August 11, 2013
Alice carried her wig in a black Fred Meyer shopping bag so that anyone who passed us in the hall wouldn’t suspect we were on our way to meet Marveen in the beauty salon at The Place.
I was her escort because Marveen has had a tendency to cut Alice’s hair too short and in a style that makes her look like everybody else at The Place. That mustn’t happen with the wig. “Once it’s cut it won’t grow back, you know,” Alice reminded me.
My job was to be the bad cop, the one who says things the other is too nice to say, such as, “Now is a good time to stop cutting.”
Alice concluded early on that the wig we had traveled a great distance to purchase simply had too much hair.
She avoided wearing it because of this, and she’d been avoiding taking it to the salon to be cut because Marveen was scissors happy. It stayed in the black bag, except for a spell when it may or may not have been stolen but then strangely reappeared.
For a long time I tried to encourage her to be straight with Marveen. We’d had the discussion many times. “Say exactly what you want.”
But she couldn’t do it, and anyway we both realized her eyes are so bad now that she can’t see her image in the salon mirror clearly enough any more to pronounce judgement. I would have to make the call.
The beauty salon is small (two work chairs) and filled with light from windows and a glass door. Marveen is about forty, tall and pretty, with a voluptuous, balloon-shaped body. Wide shoulders and large breasts and belly taper down into long legs and small feet. Her face is unlined and perpetually serene.
Alice, on the other hand, was feisty. My presence seemed to release the Inner Crank. She frowned into the mirror, frowned at me and at Marveen, frowned during the entire trim.
“Oh for HEAVEN’S sake!” she cried out at one point in a tone most people use for real profanity. One of her hearing aids had come off when she tried to make some adjustments in the wig’s alignment.
She also complained about her eyeglasses not fitting right with the wig on. “My eyelashes are pressing up against the lenses!” she almost shouted at me at one point. I tried to gently move them a tinch (as Meg would put it) further down on her nose.
“This is never going to work!” Alice stuck out her lower jaw.
Quite a tough customer. My heart went out to Marveen, but she seemed to take it in stride.
“What will Nadine say?” Alice wondered. She went over once again the time Nadine had scoffed at the idea of her dining partner wearing a wig.
“Lots of the ladies who live here wear wigs,” Marveen said. “Hair thins out on some people, that’s all there is to it.”
I asked her how she liked her job at The Place.
“I love working here,” she said. “I can’t imagine going anywhere else.”
I was beginning to have new respect for Marveen as she carefully snipped and combed, stopping occasionally to smile at Alice in the mirror and pat her shoulders.
“It’s still too long,” Alice said for the fifth time. “Everybody’s going to know it’s a wig!”
Despite all the worries, the wig got trimmed and not too short. My opinion was barely necessary.
Alice feared she couldn’t get it on again herself, though, and so Marveen agreed, for a very small fee, to come by every morning and help until she got the hang of fitting it correctly on her own.
Back in her apartment, Alice felt happy and stylish.
She called me after she’d eaten dinner to report that Nadine did not approve of the change.
“I don’t like it,” she’d said. “I was used to you the way you were.”
“Well, Nadine,” Alice responded, “you’ll have to get used to me this way.”
She went on to read me a list of all the people who had stopped to compliment her on the way to and from the dining room, as well as those who stopped by the table where she sits with Nadine. There were almost a dozen, including Laundry Edie, Little Caroline, Mirabel, Maria, and Karen.
“Even the Big Man likes it,” she said. “He said, ‘Your hair sure looks pretty.’”
Mr. Fickle’s head had bobbed up and down in approval as well. Best of all, in Alice’s opinion, was the comment from The Dapper Man. “He stopped me and took my hands in his and told me how much he likes my hair-do. And I said, ‘Well, it’s a wig you know.’ And he said, ‘I think it’s very becoming.’ Those are the words he used.”
She paused. “I think it means more when a man compliments you.”
“Why is that?”
“Because they don’t say it unless they really mean it.”
“And women don’t ever mean it?” I asked.
“I guess they do sometimes,” she said.
I looked over at Brio, asleep in her basket. Here we were, two females, doomed to insincerity by our gender.
The next morning when Marveen came by to help her, Alice already had the wig on perfectly, hearing aids and all. “Marveen was amazed,” she said.
But by the next day, although compliments still flowed in and by now she was freely telling anyone and everyone that she was wearing a wig, the wig itself was causing pain.
“It’s so tight,” Alice told me on the phone. “My ears are bright red. And they just ache. I don’t know how I’m going to sleep tonight, and then I have to get up and put it on again.”
“No, you don’t. Don’t wear it tomorrow!”
“What? What are you talking about?” She sounded as if I’d suggested she go to the dining room without any clothes on. “I have to wear it now!”
“But they all know what you look like without it. Why can’t you leave it off until Marveen can take a look and maybe she’ll know a way to fix it.”
“Nothing can be done,” she said in a tone absent of hope. “And I can’t go to the eye doctor any more because when it’s on I can’t get my glasses off. You know how he makes me take them off and put them on over and over again.”
I put my foot down. We see the eye doctor only once every six weeks, and he is the only person standing between Alice and complete blindness from macular degeneration. “We’re going to the eye doctor, ” I said.
She sounded relieved that I took the lead on this one. “All right. But I just don’t know how that will work.”
“We’ll make it work,” I said.
“I don’t think I can sleep tonight,” she said, and then told me she was tired of talking about her troubles and wanted to hang up.
Given that Alice is Alice, by the next afternoon she’d solved the problem, at least partially. She’d discovered two small hooks inside the wig and when she unhooked them the band loosened a bit. “I’ve had it on for hours now,” she said. “And it’s so much better.”
She’d been to the dining room again. Even more people had told her they liked her new look. “But the best comment I’ve gotten so far came from the Dapper Man,” she said. “Very becoming.”
Here’s a bit of wig history from Veggie Tales: