When I was a little girl the in late 60‘s early 70‘s, it seemed that everyone’s mother had a wig or two in her closet. Not that they would stay in the closet, because these women would actually wear their wigs in public. Of course, these women would also wear false eyelashes to dinner, but today that doesn’t seem as far-fetched, thanks to the Kardashians. My mother and her friends wore fake hair on their heads as if it were normal, because it was.

Not only did these women have wigs, they had these magical items called falls. They would clip them into a bland ponytail, and their heads would instantly transform from doughty housewife to Grace Kelly in mere seconds. My mother had two wigs and one fall and they were A-MA-ZING. She wore them often. She would wear a wig to the grocery store, she would wear a wig to church, and most certainly she would wear a wig to the supper club.

I remember one particular day, she was cleaning out the basement and frankly, she looked like hell. (My mother was a stunner, but 4 hours in our basement could do that to any woman.) Jackie O. would have looked like Bella Abzug, or perhaps more timely, Demi Moore would have looked like Lisa Lamponelli. It was then that she unfortunately realized it was her turn to be a “helper mom” for my Brownie troupe and she needed to be at Wilson Elementary in exactly eight minutes. She ran upstairs, threw on a wig, accompanied with a snappy little headscarf, red lipstick, an A-line skirt with a matching Bill Blass blouse, and she was ready to go. Her transformation was amazing. In five minutes she had gone from “the help” to Elizabeth Taylor. She also somehow managed to bake Toll House cookies in those few spare minutes.  She was, and is, remarkable. (Of course it didn’t hurt that she sped off in a Fiat convertible; it helps with the remarkable part, but that’s another story.)

I remember spending hours upon hours playing with my mother’s wigs. As a kid, I had very short, almost white-blonde hair. (Fun fact – the only time I didn’t have blonde hair was during the summer. We had a pool which, for all practical purposes, became my 2nd home; due to the chlorine that I never bothered to rinse out, my hair took on a greenish hue.)

As stated, my hair was short. Very short. My mother called it “pixie” and showed me pictures of Twiggy. I called it “boy” and thought I looked like Bobby Brady, only with yellowish green hair. My sister Sarah had my mother’s hair. It was long and dark and pretty. My oldest sister Mary also had long hair, but hers was a golden color. I was not allowed long hair. It might have had something to do with the honey incident, but that wasn’t necessarily my fault.

So, my mom had beautiful, long, chestnut hair. Her wigs matched that. I would often try on these wigs, sometimes backwards (to add bangs) and pretended I was Cleopatra. I would drape her necklaces over my head and prance around her bedroom, barking orders to Yankee, our bulldog. “Get me my Kool-aide, fool!” Inevitably, I would get caught by my older siblings who would humiliate and chastise me; I would gingerly put the wig back in its rightful place.

I’m not sure if you have figured this out yet, but I was a bit of an odd kid. (In that picture, I am holding my favorite Frosty the Snowman candle, that I would often sleep with.)  That’s OK, as I turned into a perfectly normal odd adult. I was the kid who saved up her allowance to purchase a rhinestone tiara from the costume jewelry store. I was the kid who wrote a fan letter to Barry Manilow’s dogs. My imaginary friend was Merv Griffin. I had green hair and didn’t care. Aside from all these quirky traits, I was also a tad obsessed with Dolly Parton. This was around the time of “Here You Come Again” and “9 to 5” and I thought she was the bee’s knees. One fateful New Year’s Eve while my parents were out, I decided I was going to make a Dolly Parton wig.

Logically, I cut off the foot of one of my mother’s pantyhose and pulled it over my head. (I had seen enough Carol Burnett sketches to know what goes under a wig.) My problem was those curls. What could I possibly use to create those amazing curls that Dolly sported? In a flash I was inspired. I snuck downstairs, avoiding the babysitter at all costs. (This is something very important when one is 8 years old and making her own wig.) I grabbed the Elmer’s glue and headed to the bathroom where I also grabbed a bag of cotton balls. Yup. That’s exactly what I did; I glued cotton balls to my head. All for beauty, right?

Looking back on it, it is fair to say that I looked a bit like a preschool art project that resembled a cloud suffering from mange. It was a goopy mess and after a few minutes, my arms were getting tired; it was slow going. At that pace, it was going to take all night. “OK, I’ll just slip this off and finish it tomorrow” I thought. Or maybe not. Turns out, this glue stuff really worked! (Did I mention my mother wouldn’t let me grow my hair out?)

So, after a few stalwart attempts of trying to get this thing off my head, I knew I had to eat the shit sandwich that came with finding the babysitter. Eat it, I did.

