Thursday, February 15, 2007


There are some benefits to wearing a wig - my shampoo and highlight costs are way down, I haven't spent time blowdrying since before Christmas, and I've had lots of compliments on my new "straight with bangs" style.

But maintenance is trickier than I had expected. Since Wanda the wig is made from real human hair, it needs to be washed every 20 wears or so. In theory, I can do this myself - wash it in the sink, squeeze out the excess water in a towel, let it dry on its stand, then use a flatiron or curling iron to style.

I tried this once. Having liberated my seldom-used flatiron from the depths of the closet and with my newly purchased large-barrel curling iron at the ready, I set the wig on its stand on a dresser and quickly realized that I needed to take another approach. Any time I came near the wigstand with one of my styling instruments, it promptly fell over. So I switched to working on it while on my head. This was fine for flatironing the sections around my face, but I was hopeless when it came to the bangs. Every time I tried using the curling iron, the hair ended up caught in the barrel's catch, resulting in attractive, random 90-degree bends for portions of each section. And as with when I had real hair, I was a bit ham-fisted when it came to doing the back. I tried holding the wig on my left hand and styling the back with my right, which worked to an extent, but did not quite result in the straight, shiny locks Edward gave me when he first styled the wig in the shop and fitted it to my head.

So after wearing self-styled Wanda about 10 times, I gave up and took it in for servicing. Two days and $50 later, it came back softer and shinier (and also curlier - apparently next time I need to tell them that I want it not just straight, but "STRAIGHT straight.") Although I realize this will rapidly eat into my shampoo and highlight savings, and although I am frustrated that I can't do a better job myself, it seems like the best option to preserve both my sanity and my vanity.

But it does not solve every problem. I can't wear Wanda to the gym, or to swim in, and I need to wear something while she is "in the shop." While I don't mind going bald or wearing scarves and hats at home, I am still a bit too self-conscious for the "bald and proud" look while out and about. For our trip to Turks and Caicos, I found a great alternative - my "Scarfabulous" is a bandana made of swimsuit material, with hair attached. Since the hair is real, it can get wet. It comes in several lengths and colors, and the "warm light brown with blonde highlights" is very close to the hair I shaved off in December.

I had originally intended to cut it to shoulder length to more closely resemble Wanda, but shortly before we left, Laura and Sarah came over for the fashion show and advised me to keep it long. So "J.Lo." (as Sorrel christened her on New Year's Eve, when her shaved-headed husband Alex rang in 2007 by wearing her around our party) was my beach look, and also kept me covered at breakfast, lunch and yoga classes. In the evenings, I switched back to Wanda. If anyone noticed, including an acquaintance from business school and his wife who were also staying at Parrot Cay, they were too polite to say.

I will be dropping Wanda off again for refurbishing this morning, on my way to Chemo Number 6. Things are going well with the new drug, which I started two weeks ago - no nausea, less bone pain, and just a few eyelashes missing so far. Of course, the steroids they have me take the night before to help stave off allergic reactions are likely the reason that I am up at 5 a.m. writing instead of sleeping, but I will take that over the numb fingers and toes and overall body pain that some women feel as a result of Taxol.

So now that the side effects are not a concern, I can devote my energy to worrying about my hair. Wanda doesn't come back until Saturday. And although I am not in the office today and tomorrow, I do still have to go to and from the hospital both days, as well as to the grocery store. With snow on the ground, J. Lo feels a bit unseasonal. It's too cold for just a Grace Kelly-style headscarf, although I am planning to wear the gorgeous scarf Jeannie and Sivan gave me when we have friends over for dinner on Friday night.

This may call for breaking out the short wig I wore to play Sharon Osborne once - I have tried it on, and apart from being a purpley-red henna color that is not found in nature, it's not a bad style. It's not quite the same as Samantha matching her wigs to her outfits in the final episodes of Sex and the City, but it is a good excuse to try on a few new identities over the next few weeks and months as my hair and I embark on the long journey back.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your strength and good humor continue to impress. And you look wonderful wearing JLo! I hope these last treatments continue to go relatively smooth. Thank you for sharing - I appreciate and enjoy reading your writings.


3:07 PM  
Anonymous Win said...

Hi Courtney,
I have not quite got the rhythm of blogs, so I have digested the contents in two sittings and just took in Christmas through this one.

I really appreciate your doing this. Not only is it just plain well written, but you are so generous to share your experience and with such grace, humor and feeling I will be in line at the book signing and hope you get a fabulous advance.

Anyway, keep it up so we can be with you. Known that we are.

4:48 PM  
Anonymous Gretchen said...

I love your hair alter-egos! But we all know that you're more fabulous than J.Lo, more elegant than Grace Kelley, and of course sassier than Cruella de Ville!

4:26 PM  
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