So I’m sitting in my favorite watering hole sipping a glass of red wine with my friend, Peter and our super cute bartender, Harold, who resembles a much sweeter version of Russell Brand with a short beard.
It was late afternoon and as we sipped our drinks and played a lazy hand of Rummy with Harold, Peter turned and surveyed my swollen and bruised face and said “I’ll give you this – you sure are committed to the project!”
The “Project” he was referring to is my transition, in general, from male to female. You have to be committed. It’s really an all or nothing proposition for those of us who identify as Transsexual. But more specifically he was alluding to the 7 hours I spent in the electrologist’s chair today.
For those of you unaware of what electrolysis is, let me briefly describe it for you:
Electrolysis is the permanent removal of hair. It can be done anywhere on the body but for those of us who are making the journey from male to female, the vast majority is done in two places. The face and somewhere else I’d rather not describe just yet. The technique involves the insertion of a probe (OK, it’s a needle) connected to the electrology machine. The probe is stabbed into a hair follicle and then zapped with searing heat. Something like the temperature of the Sun. This destroys the follicle under the skin surface and hopefully it won’t regenerate and grow back. This hurts like hell. They then take pliers – ok tweezers, and remove the hair and follicle. They then repeat this 10,000 – 15,000 times. Sound like fun?
Did I mention this searing pain from the blazing hot needle flash-frying your follicles hurts? (I’m not going to compare it to anything because nothing else is this painful) OK childbirth is, but I’m not going there.
Some use a topical cream. If this makes you think it hurts less, that’s fine. Some just go at you for short spurts, maybe an hour or two which is all most people can stand. This method takes forever.
I went to a place that provides lidocaine injections that numb the area to be worked on. The only problem with this method is that these injections hurt worse than the electrology needles! But the excruciating pain from the injections is relatively short lived. But there is NOTHING like getting an injection in the upper lip just under your nose. The pain goes right up your nose making you want to scream and sneeze at the same time. As the tears ran down my cheeks the technician soothed me and said “I’m sorry honey, I know it hurts.” It really does.
Once you are numbed up the 2 technicians, one on each side of your face, go at it with abandon – each with a probe and pliers, uh, tweezers, I mean. You feel nothing except a little pull when they remove the follicle. Until they reach the border of the area that has been numbed. You feel the heat from the probe and the first time that happened, I said something like: “Owww, that hurt!” hoping they would just move back to the numbed area. Nope. They went straight for the Lidocaine needle to numb some more facial real estate.
I swear, they could use this at Guantanamo to extract confessions or intel from terror suspects. One shot under the nose and they’d tell you everything.
Next time they ventured out of the treated area, I kept my yap shut and tried not to react to the frying of my follicle. That actually hurt less than the injection…for a while. No way around it, electrolysis hurts. After 7 hours of 2 technicians going at it, my beard was almost completely cleared, except for an inch and a half wide strip of what looked like an un-mowed section of grass running from the bottom of my chin down my neck. That would be completed the next day.
The body responds to this blatant assault by sending every bit of moisture to your face in the form of swelling. My face looked like a catcher’s mitt. So my friends hugged me gently avoiding the customary kiss on the cheek. The wine combined with the Benadryl I was taking put me in a nice place indeed. (I may regret doing this, but here is a picture I NEVER show – it’s me, post electro)
All kidding aside, my technicians are the very best at what they do and make every effort to ensure my comfort during a procedure that is inherently UN-comfortable.
See, women don’t generally have a beard and even a closely shaved face doesn’t feel smooth or accept make-up like it should. Laser works for some, but if you want it out for good, electrolysis does the job. It just takes a long time, it hurts a lot and yes, it’s very expensive. In spite of all that, my clinic is booked months in advance. That makes sense – there are many of us who are “Committed to The Project.”