Sunday, November 30, 2014
What A Difference A Wig Makes
I have a friend (I'll call her Sabrina) who is no slouch. She earned an BS in Mathematics and a PhD in Biological Psychology at the University of Chicago. Sabrina is one of the country's leading experts on shift work, human circadian jet lag, sleep, and circadian rhythms. She may know more about circadian rhythms than the majority of us combined, but her knowledge of rhythms in general has proved sorely lacking.
Until last night.
As a guest at an annual Thanksgiving dinner that traditionally progresses into a raucous dance party, Sabrina shocked us all when she donned a long, black wig that had been plopped on top of an African sculpture, and bounded onto the dance floor. There, she pranced and shimmied and shook to the music like she'd been dancing with abandon her entire life.
Her husband of some 32 years had never seen her shake her booty in the over three decades they'd been a married couple. He's a quiet, undemonstrative kind of guy who sat there with a slight grin on his face, the only sign of his approving amusement.
"Grab your camera," I yelled to my husband. "Sabrina is wearing a wig and dancing!"
Alan did as he was told, grabbed his cell phone, and stood in amazement. Sabrina was an academic who liked her alcohol on the week ends but had never once gotten off her duff to dance, not even a little boogie down the hallway when she was sure no one was watching.
The wig was magic. It gave her cover. Like an actress assuming a role very different from her natural personality, Sabrina became a newly-invented person Whatever fear she'd had about displaying this playful, rhythmic part of herself melted like the ice cream on top of the pumpkin pie. For over an hour, Sabrina danced in the living room, sashayed around the dining room table, returned to the make-shift dance area to sometimes partner with another dancer or to boogie by herself.
Several times, she tired, removed the wig, and sat back down.
After a brief rest during which we encouraged her to get up and back on the dance floor, she jumped out her chair, replaced the long, black wig or chose instead a white out-of-control Afro, and hit the dance floor.
"Alan," I yelled. "She's at it again."
Alan ran back to the living room, and the two of us stood there mesmerized as we watched our friend whom we thought we knew emerge from her self-imposed cocoon.
Sabrina held onto the Afro wig throughout the rest of the evening. She carried it everywhere.
At the end of the evening when Sabrina and her husband bundled up in their winter coats and hats, our host and owner of the wig offered it to Sabrina. "I'd like you to have the wig."
"No, that's okay," said Sabrina. "Save it for next Thanksgiving."
Was she going to wait a whole year before letting go? Was she going to retreat to her studious life in which she spent hours and hours researching and writing grants? Would she travel the world to speak at conferences and never show her love of other kinds of rhythms?
It seemed so.
And while I honored her decision, it seemed a damn shame.