hated myself for needing them. Given the choice then, I would have rather lost a limb. I was embarrassed and ashamed; like it was some kind of failure on my part. For years, I punished myself for something I didn’t do.
During the roughest years of my life, I didn’t get more than one wig every year or 18 months. I fell out of remission and the debilitating illness was back. I wore ratty, frizzy wigs that I’d had for years or just a bandana. When I needed to be seen in public, I threw on the best wig I had. Fast-forward to my escape, and I could only afford inexpensive wigs if that. I wore one wig – a basic cap, the same length, style, and color – until it was beyond reviving. Then I got a replacement. I was beginning to care about how I looked until I had more trauma. Then I didn’t care again for a long time.
Last year, when I began my journey of healing my trauma and losses, I got myself “Avalon” from Estetica. Still the same length, style, and color but a better wig, with a lace front. I didn’t really know how to care for her; I was purposely clueless about wig care because I still resented having to wear them. I then had two extremely devastating losses, and I went back to the inexpensive wigs. I just didn’t care. I was angry and lost.
When I resumed my healing, I started thinking about changing not only who I was emotionally and mentally, but physically, as well. I toyed with going lighter and got “Brittany” by Amore again, but this time in Ginger Brown. My friends loved the change. The more I healed, the more I wanted to play with the wigs. But how could I do that? Everyone would know. And the epiphany hit – so what? So what if everyone knows? Wigs were becoming more and more accepted as a beauty tool, like nails and false eyelashes. I didn’t do anything wrong; I had nothing to be ashamed of. Why was I punishing myself? I simply decided to stop treating myself that way – it was abusive to me and I had had enough. I wrote a post on my Facebook page and shared it on Instagram and to groups and everywhere. And guess what? I didn’t die.
Instead, the chains came off. I felt free, I had put the burden down and Bedazzled it! I bought better wigs, longer wigs, shorter wigs, lighter wigs, and I had fun trying them all. I immersed myself in the wig community, in support groups, in buying/selling groups, I watched endless videos and reviews and studied color charts. Suddenly, I was proud to be a member of this club! The more I healed inside, the more I healed outside, and vice versa. I went from the person who refused to let anyone take her photograph to the person whose gallery is filled with selfies. I made social media accounts dedicated to hair loss and wigs. I’m going to start doing reviews, start a YouTube channel, and tell everyone that I wear wigs. In fact, I’m going to start calling myself a wig model 😊
Today, as I’m typing this, I’m out of remission again and starting to show the symptoms that would normally make me hide. But my wig journey has done so much more for me than make my head look better. It has given me confidence about who I am inside and it has freed me from feeling ashamed over things I cannot control. So instead of hiding, I post my face in all its “sickness” because if there’s one thing my wig journey has taught me, it’s that while it’s great to have beautiful hair, that’s not where our true beauty lies. My biggest hope is to help others learn this in less than the 20-plus years took me. Stop hiding; we all belong out in the sun.