Coming Out From Under The Wig
One of the most intimidating things in life is to be completely honest with the world, but even more so with yourself. Once you are true to yourself, there is nothing to hide behind. Acceptance is your only savior. At 31 years old I stopped hiding and got to know myself. I hope my story influences just one young girl to get to know herself sooner than I did, because self-love will set you free.
Puberty. You couldn’t pay me to revisit that chapter. I had a growth spurt at 12 years old that brought me to 5’7 (my height today), so I was taller than half my class for a couple years. I developed a hunch, because standing out made me insecure, especially when I was referred to as “Big Bird”. I was really like any other awkward pre-teen girl, growing breasts, and bleeding out of my vagina, if only that was all my body was doing. Obviously it had other plans, or this would be a boring story. My immune system decided it didn’t want me to have the full head of hair I had grown into, so it started to push it out. I was tall, hunch-backed, bleeding, lumpy and bald. Hot, right?
Our family doctor told me that my hair loss was due to hormones changing as my body went through puberty. I could expect my hair to grow back once the initial change from girl to woman had settled in. That made perfect sense to my mother and I, so we really didn’t worry about it. I was teased for being bald, but because I knew hair was in my future I didn’t mind being “Bald Spice”, the 6th member of the Spice Girls. Even my friend’s parents teased me. That’s fucked up, right? That shit would not fly today without a lawsuit on the parents and the school. I know that no one meant to hurt me, and that light-hearted teasing was also a sign of endearment. I really developed such thick skin for being so young. I also had the therapeutic release of baking that I realize now got me through my adolescence.
From 7th to 12th grade my hair never grew in. I parted my hair to the side, like a grandpa with a comb over. Anyone could see that I had thin hair, but it wasn’t a shiny bald spot blinding your eyes if I combed it over. I hated the rain as a kid because water would expose my baldness. If I got caught in the rain or swimming, I was exposed. My comb over couldn’t save me. My hair was also extremely fine in texture as well as being thin. My “ponytail” was the thickness of a quarter inch. Hot, right? I had braces too, so I was really killin’ my high school popularity contest.
I always felt ugly. I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup either, so most of the time I felt better about myself if I avoided mirrors. I also couldn’t look at people in the eyes when I spoke to them, because I would catch their gaze drifting up to my bald spot. I really wonder how I had any friends. I was such a weirdo.
I buried my bald head into schoolwork. I was a member of everything. My personality isn’t the type to sit back and play the victim. I put that sorry ass energy into positive outlets like baking and journalism. I even tried out for cheerleading, but coordination is not one of my gifts. My point is, I buried the way my hair loss made me feel. I buried those feelings with the feelings I harbored for my dad not being around. I buried my feelings so deep; I just didn’t know how to feel anymore. I wish hormonal teenagers didn’t have so many feelings; I was no Super Woman, so I could only suppress my emotions for so long until I exploded suicidal thoughts in my diary and hurled curse words towards my mother. I always came out of those outbursts on the bright side, but I really hate that I had to feel at all. That is, at least until I fell in love.
I never believed I would lose my virginity in high school, let alone fall in love, but I did and it was the happiest year of my adolescence. I never took my mind off how ugly I felt, but being in love was such a high, I didn’t have much room to hate myself as much. All good things must come to an end, and that end was ugly and painful. I only have my insecurities to blame, but I have no regrets, because everything happens for a reason. I had to get out of Sonoma County and follow my dreams to Los Angeles where I really felt like shit about myself in order to feel amazing today!
My early twenties were a blur. Like most college students, I drank heavily, but I relied on it far more than I should have. I discovered the magic cape drinking gave me that makes one feel invincible. The loss of inhibitions gave me a sense of freedom I had never felt. The freedom to not care about what my head looked like, flirt with men, and act a fool! Luckily, I graduated from college and made it to Los Angeles. I landed a job in the entertainment business that launched my career, all while under the influence. I always had my priorities in order. Living in LA did make me feel even more insecure. There is a level of pressure that comes with this city, and you have to be strong to float above it, or it will sink you to your death.
People asked me more about my hair as an adult then they did when I was a teenager. At 23 years old it was hard to keep blaming my hormones. I was going on 12 years of waiting for my body to grow my hair in. I decided enough was enough; I was going back to the doctor. It didn’t take much time for the dermatologist to look at me and suggest a biopsy for Alopecia. I was nervous because in my gut I knew there was something more to my hair loss, and Alopecia is something that cannot be fought. Sure enough the results of my biopsy came back positive for Alopecia Areata, an autoimmune disease where your body rejects your hair follicles. It is not hereditary, and there is no cure. There are treatments that occasionally work for some people, or for different types of Alopecia, but not mine.
I was relieved to have an answer for my hair loss, but devastated to know there was no end in sight to my misery. I was going to continue to look bald, and trapped in a comb over for the rest of my life. This definitely didn’t help my drinking problem or my social life. Dating was a nightmare. Even if a guy showed interest in me, I couldn’t believe it was genuine, because who could really be attracted to me? What’s funny is that I have only had two meaningful relationships, and they both happened before I started to wear wigs. These guys saw me on the outside as I was and they loved me for me. If only I loved me too, maybe I wouldn’t have turned to the wig phase of my journey.
