It is Week 11 of chemo, and Week 2 of the new term in my third year at my university in Amsterdam. Four months ago, when front lace wigs for black women I was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer in my lung, postponing my degree course would have been too much to deal with, so I’ve carried on.
For obvious reasons, though, I’ve fallen behind, my books left unopened. When full lace wigs wholesale I applied to study political science, it wasn’t so much for the politics, or for the sake of being at university; it was for the life I wanted to live later, roaming the planet with a degree. Travelling has always been top of my to-do list. For me the biggest problem with having cancer is not physical. It’s that I can’t think about the life I’m going to be living when I’ve graduated. And that is killing my ambition to be here.
My professor gives me a date to present my first paper. It’s the same week that I’m supposed to be having my next chemo discount full lace wigs session. I look around me as he goes over the syllabus. It’s confusing being here, surrounded by so many other 21-year-olds. I can’t fool myself as I can when I’m sitting in a café wearing one of my growing collection of wigs: it’s clear that I’m not like them any more. They are here preparing themselves for tomorrow, while all I can think about is the day at hand.
I tug at the wig I’m wearing today, Blondie (I’ve named all my wigs after the sort of woman they remind me of). She’s the only way I can reappear at university without having to answer too many questions. But wearing Blondie and attempting to pass as the old me makes one thing cruelly clear: the girl who was studying hard for a grand life, dating until she found Mr Right, carelessly getting drunk, doesn’t exist any more. In my new life, putting on a wig and feeling anonymous is liberating. Wearing a wig in class is a painful reminder of who I can no longer be.
When the tutorial is over I pack my books and head home, with no plans to unpack them for a very long time. It hurts but it’s also a relief. I don’t have to do this any more: don’t have to contemplate my career, to become someone important, to learn things for later. Why study for a future that might turn out to be completely different? Better, surely, to focus on the present, which I know is real. It’s time for some reflection. Time to get up close and personal, starting with my own naked scalp.
A morning ritual is something I’ve never known. The secrets of hair and make-up have always been a mystery to me. I can barely manage mascara on a regular basis, let alone nail polish. I preferred to spend my mornings with the newspaper and a coffee rather than grooming myself. But that was then. Now I’ve become one of those women who reaches for powder and bushes rather than going “au naturel”. I start with my eyebrows. I was born with full, bushy brows; but now, thanks to chemo, they are completely gone. With my special brush—which cost me £30!—I carefully colour in where I think my arches used to be. Next up is eyeliner. There are no lashes left to lengthen, but the eyeliner helps create the illusion.
When the painting and colouring is done, I look to my wigs. But for some reason none of them will do today. I want to be someone else. Someone bold, someone unknown. I climb onto my bike, and 10 minutes later park up in front of my new favourite boutique, the theatrical store, stocked with props. I’m enjoying this metamorphosis game. Shopping here is not so different from shopping at H&M. I decide I need a hair style with a long fringe to cover where my eyebrows once were.
In a corner I see a Mia Wallace (the character played by Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction) lookalike. I try it on. The cut is exactly what I need. The black colour is too severe for me, but luckily she also comes in an auburn tan that works wonders on my pale skin. The long strands fall over my shoulders, while the fringe covers part of my eyes. At £37 it’s by far the cheapest wig I’ve bought so far. Who would have thought that Uma would be so affordable? Beside me a dark-skinned woman is trying on wigs to wear to a party. She tucks her Afro under a shiny platinum white bob. The synthetic glow almost hurts my eyes, but the effect is amazing. “Could I try that one as well?” I ask.
Although the colour works differently on my skin, I immediately love it. I look like an outsider, something I’ve been fighting against ever since I got sick. With Platina, as I resolve to call her, I’m not hiding, I’m showing off. I never thought I’d find wearing a wig fun, but it is.
Nine wigs, nine names, nine times as many friends and admirers. Nine sub-characters, and behind each of them a little piece of Sophie. An insecure Sophie: Stella. A sensual Sophie: Uma/Mia. A headstrong Sophie: Sue. A thoughtful Sophie: Blondie. A fun-loving Sophie: Platina. A romantic Sophie: Daisy. An erotic Sophie: Bebé. A hippy-chic Sophie: Lydia. A girl-next-door Sophie: Pam. All my wigs make me feel more of a woman and less of a girl. Maybe that’s why I like them so much. Sue gets people’s attention – her red hair makes people think I’m a sassy broad – and she makes me feel more confident. Suddenly the clumsiness that comes with being somewhere between a girl and a woman doesn’t exist. Today, as Platina, I feel different to yesterday, when I was Blondie.