OK. You got your wig, you like the style, you’ve worn it around the house, and you know you need to introduce it to the world. But you’re still nervous about getting out and about in it. How to get over the discomfort, the nerves, the fear of discovery?
When I first started collecting wigs, I devised some little “test-runs” to engage in when I got a new style of which I was uncertain. I actually still test-run wigs on occasion, if I get something in that I’m not sure I like, but I don’t use these strategies as much as I did in the beginning. For the first few months I would test-run every new wig before I felt confident wearing it out in more involved or substantial situations. (Obviously, some people are not going to need any of these little confidence-boosting steps. But for those who are really nervous about wearing wigs out of the house, as silly as these steps may sound, they really can work to make the adjustment easier.)
Here are some of the test-runs I concocted:
Put on your wig and run a few errands that do not involve getting out of your car. Drive through the dry cleaners and pick up your laundry or go get a latte from the drive-thru. Pay attention to the people with whom you interact and notice how they respond to you. You’ll probably notice they don’t treat you any differently or even look at you very much. (EVEN EASIER: just put the wig on and drive around. Just realizing nobody in their cars is looking at you can make you feel more comfortable.)
Go somewhere big and public, like a Target or Petsmart, when you don’t have any other reason to be there besides being seen. The idea is to get inside and interact with people whom you most likely do not know, and get comfortable just being out in public in a wig. It’s better to do this when you have no real errands to run, because then you can leave at any time if you start to feel uncomfortable, and you don’t have to do things that might make you nervous like stand in line feeling paranoid about the person right behind you who might be staring at the back of your head. Hiding behind poles or racks of clothes won’t cut it though; smile and try to make eye contact and check out the reactions of others. You’ll soon notice that no one’s reacting to your hair. Doing this sort of thing in a planned manner, when you don’t have anything else to do but get used to walking around in public in a wig, can be very helpful. The first place you wear it probably shouldn’t be a dinner party where you’re stuck in close quarters for four hours with people who know you – better to try it out in a place you can make a quick escape if you start to feel uncomfortable.
Wear the wig some place where you WILL be in close quarters with others, but still won’t be recognized by anyone you know. For me, this was a huge church I visited with a friend. I had to smile and shake hands and also sit right in front of people, but no one knew me so I didn’t have that added level of paranoia about being “found out.” For you, it might be a movie theater or a concert. Get in closer contact with people with whom you will also most likely interact, and see what happens. Also, this is somewhere you can’t as easily ‘escape’ if you start to feel self-conscious, which you’ve got to get comfortable with sometime.
Wear your wig somewhere you’re sure to be around people you know. Choose somewhere there will be casual acquaintances, like a local coffee shop with baristas who recognize you, or as I did, the local grocery store you visit every week. Again, be sure to make eye contact with others and pay attention to how they react. Keep in mind that as your test-runs get more advanced, you also might be discovered, but only if you’re wearing a wig of a very different style or color from your own hair. Even if that’s the case, people will assume you’ve gotten a new hair cut or dye job before they’ll assume you’re wearing a wig. If you’re not planning to change up your wigs radically, it’s OK for people to notice that your style or color has suddenly changed. People do that all the time anyway, and they’ll quickly get used to you in the new style without ever catching on you switched to a wig.
Wear it somewhere more in tune with your day-to-day life. A family gathering. Church. The Friday football game. Happy hour with friends. At this level, people may ask questions about your hair. Whether you tell them you’re wearing a wig or not is up to you. Everyone will handle this differently, and there’s no right or wrong way to respond. People may ask questions, but keep in mind it’s probably because they’re impressed with how fabulous your hair looks, not digging for information about whether or not it’s a wig. And yes, someone might notice, and they might ask. You still don’t have to tell them if you don’t want to do so. It’s YOUR hair, after all, whether it grew out of your scalp or you bought it in a store. The point is for you to be comfortable with it so you can get on with your life. That means no one has to know unless you want them to.