Wigs: One size Does Not Fit All
At age 25, when all my friends were getting extensions, I thought I would try some. That was a really funny look on me, because even if I had a full head of thick, long hair, nothing could attach to the bald spot, so that stuck out even more. Again; hot, right? I didn’t need extensions; I needed a full on wig. The word wig really puts me off even after owning so many. It sounds so aggressive and consuming, and at times it was. I started with cheap costume wigs, because I had no idea what I was doing or who to consult. Some were cute, but they were cheap so they frayed after a few days and never fit my head well, because I have a tiny head like my mother. I have some pictures that make me cringe when I see them now, because my head is literally being eaten alive by a massive mop. I can laugh at it now, which makes this journey all the better.
I started doing research on wigs, and different techniques to keep them on my head. I found a woman that built custom, human hair wigs in Newport Beach, that were expensive, but beautiful. My grandparents treated me since there was no way I could afford $3,500 on my meager Production Assistant salary. This wig was long, dark, and clipped onto my own hair. I loved it for a few months, but if never looked quite natural, and the clips really hurt my head as they pulled on my real hair. I dealt with it, because no one could tell it was a wig, and for once I felt attractive.
After a year in a clip-on wig, I was ready for something more permanent. I didn’t want to take off my hair at night; I wanted it to be a part of me. I thought working out and dating would be easier if I tried a gluing technique. I found a woman in Westwood that also had Alopecia, and owned a salon that glued wigs onto the scalp. I ordered a 5k wig from her, and had her shave my head on the parts that would be glued. This was a tough process for me. I may have hated my fine, thin hair, but it was mine. It was all I had. Shaving it made me feel so defeated, like I was really giving up on ever wearing my hair outside of my wig again. On the bright side, not having to worry about it being pulled off was priceless! I was free, or so I thought.
Trying out wig stylists is a lot like trying on shoes. You wear them with different outfits, see how long you can walk in them before your feet hurt, then stuff them in the back of your closet. After a year in my first glued wig, I started to have complications, and I felt trapped. I remember one morning my wig was not fitting properly, I had a breakdown in my car in my work parking lot, crying under a hat, googling other salons to help me. I found one that changed my life. Amy Gibson, of createdhair.com, has had Alopecia her whole life. She knew just how to take care of me. She got me into a beautiful wig and introduced me to her stylist that became like a mother to me. I shelled out another 5K, but at that point, I didn’t care how much credit card debt I wracked up. My confidence was priceless.
At 28 years old, I started competing in pageants. I was happy for another year in my new wig with my new hair loss mentors, but eventually even the wig started losing hair, and I had to get it replaced because I had complications with it not sticking. Sometimes the glue would hold for four weeks, sometimes two. If I couldn’t get in for an appointment, I would be depressed for a week; wearing hats to work everyday. I had never felt more trapped. I was so obsessed with my wig looking natural, and no one knowing my secret that it consumed me. You would think if my wig came off my head would fall off with it. The maintenance was only half the problem.
Dating was torture. Alopecia aside, does anyone actually enjoy dating? The apps are superficial and the people are self involved. I was convinced every guy that didn’t call, knew I wore a wig, or every guy that complemented my hair would be disgusted if they knew I didn’t have my own. That confidence I believed wearing a wig could have dwindled, and I was once again a sad, insecure, little girl that didn’t know how to accept herself. I was 30 and over it.
I’m Comin’ Out
I started going to therapy when I turned 30, which led me to who I am today. I didn’t discuss my hair so much, but I learned a lot about acceptance and manifestation. It helped me see my life in a more positive controllable way. I took a break from dating, because you can’t let anyone else love you if you don’t love you. I wanted to love myself. That was my resolution for 2017. I told myself I was going to be more open and accepting of my Alopecia. I would tell more people and not shy away from it. Two weeks into the New Year, Amy Gibson called me with a proposal to share my story with CBS news for a short segment on hair loss. I knew this was the universe telling me it heard me, and that I was ready to confront my Alopecia head on. I did that interview with my guard and wig down. I told my story and shared the process of shaving and gluing the wig to my head. I cried in that interview, but it felt good to feel; to not act so tough, and allow myself to be vulnerable.
That feeling of freedom I experienced from my interview lit a fire in me that I couldn’t put out. I wanted to tell the world I was bald. I wanted to inspire every girl that is struggling with any insecurity to confront it and embrace it. I started telling more and more people. I decided to start taping my wig on rather than gluing it so I would be able to take it off when I wanted. I had four cysts on my head that I needed removed in order to rock the baldhead look. I got those removed in May. It’s now June, and here I am rocking my bald head for the first time! My good friend gave me a free photoshoot to come out with, and as I share these photos, I am living this entire Wednesday wigless! I am free of hair, insecurities, wigs, and self doubt.
I am 31 years old, and I can finally say “I know who I am”. This is the most liberating feeling. You know what else is liberating? The rain! The person I am really doesn’t hate the rain. I wish it wasn’t summer so I could stand under it with my bald head, singing! This realization made me cry the happiest tears. I don’t have to hide from the rain. I don’t have to hide from anything anymore. Most importantly, I don’t have to hide from myself.