It would never do waiting to see if my new hair will grow out sufficiently to be able to style.

It would never do waiting to hear what the FFS surgeons think about the possibility or impossibility of scalp advance.

What was called for was a couple of wigs, nice ones I would be able to wear for a long time (if necessary).

What was called for was some research to try to find a place in this little college town that wasn’t too big and wasn’t too small, one that was well-stocked with wigs and stylists but wasn’t filled with little college girls who might be in my classes, one that would be worth nurturing in a relationship that could go beyond simply buying a wig and extend to manicures and other luxuries.

What the research turned up (via yellow pages, web pages, and some phone calls) was the perfect place called Petra. It sells wigs, offers private consultations on wigs, styles wigs. It cuts your hair, waxes parts of your face, does manicures and pedicures. It certainly seems the right size, right location, and right services for me.

I talked it over with Mary Jo and we coordinated our schedules so we could go together. I am not terribly afraid of purveyors of wigs, but it has been a long time since I’ve done so. And this time around, it’s about looking very natural (as opposed to looking dramatic), so Mary’s offer of support and helpful criticism was greatly appreciated.

We were met by Tony, a slender, effeminate black man, who ushered us into the wig showroom and straight to the man’s hairpieces. “Er….” I said, “I’m looking for women’s wigs.” “Ahhhhh,” he said, a twinkle in his eye. “Right over here,” without missing a beat. We looked at long ones and short ones, fluffy ones and flat ones, curly ones and straight ones — and eventually settled on a couple, one shortish and one medium-length, with both of them auburn-ish with some light and red highlights.

It was really weird sitting in this chair and examining my face for the look and feel of the wigs. I had come straight from the university, and was thus quite butch, or male professional at least, and without makeup or jewelry, I looked pretty much like a man trying on women’s wigs. Mary said I looked like a singer in an 80’s hair band, and I could certainly see her point. In one wig I looked a lot like Christopher Guest in This is Spinal Tap, which was itself a parody of Iron Maiden’s heavy metal lead singer.

Even though it seemed surreal, what Mary Jo and I noticed was that in a very short period of time conversing or looking through catalogs while Tony was running off to other rooms to get more wigs, I began to look more and more plausible. And we realized that just because it looks really different on me doesn’t mean it’s a bad wig — it’s just a really different look. And when you add to the cognitive dissonance a really different gender presentation at the same time, there’s a lot of imagination required. “Plausible” was the word we used frequently because I would like to approximate something that works with the shape of my face and the color of my skin, and not looking for “pretty” right now.

As with most events these days, I was both excited and sad, and I’m beginning to see that it’s probably a normal reaction. The excitement comes from moving towards my goal, of taking specific steps in the right direction. It is exciting and liberating to see Joyce emerging, slowly taking physical form where a year ago she was buried deep in a tortured mind. It is a relief.

But such events are also sad because Joyce’s emergence comes at a cost. Each little step, whether it be laser hair removal, a visit to a doctor, or a wig purchase, is an occasion to note that things are changing, that we’re in the process of saying a long farewell to someone who we like quite a bit and know extremely well. We tell ourselves that Joyce isn’t an alien about to take over my body, that I’m still me with a single variable changed slightly, and while that is technically and actually true, it also minimizes the grief that is equally real and true.

Such is my life, where everything is felt, interpreted, and blogged in layer upon layer of meaning. It’s important to try to remind myself that sometimes buying a wig is about nothing more than buying a wig.