Amy Gibson is the author of Sex, Wigs & Whispers: Love and Life with Hair Loss ($21.95, Amazon) and founder of CreatedHair.com and salons. Gibson, who has alopecia, provides women and children with education, emotional support, and hair-loss solutions. She also created the ResQ Bag, a discreet carry-all for transporting and maintaining wigs. She shared this personal story exclusively with FirstForWomen.com.
One of the most common fears wig wearers have is that their wig will fly off and everyone will know their dear secret. Well, they are correct. It will fly off, if it’s not attached correctly. I learned this the hard way.
I had just lost my hair because of alopecia, a non-contagious autoimmune disorder, and I was still dealing with a lot of anxiety and questions: “Who am I now without hair?” “Will people know I’m wearing a wig?” I was just getting used to the world of wigs and still on a serious learning curve when I agreed to go on a date.
Michael and I had met once before for coffee, and I remember saying to my girlfriend that this could be the guy I married. The chemistry was so strong that there was no way I was going to turn down an evening with him. We decided on the movies. In my mind, it was a safe date: nothing physical, easy conversation afterward over tea, and nothing too intimate. I didn’t know what to say about my hair loss yet, nor was I comfortable enough to discuss it.
Before the date, I had thought out everything on how to appear normal, from the sitting position that would prevent him from running his fingers through my wig to acting out how I would stop his hands from getting behind my neck and feeling my wig.
I thought I had taped down my piece pretty well, but I hadn’t prepared for this situation: Someone walked behind my chair, accidentally brushing against my wig and taking it with her.
“Whoa, hold on! You’ve got my hair!” I hissed. The girl stopped, and for what seemed like an eternity, I carefully untangled my hair.
I was left with the right side of my wig unattached and flying away from my face. I quickly grabbed it and pushed my hair forward. She apologized profusely and moved on, leaving my heart racing. I thought, “My God, I’m found out and I’m not even out of the gate.”
I immediately pretended to drop something. This allowed me to bend over away from Michael’s view and grab my wig tape to discreetly re-attach it.
I calmly sat up as if nothing had happened, and the movie began. He put his hand on my knee, but then he started putting his arm around me. All of a sudden, he put his hand around my neck. “Do I move? Do I not move?” I wondered. I squirmed away. He put his hand down.
Then, he put his arm around me again. I got the feeling he was checking out my hair, but I was so paranoid that I didn’t know what to think. I squirmed away again.
By the third time he reached around me, I was sure: He was curious about my hair. He reached under my wig to fiddle with the hair on the nape of my neck. But I don’t have nape hair, so he quickly moved his hand away.
A couple minutes later, he whispered, “Do you have cancer?”
I said no.
He asked, “Then why are you wearing this wig?”
The way you present your explanation to someone is the way they accept it. The more believable you are, the more they accept it. I didn’t have my elevator speech down yet.
“I just like wigs,” I lied. “It’s so cool — I can be anybody.”
I know he didn’t believe me.
When the movie was over, we went for tea. He started asking questions about my wig.
“So why don’t you tell me about this?”
I didn’t know how to get myself out of it now. I knew I couldn’t be emotional — men never like that. So I tried to use sex instead.
“What if I could be anybody you wanted me to be? I could show up as Bridgette the brunette one minute, hot little blonde in a raincoat and stilettos the next.”
He said, “That’d be hot, but you didn’t answer my question.”
So I told him about alopecia.
“Will I die if I kiss you?” he asked.
I realized he really didn’t get it. So I educated him. I tried to make it cute and sweet. I was sure I’d have to go to the bathroom. When I get nervous, I have to pee.
“No, you’re not going to die if you kiss me, and I can’t wait for you to kiss me,” I said. “But you probably don’t want to kiss me.”
He admitted he was freaked out. “I’d never met a girl with a disease before.”
Ouch. I wished he had said “condition.”
He thanked me for my honesty, “but I need to process this,” he added.
I thought I was going to vomit. I was thinking, “Please like me, please like me.” All I wanted him to say was that it didn’t matter.
But after a few minutes, he instead said, “I don’t know if I’m the guy for you.”
That’s when the other side of me came out.
“It’s not that I’m not good enough for you, it’s that you’re not good enough for me,” I told him.
The guy that’d be drawn to me would focus on my essence, what’s in my heart. My hair wouldn’t matter.
“I find you incredibly superficial,” I said. “I thought you were a lot deeper, but you’re just a really superficial guy with a lot to learn.”
I left — and I cried for about a week.
“I’m so glad you had this experience,” my mother later said, “because you’ll never have it again. You’ll know that kind of person now and you won’t expose yourself to that type again. It isn’t worth it. What you have is special.”
And it’s true. There’s a woman in the alopecia world who says if you don’t tell a guy within three dates, you’re misleading him. But I disagree. Men have to earn my secret. This is something precious.