I begin, sounding very much like a ticket agent, by saying, “Let’s see, we’ve got bald men, chemo people, people who cross-dress, and transsexuals. Who else?”
“Well, there are also women,” says Donna Good, “who lose their hair and people with alopecia.”
Ms. Good should know, since she’s been in the hair business since 1968 and in the wig business since 1974. She is presently with Elements Day Spa, which can be found in the 3300 block of Third Avenue in Hillcrest.
Good shrugs. “It’s loss of hair. There’s no gender anymore. There is a huge increase in women who are losing their hair, even male-pattern baldness happens to them now. I’ve seen a 30 percent increase in women’s baldness over the last ten years. More and more women in their 30s and 20s are going bald. Nobody knows why.”
Donna Marie Good was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, raised in Azusa, California, and arrived in San Diego 33 years ago. She’s five foot two inches tall and has a personality that stands six foot three. Good has brown hair, brown eyes, a Roman nose, full lips, and a default countenance that declares, “You should eat something.”
“How about men? Anything different there?”
“Men go for hairpieces to cover a certain area first,” Good says. “They’ve looked in the mirror and thought they were ten years older than they are. That’s fine if you have a baby face, but if you’re 40 and look 50, or you’re 30 and somebody thinks you’re close to 40, it’s not the most flattering thing.
“With all the commercials on TV there isn’t much stigma to wearing hairpieces anymore. You either want to try one or you don’t. Most people want to be well groomed, and a piece does make a difference. Until you use a hairpiece, you think, ‘Oh, I’ll never wear one.’ But when you see yourself in a hairpiece, especially when you’re used to seeing yourself without hair, the look is…”
I think, “Like a middle-aged man wearing a wig.” I say, “Do men often stop wearing a wig after they’ve worn one for a while?”
Good laughs. She has a from-the-bottom-of-her-stomach rolling laugh. “I had a wonderful man in here. He was working on the Navy base. He needed a new piece, and he’d seen me teach a class to Navy barbers on how to make molds. In fact, I used him as a model in the class.
“Well, he came in for quite a while after that. And then, all of a sudden, he called and said, ‘I won’t be wearing it anymore.’ I asked, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘I had a girlfriend, and my wife found out. She thinks it’s because of the hairpiece. So I’m not allowed to wear it anymore.’ ”
“His wife runs a merciful court.” I look past Good to a wall-mounted mirror and note that 30 percent of my hair has been devoured by male-pattern baldness. “Have many male clients gone back to bald?”
“It’s rare. When that happens it’s normally due to their wives.”
Actually, I think it’s more like 35 percent. Hmm. Sigh. Heave. “People buy wigs to hide their baldness or illness. Does anyone come to you who wants a wig just to flat-out party?”
“Cross-dressers or transvestites or transsexuals or whatever are always making themselves look better in whatever role they choose to play,” Good says. “I had two of them in. They were truck drivers. They were going to have the surgery and had to go through therapy. It’s a big deal. I think they have to be tested to see if they’re more to the female side. They have to do hormones and take shots.”
“What did they look like when they walked in?”
Good considers the question, then replies, “Like men trying to look like women.”
“Were they wearing dresses?”
“Pantsuits. But some of them wear dresses, and they look beautiful.”
“Good-looking, some of them, but they’re always going to have that…”
Good smiles and moves on. “These two were hoots. They were really nice.”
“Since they were cross-dressing, they must have been wearing wigs when they came in?”
“They were, and they were tired of them. They wanted to know what else they could do. That’s when I showed them the integration, which they really, really loved.”
“What’s integration?” This is asked in a where-do-babies-come-from? tone of voice.
Good picks up what looks to be an oval, webbed yarmulke. “Instead of wearing a heavy wig, you integrate the piece into your own hair. That makes it nice.”
I get it. You stick the oval thing to your skull. Wig hair is laced into the oval thing. Natural hair is “integrated” into the wig hair. “What happened to the truck drivers?”
“They were getting ready to get the operation, and I had to get my big hug. I don’t care who you are, getting that operation takes a lot of guts. So I gave them a hug and said, ‘You know what? You guys have more balls than I do.’ And they go, ‘We won’t have them for long.’ ”
I wince…and wince again. “Were they happy about getting the operation?”
“They were thrilled. They’d been wanting to do it forever. It wasn’t expensive either. I was shocked, it costs 10, 15 grand, and they only stay there nine days.”
Still wincing, but manage, in mid-wince, to say, “Then they go home and return to driving a rig. How does that work?”
“Well, there are a lot of lady truck drivers. They were partners. They were together. They weren’t lovers; they just drove the truck together. I think they felt protected by that. And they’re big. They could probably hold their own.”
I visualize two large, wide-shouldered truck drivers climbing down from a Freightliner cab wearing blond wigs, pink blouses, ruby hot pants and say, more to myself than to Good, “Makes being gay look like Christmas morning.”
I mean, all you’d have to do is tell everyone you know there’s been a mistake: you were given the wrong sex at birth. Then after your parents, siblings, relatives, friends, acquaintances, and coworkers are through with their declarations of praise and understanding, hand over thousands of dollars to a surgeon (why did he pick this particular specialty?) and have him amputate your sexual content.