I started wearing wigs in college around my sophomore year. I am very loyal to my hairdresser, but it was too expensive to travel back and forth from Syracuse to New York City every two months to get my hair done, and sometimes, I was just busy.
I remember going to Morehouse College homecoming, and one of the girls in attendance was from Spelman College. She was wearing the flyest wig I’d ever seen in my life. But I didn’t know it was a wig — I thought it was her real hair. It was a curly 3B or 3C texture, but it looked so realistic. When she ripped that wig off her head and revealed a short pixie cut underneath, I gagged.
Not only was it a wig, it was a cheap synthetic wig. She had a kind of confidence I didn’t even know could exist while wearing a wig. Until that point, it was either you have Beyoncé’s kind of wig, or you got the kind that our grandmas used to wear.
Seeing that girl in that wig was the first time I realized, Oh, you can make a $35 wig look like something if you carry it with confidence and know how to apply it well. When I returned from homecoming that October, I went straight to the beauty supply store to find something that had a good blend to it.
I knew a trick from watching my grandma do her wigs: She’d put powder on them so they didn’t look shiny, like baby-doll hair. So, along with my first wig, I bought a travel-size baby powder. I got so many compliments on my hair, but I was still kind of embarrassed to tell people it was a wig. I would say things like, “Oh, yeah, you know, I went home and got my hair done by my hairdresser.” Even my hairdresser was like, “Girl, who’s been doing your hair?”
When my boyfriend and I started dating, I was deep into wigs.
I wore them undetected for a really, really long time. I’d hit up the girl who inspired me to start wearing wigs to find out which one she was wearing the day I saw her. Even though I had come into my own for the most part, I was still so obsessed with that wig. I’ll never forget it — it was named “Sensationnel — Evelyn.”
So, I wore that wig. And when my boyfriend Rashad spent the night, I’d go to the bathroom, do my whole night routine, brush my teeth, shower, all that stuff; then I’d take the wig, fold it inside out, put it under my sink, put a wig cap on my head, and then put on a scarf over the cap so he couldn’t feel the braids, even if he touched my head. He probably never thought too much about it.
One day, though, he did ask, “You know, babe, how do you get all that curly hair to tie down like that? Do you braid it every night?” I lied and said, “Oh, yeah, I just put it in two braids.” And I let him feel them — they were actually my wig-securing braids. He was like, “Oh, OK.”
I just rocked with that for a while. Then I switched up my wig, and kept the curly one as my backup. It lived under the sink. One day, I had my other wig on my head, and I heard Rashad scream from the bathroom. He had found the curly wig under the sink: “What the hell is this?” he asked. We busted out laughing. Ever since then, if I get a little tipsy, he’ll take off my eyelashes and my wig for me before I go to bed, and I’ll wake up with a clean face and a scarf on. Teamwork makes the dream work.
Technically, when Rashad found the wig under the sink, he still hadn’t seen me with the wig off because I was wearing another wig. I wasn’t hiding. Like many black women, I keep my scarf on until it’s time to leave the house, so he didn’t really get an opportunity to see me without a wig. That is, until recently when I was in my bathroom prepping my wash day routine. I parted my hair into fours, exfoliated my scalp, and braided my hair. I was straight-up rocking A$AP Rocky braids when he walked in to surprise me. I don’t remember him having a huge reaction, other than surprise that I actually had hair on my head under the wig. Because I wear wigs, he’d thought I must be bald. I was actually more startled than he was seeing me in my “natural” state for the first time.
But his reaction was totally positive. “Oh, you got some hair on your head,” he said. These days, I ask Rashad to help me cut out a weave. He’s familiar with the terms. He thinks it’s hilarious, especially when I experiment with different styles. If I do a short wig, I say to him, “Oh, this is in case you want to see other people.”
I have a shorter, curlier wig that I usually wear when I’m heavy in workout mode, so I don’t have to think about it. He calls that “the Whitney Houston.” It’s his favorite just because he has a name for it — literally, that’s the only reason. I’ll ask him to come up with a name for other wigs and he won’t have anything for me. But that Whitney — that’s his girl.
I think I’m lucky that I met Rashad when we were both young. If I met him as an adult, I don’t know that I would have been as open or comfortable.
I’m not saying that I had to have on a full beat every time I saw him, but you know, I ain’t got no eyebrows, and I made sure, at least, to have eyebrows on when I’d see him. And even when we first started dating and did that pseudo-living-together thing that people do in college, I refused to poop in front of him.
To be literally holding in all that shit and not be able to wear a wig? Absolutely not. It wouldn’t have worked, because for me, that would have signaled a larger problem; that he had an issue with a part of my appearance that has nothing to do with my health.
There are other areas in my life where Rashad does want me to make better or more informed decisions because it affects my health or happiness. But if he said, “Oh, I don’t like your hair natural” or “I don’t like your hair under wigs,” that would alert me to an internal complex in him that ain’t got shit to do with me.
In that case, it wouldn’t be worth it to me to invest in him. It may sound trivial and superficial, but you’ve got to pay attention to when men demand things of you that have nothing to do with you becoming a better person.
So ladies, do what you want with your hair. Anyone who truly loves you won’t shame you for your personal style choices and, if you’re lucky, your partner might learn or thing or two about a hairpiece in the process.