Photo: Courtesy of Danielle Braff
I've always hated my hair. To say that it's thin is an understatement, and I'm nearly bald in a few spots. I’ve spent a lifetime working on my hair, and I’ve tried all.the.things. I’ve been to dermatologists, I’ve applied creams and sprays. I’ve taken vitamins, Collagen and tried fad diets. I've brushed more, brushed less, brushed with firmer brushes and tried combs.
The end result was exactly the same: I have very thin, baby-fine hair.
My kids, who are 10 and 13, tease me about it all the time. Whenever they play with my hair, they'll joke that they better be gentle so that not a single strand gets pulled out, as I have none to spare.
Over the past year, I've started pulling my hair into a very high bun in an effort to trick onlookers (I imagined everyone turning to stare at my horrifically thin hair). I grew it long so that I could twist it multiple times to make the bun appear slightly thicker. Aha, I told myself. I finally found a hairstyle that works. And then my older kid told me that I don’t look good with my hair in a bun. Ooof.
Then I started receiving ads for wigs on Instagram. I guess my countless hours of searching for hair solutions had informed my social media accounts about what I'm interested in. Or maybe it was random.
Regardless, I don't know why I hadn't thought of a wig before. It could be the solution to all my problems. I could shave my head and never have to deal with my horrendous hair again. I could have the best hair on a daily basis.
I began excitedly scrolling through the options. Should I have thick, wavy hair? Blond, lush hair that I’ve always admired but never even considered? Or maybe I could rock long red locks. Why not? The possibilities were endless.
I settled on a wig resembling the hair I'd always imagined having if my hair would cooperate: Long, thick, healthy-looking locks of brown hair with streaks of blond that effortlessly fell into loose curls.
Two days later, my new hair arrived. With shaking hands, I put on the wig and looked in the mirror. Mic drop. It was exactly what I wanted. The wig was heavy but not unmanageable, and it looked real enough that I could wear it all the time without feeling self-conscious.
Just then, my 10-year-old-daughter entered the room and stared. I waited for the compliments. Instead, she asked how long I was planning on wearing my new wig.
"Forever?" I replied. She frowned and asked me to take it off. I refused, explaining excitedly that this was my new and improved look.
And then, totally out of the blue, she started crying. Sobbing, really. She begged me to return to my "horrible, thin hair" (her words, exactly). She said she hated my old hair, but it was me, it was how she saw me, it was her mother and this was not her mother and she didn’t want a mother with beautiful hair.
None of it made any sense. She reiterated, trying her best to be clear. She understood that my hair wasn’t my finest feature, and she actually totally loved the wig. But my original hair didn’t offend her. It was part of me, and she loved all of me. She didn’t want any of me to change. She wanted me to stay the same, the same comforting mother with the thin hair that she always loved.
I understood. After all, I used to play with my grandmother’s jiggly arm fat and would have been devastated if she turned that fat into muscle. But I tried pushing a little more, explaining how much better it made me feel when I wore it.
"Don’t you want a mother who is confident, who loves the way she looks?" I asked.
"No," she said, looking me straight in the eye. "I want a mother who looks like my mother."
She asked me again to take it off. I told her that I was keeping it on until her father came home from work. For the amount that I spent on it, I wanted at least one good reaction. (My 13-year-old had poked her head out of her room to see what the commotion was, looked at me, and told me that I was embarrassing. But that’s nothing new).
During the next two hours, my 10-year-old asked me if I could remove the wig about eight more times. Finally, her father came home. He winked at me and my new do.
"But do you like it?" I asked. He replied that he'd never had a problem with my old hair.
Was I exaggerating my issue with my natural hair? I checked again. Nope, the bald patches were still definitely there. Did the people I care most about care at all? Apparently not.
I put my wig into my closet. I'm definitely not getting rid of it—I deserve to wear it when I want to wear it. But my natural hair deserves to shine, too.
Could I have told my daughter that my hair choices are mine, so the wig stays? Of course. But seeing myself (or more specifically, seeing my hair) through my child's eyes helped me realize that it’s not so bad. Or maybe it is bad, but it doesn’t really matter. Sure, the wig is fabulous. But it's totally not worth my daughter’s tears.
If she loves me as me, then maybe I can love me as me.