After about 15 minutes of belly laughs, she composed herself. Thank God she had the insight to shove my head under water.

“But wait! You’re gonna ruin my wig!”

“You want your mom to see you like this?”

“OK. But make sure the water isn’t too cold.”

I am a 45-year-old woman, and I am loath to tell you how many wigs I own. Sure, I can rationalize ‘till the drunks come home. “I’m in a play; I need it for this play I’m in” or “I’m writing a new sketch, and I play a woman in that sketch who needs to have amazing hair.” I have way too many wigs and way too many excuses to get more wigs. Some of my friends collect expensive shoes, or Hermes scarves, but I have wigs They quietly lurk in my closet. Wigs that few know about and fewer see. That’s how sad it is. I am a closet wig wearer.

There are two types of wigs out there. Shitty wigs, and nice wigs. Shitty wigs are what you or your children wear for Halloween. These are wigs that look pretty good for exactly 4 minutes, and then they immediately turn into a snarly, polyester nest.

 (This is not a nice wig.)

They’re usually at or under $20.00 and you get what you pay for. You never really look different, you just look like you, only in a shitty wig.

Nice wigs are very, very different. They look like real hair, no, amazing hair. They’re perfect. They’re waiting for you to try them on. They long for the days when ladies wore them to go grocery shopping, because maybe they hadn’t washed their hair that day and by washing hair, I mean go to the beauty parlor. These wigs are wonderful. They have a sense of style and etiquette. They don’t smoke and walk at the same time, and if they leave the bar to sit down for dinner, they let the waiter carry their drink. That’s how great these wigs are. Old school class. These wigs are your friends.

There is Jacqueline the brunette, Christy the blonde and Raquel the redhead. They love being on your head and they love making you feel pretty. These wigs are not under $20.00. These wigs start at $200.00. My friend Heather and I vowed a year ago to start wearing them (she has a wig fetish as well) and we swore up and down on our vodka that we would “totally wear our wigs, no matter what!” but I still have yet to see her sporting one in the dairy aisle.

 (This also is not a great wig.)

I currently own many shitty wigs, and two nice wigs. I had three, but I loaned one out, and it never came back. (Yes, these wigs are that powerful. They can ruin friendships.) I own a brunette curly wig, reminiscent of Adrian Barbeau in her Maude days. The other is a longer, brown wig with highlights. It is shoulder length with bangs. (I wrote a sketch where I played Michelle Bachman; I had to have it.) Do I ever wear these wigs out? No. Do I wish I did? Yes. Do I write sketches and plays just so I can buy more? Yes. Do I put them on from time to time around the house? Yes. Am I wearing one now?



Filed under Fabulous luxury, Family, fashion, Hair, Humor, retro

7 responses to “Wigs

  1. beth kasinski

    I am presently in class, sneaking a peek at facebook and quietly start to read this blog…after about 1 min. I start to giggle…then chuckle and before long I start to gut laugh and snot and tears are now running down my face. You see, I too had a wig wearing mom and I too was the only girl (out of 5) that wasn’t allowed to have long hair! I also sported a pixie cut compliments of Ray Cahill… Ah Liz thanks for the laugh, I needed it!

  2. Josie Woodworth-Turner

    Yes, my darling girl. You were a caution as a child, but everyone loved you just the same. There are so many things I don’t remember, perhaps because I don’t want to—–Thanks for giving me a good laugh today. Luv U Mom

    • I love your phrase – “a caution as a child.” What is that – like orange cones around my bedroom? Thank God I didn’t have me as a kid. Emily is so much better behaved. Wowza. Not sure how you and Dad did it. Mom, you’re amazing and thanks for being so awesome with my crazy writings and memories!

  3. Carole Carlson

    Liz~ I too grew up in a household of “wigs”. Mostly frosted “wedgey” wigs with spit curls. I wore them every chance I had and now own several of my own. Two are “nice” wigs and I’m always tempted to wear them in the city where nobody knows me…..just for fun.

  4. Jeff J

    My mom had a “China doll” wig – I was obsessed with it only because I was, as an 8 year old boy, trying to figure out why the #*()@# does she need a wig? She HAS HAIR!!! It was one of those wigs that looked like a Dorothy Hamill cut, but with that Asian flair. I saw her wear it once and admittedly, it too would require the waiter to carry her drink and have other ladies accompany it to the bathroom if only to refresh one’s lipstick.

    And for the record, I think you’re caution as an adult too! But everyone still loves you!

  5. Nancy

    Liz, I happened upon your wig story when I was “googling” the name of Barry Manilow’s dog (long story). So glad I found it! I laughed and enjoyed it so much!

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