Whether or not you ever tell anyone you wear wigs – for whatever reason you wear them – is your decision, and there’s not a right or wrong choice. In my experience, the issue basically boils down to what you will do in two distinct situations: 1) when strangers compliment or ask you about your hair, and 2) when wearing wigs around people to whom you are already acquainted or close (family, friends, romantic partners). These two scenarios are quite different, and you may choose to do different things for each.
As far as strangers goes, I leave it up to my mood at the time. If I feel like it, I tell someone I’m wearing a wig when they compliment me or ask where I get my hair done. However, I’ve come to learn that revealing to strangers I’m wearing a wig is generally going to lead to at least a small amount of conversation, as people are naturally going to be surprised and ask questions – no! Is it really? Are you serious? Where did you get it? Why do you wear it – are you sick? Are you bald? It may surprise you that people would ask such questions, but being open about wearing a wig makes others feel open to asking you questions; it’s a natural assumption for others to make. So, if you’re not in the mood to respond to questions about your hair loss (or lack of hair loss) or where you bought your hair, you may choose to do as I do when I’m in a hurry or feeling unsociable, and just say ‘thank you’ when someone compliments you or make up a name (oh, my cousin Amanda cuts it but she lives in Chicago) when someone asks you where you get it done. It does save time, and you don’t owe strangers the truth about it; especially when they just wanted to compliment you on your hair and weren’t expecting a long explanation anyway.
I do tell people to whom I am close about my wigs, but again, this is a personal choice that every individual must make for themselves. As far as telling friends and family, the reactions are generally the same: while some people honestly won’t give a damn, in most cases you can expect to have not just one lengthy conversation about your wigs, but several. If you tell your co-workers or social acquaintances, not only will they be likely to have questions at the moment of the reveal, they may also have questions for days, even weeks, after. They may want to talk about your wigs a lot. And be warned: They will also feel free to tell other people unless you ask them not to, so be careful. Again, it’s a natural assumption for people to make when you exude a level of comfort and confidence about wearing your wigs; if they think it doesn’t bother you that they know, they’re going to assume it won’t bother you if everyone knows, so be sure to make it clear to the people you tell how open you do or do not want them to be with others.
Had I known this early on, I would have been more clear with the friends I told; they’ve outed me quite exuberantly in front of strangers on occasion. One time I met a friend where she was sitting at the bar waiting for our name to be called, and she exclaimed “Oh that’s the best wig you’ve bought yet!” in front of the entire restaurant. Not exactly what I had in mind when I told her I was ‘unashamed’ of wearing wigs. When I showed up for my first day of internship this semester, the woman who helped me land my position at the school where she works was sitting in the employee lounge surrounded by all my future co-workers, showing them my Flickr photos and describing my wig-wearing in great detail. A few of them looked at me like I was a complete nutter when I walked in the door and she exclaimed, before I even had a chance to put down my laptop case, “So, tell them how many wigs you own!”
It’s the downside of being open and exuding confidence in my decision to wear alternative hair, and it’s also the byproduct of being confident enough to wear radically different styles of hair on any given day. Why would someone think I want to keep my wig-wearing secret when I’m constantly changing lengths and colors? Why wouldn’t they say, “Hey, nice wig!” as I walk into the post office when I tell them about my newest hair purchase every time I pick up a shipment? Perhaps some of them are doing it to be mean or catty, but I honestly don’t get that impression (I have heard of individuals who ask numerous questions about a woman’s hair with the intent to ‘out’ or shame the wig-wearer, but I haven’t yet felt that to be the case in relation to me). I think they know I’m enthusiastic about my wigs, and they want to be enthusiastic about them too; I think they see it as an interesting aspect of my personality which they like to acknowledge.
If it really bothered me, I could tell those people at any time that I’d rather they not share my alternative hair secrets with the world, but honestly, with my videos, my blog, and all my pictures, ultimately I’m way too out in the open for me keep it secret from anyone beyond total strangers for any length of time anyway. The way I see it is, I don’t get to have it both ways. If I want to reduce the stigma and negativity of wig-wearing so it’s easier for other men and women to do, and if I want to others to get over the negative associations of wearing wigs that are entrenched in their minds and be positive about what I do, then I don’t get to be selective about when they choose to be positive and how they choose to do so. For the average individual who doesn’t make wigs so much a part of his or her identity, the options may be more varied. Just know that any amount of openness you choose to embrace needs to be done with awareness of the unintended consequences, and be sure to address your comfort level with those to whom you are open regarding the sharing of your personal hair information. In other words, if you want your wig-wearing to be a private thing shared only with a select few, then be sure to tell those few individuals clearly and directly.
However if, like me, you generally enjoy talking about your wigs and sharing your love of them with others, and are willing to brave being innocently ‘outed’ on occasion – then I say let your wig-flag fly!