At my family home, a small, round mirror is placed in front of me as I sit at the dining table. The warm afternoon sunlight streams in through a window, spotlighting the excited faces of my huddled family. Behind me a woman I met only a few moments ago fiddles around in a suitcase trying to decide what I should look like. My appearance is out of my control now. I’m terrified. She places a soft bamboo cap on the crown of my head. With my two index fingers I hold the wiry meshing of a wig on what was once my hairline and pull the blonde strands over my scalp. I stare at this oh-so-familiar version of me in the mirror. I am in awe. It is identical to how my hair used to look and I can’t help but smile. Then my smile gives way to tears. I begin to sob, low and hollow.
“Get it together,” my aunty snaps, but with a hint of laughter in her deep voice. She’s used to seeing me cry. She wipes at her own cheek and turns away from me, my hair, and the mirror. The rest of my family do the same, one by one.
The person in the mirror is me 12 months ago. I stare at the strands of hair that fall down across my jawline and feel the fullness as I tuck the wig behind my ears. The hair feels so natural but so foreign, because it’s not really mine. I feel every painful second of the past year bubble to the surface again, reminding me of what I no longer have.
It took me a long time after I lost my hair to try on a wig. I was afraid that wearing one would be hiding who I really was now, as if I were ashamed by my condition rather than being true to myself and what I stood up for: to increase awareness about alopecia. To make it “normal” to be bald.