Bitch Is Having A Bad Hair Day
I have managed to blend into a crowd and for the most part go unnoticed with few obvious signs (with my clothes on) of being a long term survivor of HIV. That all changed when my hair fell out from an ongoing thyroid condition. When my hair fell out during the winter months I hid it with hats. But when the summer came I was forced to either shave my head or buy a wig. I opted for the wig with the hopes that my hair would grow back. Either option was going to attract unwanted attention, I reconned.
After buying the wig I decided to test it out on the dog first to see if there was a drastic change in my appearance. What better way to get an honest reaction. The dog growls when anything is out of place or different from what she is used to, like a new sign on the sidewalk walk or a box that is misplaced. Garbage day is hell trying to walk her. As I strolled into the living room wearing the wig she tilted her head from side to side looking very confused and then she quietly growled. I knew right then the wig was going to be a challenge. The neighbours began giving me sad, sympathetic nods, thinking I was a cancer survivor. I often wondered if their reaction would have been the same had they known I had the thyroid condition aggravated by long term HIV.
For the most part everything went relatively well for a while. Part of the reason was because I chose a wig that looked similar to how my hair should have looked, nothing drastic like a long flowing mane down my back or a platinum blonde, bouffant, coiffed do. The grandchildren were fascinated with the wig from the beginning. They were extremely curious and inquisitive, even asking in a loud voice in a cafe – “hows the new wig, do you like wearing it?”. They took turns trying it on, and on one occasion I overheard them giggling and scheming in the other room knowing they were up to some sort of prank with the wig. They came into the living room, one of them wearing my wig, the other one wearing a Gene Simmons Kiss wig, part of a left over Halloween costume, all the while the three of us laughing hysterically. They brushed the wig, put scarves, bandanas, hair bands, hair clips and hair nets on it. They wanted to try it on the dog too. At one point the younger one wanted to put make up on the mannequin’s face, to dress her up a bit. I said no as I did not want make up smeared all over the wig and everything else. Suffice it to say they had a general short lived obsession with my wig and managed to snap off a piece of the mannequin base in the process.
Overall the experience was not as bad as I had anticipated, until I moved back to my old community where many of the women wear wigs, similar to mine, as they are required to hide their natural hair as part of their cultural tradition. Each time I stepped out I got shocking and perplexed looks from the women, a bewildered expression that asked – Why is that woman wearing one of our wigs? She isn’t one of us. Maybe she was and decided to rebel. Beyond the wig, she doesn’t really look like one of us”. All of this to say I was becoming more uncomfortable being so conspicuous with the wig. Not to mention that particular summer there was ongoing days of heatwaves over 35 degrees Celsius making the wig feel like a bathing cap stuck to my head. I would often arrive home, dripping in sweat, rip the wig off and stick my head in front of the air conditioner. It was brutal and I was miserable .
Eventually I abandoned the wig, and it is now retired to my close and my natural hair is what I consider borderline acceptable. The wig does have advantages as there is never a literal bad hair day, it needs washing only once a month, and while the hair is drying you do not need to be there. It may also act as a warm hat in the winter months.
While waiting for it to grow back, I tried almost every editable product in my kitchen as treatments – olive oil, egg yolks, honey, with the latest being coconut oil. I am not sure if any of these remedies actually helped to make my hair grow or whether it decided to do what it wanted on its own. Some days it looks fine, other days it looks bad, completely unmanageable, full of static and beyond my control. But I decided it was more comfortable than the hot, prickly, conspicuous wig.
In living the wig experience I developed a more profound appreciation for those who do have a conspicuous characteristic which causes people to gawk, point, whisper, conjecture and stare. I grew another layer of thick skin in the process. A process where I was extremely vulnerable and reminded of how fragile, yet stronger and more resilient I felt. I was lucky enough to find comfort and support at my local HIV service center, where I felt at ease talking about the wig nightmare and why it was going on or to have the option of giving no explanation at all with no questions asked.
Living with HIV certainly does have challenges but this was one I had not anticipated and hopefully will not have to experience again. In the meantime I am keeping the wig just in case my hair decides to take on a life of its own again. Maybe next time I will shave my head.
Although this is not directly related to disclosure of HIV it does have me wondering what I would do with the wig during sex!