Bald, Fat & Crazy: Wig Shopping

By on June 18th, 2015 Categories: The Breast Cancer Journey

From the Publisher: When Stephanie, an occupational therapist, tri-athlete, and mother of one, was 37 years old, she was in the midst of adopting a daughter from China, had accepted she wouldn’t get pregnant again after four years of trying, and was deciding what to wear to her 20th high school reunion. But her focus quickly changed when she discovered a hard, chick-pea-sized lump in her breast. The lump turned out to be stage I breast cancer, and within days of her diagnosis she also discovered she was pregnant. As she tried to understand how she, a healthy, non-smoker with no family history of cancer, could have this disease, she also had to decide whether or not she could keep the baby that was growing inside her.

Editor’s Note: We’re pleased to bring you an excerpt from Stephanie Hosford’s book, Bald, Fat & Crazy: How I Beat Cancer While Pregnant with One Daughter and Adopting Another. In this chapter, Stephanie shops for a wig to prepare for her upcoming chemotherapy regimen.

From Chapter 14: “Livin’ On the Edge” — Aerosmith

I need a wig. An exceptionally fantastic wig, that doesn’t look at all like a wig. I don’t know if anything like that exists, especially in my non-pop star price range, but it’s time to get serious.  I’m running out of time if I want to be prepared before chemo begins next week.

A couple of days later, Mom, Jenn and I pull into the tiny parking lot in the back of BigWigs, a small wig shop in Hollywood. We wander up and down the aisles, studying the mannequin heads that look back at us with frozen faces.

“How long should I go?” I ask Jenn, sounding stoic as I try to hold in my emotions.

“Don’t go too long,” Mom intercedes. “It gets very heavy, and my friend Janet said that she got one that was…”

“I know, I know,” I snap. “It was cut like a pixie. I don’t want to be a friggin’ pixie!” An overreaction, I know, but I’ve heard this story three times already and still couldn’t care less. I’ve never wanted a pixie haircut, despite Mom’s frequent suggestions throughout my life that I get one, so why would I want one now? “Sorry, Mom,” I add quietly. “But I don’t.” What I really want, what I’ve always wanted, is an enhanced version of my hair. Wavier, thicker, shinier. Now where is it?

I spot a layered blond to my right and pull it off the plastic head. I duck behind the curtain of one of the “dressing rooms” and attempt to put it on. Oh, that is awful. I yank it off my head and return it to its rightful owner. In a few minutes, Mom comes over to me carrying two wigs, one blondish, one reddish, both short.

“Thanks,” I say as I take them from her hands. I save my eye rolling for when I’m turned away and heading back to the private cell. I try on each one and they are simply horrible — too puffy, too short, and/or dumb-looking bangs.

“Steph? How are they?” Mom is asking through the curtain. I slide the curtain back and hand them to her.

“Nope,” I say curtly and walk toward another aisle. My frustration mounts, as does my guilt for my somewhat rude behavior. But I can’t help it. This is worse than when I shopped for a bathing suit too soon after I had Ethan. Will I be leaving here empty-handed and eating a bowl of ice cream this time, too? How can these wigs look so good on the mannequins and so bad on me?

After trying on about twenty wigs and being disappointed about fifty times, I am ready to give up. I know that math doesn’t add up, but my disappointment is just so huge. Nothing looks right on me and we’ve been here for three hours! It is everything I can do not to run out of the store crying and pulling my own hair out, figuring I’ll get a head start on the whole thing. Instead I decide to ask a salesperson for help, which I probably should have done when I first entered this stupid store.

His name is Arthur, my dad’s middle name, so maybe he is supposed to help me get through this. “What are you looking for in a wig, pretty lady?” he asks me with a perfect cross between a pout and a smile.

“Well,” I begin, perking up slightly, “I want my hair, only better.”

Arthur reaches across the counter and lightly touches my hair. “Honey, I have just the thing for you… it’s amazing — I wore it myself in blond for New Year’s Eve!”

I smile because Wig Shop Arthur is everything I realize I want in a hair consultant — attentive, complimentary… and fabulous. He turns dramatically on his heel and goes into the stock room, returning shortly with a longish rectangular box under his arm. He removes the lid and pulls out a long (but not too dramatically long), brunette wig. It is shiny (but not too dramatically shiny), and has what looks to be just the right amount of soft curls. He brushes it a little and then instructs me on the correct way to place a wig on one’s head, which requires more finesse than flopping it over my hair and tugging down with both hands at once like I’m struggling to put on a turtleneck, which is what I’d been doing. I look in the mirror and both my sister and I exclaim in unison, “That’s it!” I look at myself from as many angles as possible with the help of Arthur and his hand mirrors.

“This is the one,” I say and finally smile at my reflection. “I’ll take two.”

Stephanie Hosford is the author of "Shedding My Skin," a short story in the anthology Nothing But The Truth So Help Me God: 73 Women on Life’s Transitions. She holds a master’s degree in occupational therapy from Tufts University as well as a black belt in taekwondo. When not shuttling kids around town in her SUV, she can be found writing, at the gym, or shopping at Trader Joe’s for the items she forgot last time. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three children.

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