Nov. 28, 2011 at 5:05 AM ET
After a lifetime of fine, thin, "nothing" hair that always needed teasing and perms to get any volume, I did it: I got hair extensions. I had 200 hair clusters glued onto my short hair. Has it made a difference? It's been almost two weeks since my hair enhancements but I still sneak looks at myself to believe I actually went through with it.
It looks great, and getting hair extensions for my thin hair changed my life. Just the other day I was going to meet a friend for lunch and suddenly it got windy and started to drizzle. Without an umbrella I instinctively ducked into a doorway because even a couple of drops of water were always enough for my hair to get flat and matted down. For those of us who are "follicly challenged," getting caught in any kind of bad weather is a nightmare. Then I remembered I don't have to hide from the rain. I just scrunched up my hair and kept going. It was fabulous. An absolute first!
For years, Gretchen, my longtime friend and thin-hair buddy, has been the only person I was comfortable talking to about this. (She's a shrink, but that's not why.) We've gone on more dumb shopping sprees together for add-on hair and tried more products to "thicken lifeless hair" than I care to remember. All to no avail. Here we were, two so-called intelligent women, who wear little or no makeup and liked the way we looked—yet we were always scrounging around for the next new hair product or breakthrough. But we always stayed away from any complicated procedures. So what finally tipped the scales for me? I'm still not sure I know. Maybe it was simply a lifelong desire to know what it feels like to wake up in the morning and see tousled hair instead of thin, separated, matted-down wisps.
I made an appointment with a stylist at my regular salon in White Plains, NY, called D'Aprilia. Diane DeNapoli had been trained by Great Lengths, the company said to add extensions for celebrities Jennifer Lopez, Halle Berry and Britney Spears.
Even so, my bravado while I made the appointment quickly faded to fear as I sat in the chair. It's surprising just how very personal and emotional the whole process was. At first I was kind of embarrassed and didn't want to talk to Diane; I just wanted her to do her thing and be done with it. She persisted and got me to talk about how I wanted my hair to look. She talked about how it made her feel to be able to help women get a look or style they'd never known before. In no time I felt really connected to Diane. I realized that most anyone can be trained in a procedure, but it takes a truly unique person to become a partner in such a personal undertaking.
She took me through each and every step and explained that the hairs were glued or bonded to my hair using a protein polymer and heat that won't damage my hair. Several strands of hair are bonded at once. Diane told me how the places where the hairs were bonded might feel a bit strange—like nail extensions do at first '- but that soon I'd be used to it. She also kept reminding me I'd get fullness and density, not height. And every hour or so, she'd make me get up and walk around. The bonding process took four hours.
We all oohed and aahed at the quality of hair she was putting in. (Since I still had some perm in my hair, Diane decided to perm the Great Lengths hair before putting it in, so I could wear my hair curly or blow it out. It turned out to be a terrific idea.)
After the hair was attached, Diane cut and styled my hair. By then, though, I kind of wanted to get home and figure out if I really loved it or if I'd just been silly and vain.
In the end, I do love having more hair, but it took me awhile to get used to touching the polymer "connectors." I enjoy the fact that my hair looks like I've always wanted it to '- or almost. What I'd really love is hair like my daughter's—thick, long and curly. But that's never going to happen.
People tell me I look younger, and that's nice. I must admit I especially like it when someone says I'm looking better than ever and only I know why.
Will I live with enhancements? I don't know yet. Great Lengths suggest they be taken out every five to six months to compensate for natural hair growth and then get reapplied. I guess I'll decide then. For now, I'm enjoying what it's like to style my new hair, which actually means less time styling. I can apply products and not worry about matting my hair; I can use barrettes and not worry that they will slide out. And in fact, I don't really need to style my hair; I can just fluff it and go.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.