I don’t know...hair interests me. If I’d been born a girl, maybe I’d have spent a bunch of time messing with my own hair, braiding, cutting, setting, dyeing. Instead, when I tied bows in my hair like my sister’s when I was six, my father beat me so my ears rang for two days. So I didn’t do that again. Since then, my hair has been so sort that you’d have to use glue to keep the bows in place, although a little sticky tape works in a pinch.
Now that I think of it, most of my girlfriends were vain about their hair. The first, Becky, had this wave of mahogany hair down to her waist. She wore a clip with feathers in it most days—it was the thing to do that year in Mr. Brewster’s 5th grad class—but some days her mother took the time to feather Becky’s bangs, transforming her from a seemingly stationary object to a goddess facing a gale with only her bangs sweeping gently across her forehead.
Once, I was allowed to watch the process of feathering her hair. I forget the circumstances, but I remember Becky’s half-hearted protests at having an audience until my rapt attention appealed to her vanity. Then she basked as I watched her mother comb and curl and spray her hair into place. It was like alchemy—how did something as fluid as Becky’s cape of hair become a solid expression of movement? I was in as much awe as I would later be standing in front of a Greek statue of a warrior mid sword-swing.
Becky and some of the other girlfriends let me play with their hair all the time. I ran my fingers through warm locks and let them teach me how to braid, French braid, herring bone. I developed a skill for scalp massage that served me well in high school and collage as a way to break physical barriers between myself and girls. Of course I thought of going to beauty school or barber college, but, frankly, that would have been like my sister majoring in unicorns instead of economics. Besides, I was always able to get a hair fix from some girl at work with a headache.
All was fine until Roberta. Roberta—hair of my dreams. A veritable cascade of curly red hair bounced down hr back as she strode by me at a party. So compelling, I actually excused myself and followed her. Roberta, cute enough in a homey way (as in, one letter away from “homely”). Roberta, round in all the right places, and some of the not-right places. I asked her out to get my hands on that mane.
I don’t’ remember much about the first date except for the instant I realized Roberta wasn’t going to allow me to touch her hair. She let me kiss her goodnight n her doorstep, but pushed my hands down when I reached for her head. That lead to a second date, and a third, each ending the same way—a kiss goodnight as she held my hands firmly. I went hom each time adn abused myself while holding a fox tail I keep under that bathroom sink.
Finally, we went on a movie date, and I was able to manouvre my arm across the back of her seat. Gingerly, I geban to play with her ringlets, so carefully that she didn’t even notice. I wrapped my finger in red lusciousness and wondered what she did to maintain such glorious curls. I twirled locks in my fingers and felt myself get hard. Silky. Curly. Lush.
Then, I wanted her to know. I wanted her to know that I was in her hair. That I was into her hair, so I wrapped a lock around a finger and tugged gently. She didn’t even flinch, so I tugged harder. And harder. Finally, I pulled so hard that I felt a little give. Roberta absently shook her head and continued to watch the movie, oblivious. I extracted my fingers, then my arm, when the realization sank in that Roberta was wearing a wig.
I claimed that the movie gave me a headache and dropped Roberta, confused, at her curb. I went home and sat in the dark, twiddling the foxtail in the fingers that had recently held strands of Roberta’s wig. I’d never encountered a wig on a person younger than seventy before. I’d seen them in shops, of course, but I had always assumed that only old ladies and whores wore wigs. Roberta was hardly old and an unlikelier whore I couldn’t imagine.
I wondered about this new type of wig-wearer, the Roberta type, and re-ran our conversations in my head to try to tease out clues about her. I admit that I hadn’t really been listening to her most of the time as I tried not to be too conspicuous, mostly staring at her frothy bangs. Nothing I could remember about the 26 year-old research assistant with four siblings and a penchant for boutique teas screamed “Wig!” to me. I called her up the next morning to apologize and arrange for our next date.
In the days between dates, I thought a lot about wigs. As I said, it’s not like a fake hairpiece was a new concept to me, but for some reason, Roberta in a wig was a revelation to me. Suddenly, I realized that women didn’t have to settle for the hair they were born with. What’s more, I realized that I didn’t have to settle for the hair women were born with. As I walked down the street that week, the pool of dateable women opened up like the expanse of the ocean after traveling down a river your whole life. I was jubilant.
I took Roberta to a nice restaurant that night. Her hair, her wig, gleamed in the soft light and I wondered if it were easier to tend to ringlets if they sat on a stand in front of you than if they sprouted from your head. After the waiter took our order, I reached across the table, took her hands in mine, and began interrogating her.
“When did you begin wearing a wig?” I started.
She blushed to the same color as her fake hair. “Excuse me?”
“It’s a wig, right? I tugged on your hair last week at the movie, and you didn’t notice. And now that I look, I can see where it’s glued down on your forehead.” I reached out and traced a fingertip across her hairline.
She swatted me away. “I don’t wear a wig,” she hissed, casting embarrassed glances over her shoulders.
“Yes, you do.”
“Yes. Look!” I shot my hand out and snatched a lock and tugged on it. “See? You don’t feel that, do you?” Roberta sat immobile, staring at me as the color drained from her face. “Do you?”
“No,” she whispered. “I don’t feel it. Please let go.”
I dropped the hair and sat back, satisfied. “So, when did the wig thing start?” I asked again.
Roberta looked up at me with her big brown eyes, and it suddenly struck me that I had not noticed they were brown before. “Why do you care?” she sniffled and looked away. “You’re just going to leave me now.”
“What makes you say that?”
She shrugged. “That’s what men do,” she said. “They find out you wear a wig and they decide you’re damaged, maybe sick, and they take off.” She folded her napkin and started to rise. “I’ll just go now and save you the expense of dinner.”
“You misunderstand me,” I said. “Please sit down.”
Roberta sat and frowned at me. “Really?” she said. “You don’t care that I wear a wig?”
“I think it’s fascinating,” I said, leaning in. “I want to know all about it.”
So Roberta explained about hating her mousey, dishwater-blonde hair since she was a child and discovering wigs via her trashy roommate in college. She told the story of how she only wore them out on the town at first, and then more frequently, until she actually wore this red one to a job interview and got the job. Now, she said, it was part of her.
I pressed her for more and more information. She told me where she bought her wigs, how she cared for them. She told me her best and worst wig stories. She laughed at herself and at other people’s reactions to her wigs. Finally, over dessert, she was smiling happily as I fondled her wig and dug my fingers down to the mesh pinned to her scalp.
“What’s your real hair like?” I asked.
“Why don’t we go to my house for a nightcap, and you can find out for yourself?” she suggested.
Her hair was just as disappointing as she claimed it to be. Cropped short and mashed under the wig, it curled against her scalp tightly and was exactly the color of a mud puddle. I made her put the wig back on before she led me to her bedroom. That room was magic because Roberta, never one to throw anything away, had a wall covered with wigs. We spent the whole night trying them on and having sex. When I crept out later that night, I stuffed my favorite under my shirt and wore it in the car on the way home.
I am so grateful that I met Roberta because now I can date any girl, even interesting ones with terrible hair. I’ve got about a dozen wigs in play now, one for any mood life finds me in. For example, I enjoy the black bob for the evenings I feel frisky, but the “Loni Anderson” is perfect for those nights of watching 80’s television at home. Of course, I really prefer the real thing, but even a Playboy-quality platinum blonde mane can get tiresome if you date it—her—long enough. Roberta’s wig is a little tired now, so I have retired it to the spot under the sink: I threw out the foxtail when I got home from Roberta’s that last night.