I visited Electrology 3000 (E3K) yesterday. After a year of laser on my face, I had come to the following conclusions. First, laser is only semi-effective on beard hair — in some places, it has been very effective, in others, only so-so. Second, all my gray (er… blonde) hairs in my face are immune to laser, and they were becoming more and more obvious and annoying. Third, visiting my local electrolysis woman, Opal, was glacial in its pace and remarkably painful. It’s one thing to be able to withstand the single sting of a bee on one part of your face, or perhaps to withstand 10 bee stings distributed across your face. But to have hundreds of bee stings in approximately the same place as the operator goes from one hair to the next — this was really awful. I had even asked my dentist if he’d shoot my face full of Novocain, and after some consideration, he said he didn’t feel it was ethical. Thus I came to E3K in Dallas, a company that specializes in clearing transsexuals’ beards.
I had to avoid shaving for 3 days, which has been emotionally painful, but here in the summertime, with my exposure to other people at a minimum, I suppose I shouldn’t complain. Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, I looked like the hermaphrodite at the circus, and went about my daily routine as androgynously as possible. I began taking 1 tablet of ibuprofin a night to build up the anti-inflammatories (who knows if this works, but I didn’t have any headaches during this time).
Wednesday came at last, and I woke at 5:00 for flight planning — it was a beautiful day, so the flight plan was easy. I flew the Cirrus SR20 plane down early in the morning, taking off at 6:45, as the flight was planned to last slightly less than 2 hours and my appointment time was set for 9:30. E3K is literally just off the north end of the Addison airport, so all I needed to do was have my feet on the ground by 9:00, and I would be fine. Made it to Addison uneventfully, touching down around 8:45, called for a cab, and began my long day of beautification.
E3K is on the second floor in a strip mall directly under the flightpath of the Addison airport, a strip mall that houses insurance companies, dance studios, and a pizza parlor, to name a few. Having arrived early, around 9:10, an finding their door shut and locked, I realized that when they said 9:30, they meant it, so I plopped myself down alongside my flight bag, briefcase, and overnight bag and answered email on my trusty PDA.
An entourage arrived at 9:28 and opened the door, at which point I gathered up my things and went inside. After filling out a patient information card, I was ushered to the back room, where Denise, one of the three sisters who owns the place, talked to me about electrolysis, follicles, insulated needles, and after-care. Then she was joined by her sister Tisha, and the two of them said they’d both be working on my face all day.
Since I had surgery a month ago and my scars in my lower gum were still healing, they couldn’t administer any Novocain on my chin or lower lip in the mouth, relying instead on injections on the face itself. There is no pussyfooting around this issue: those shots really, really hurt. The needle kind of hurts, but I think it’s the liquid that burns and expands just under the skin that makes the pain so great. And once you know it’s coming, there’s nothing to do except to take some deep breaths and squirm. To her credit, Tisha rubs the area and pauses a bit to let your brain resume working before wielding the needle again.
Since the lip is a small area and since there were two operators, we started off the morning by numbing and zapping my right mustache and my left cheek, after which point they switched and worked on the left mustache and right cheek. [The way they distribute the work across my face reminded me of the way typewriters were designed to keep their keys separated so that they wouldn’t bump into each other and jam when you were typing really fast.]
It took 3 hours to do the mustache and the cheeks, which brought us to 1:00, when they customarily have their lunch break. I grabbed my bag and went for a walk to find food and to stretch out. If the shots are painful, lying in the chair for hour upon hour is also extremely annoying, eventually becoming almost unbearable. I found that the back of my head, where it was resting “comfortably” on the headrest, became a real sore spot for me as the day wore on. So walking around was a joy, even though Dallas was already hot and muggy by lunchtime.
I chose Long John Silver’s because of some weird idea that chicken planks would be soft and easy to chew. What I discovered was that my lip, numbed and swollen and looking like a Simpson’s character, wouldn’t create suction in my straw, and I just dribbled my drink all over myself. I finally figured out that if I placed both lips over the straw and used the thumb and forefinger of both hands to press my lips around the straw, I could drink. Accordingly, I felt it was my civic duty to choose a corner booth facing away from all the other lunch patrons. The chicken was tasty, but I had to take great care not to chew up my tongue or cheek, which had the same texture as my chicken.
As I left the restaurant on food, this older black woman wearing a Long John Silver’s uniform came outside and cautioned me to take it easy in this heat, and to find every shade tree along my route that I could. I thanked her for her kindness and ambled along the two blocks back to E3K, seeking shade trees along my short route.
The afternoon went much as the morning had — the horribly painful shots, the tag-team zapping on opposite parts of my face, the increasingly annoying position in the chair. Eventually, we were done, and what a glorious statement that is for the patient to hear. We did all of my face and jaw and went a ways down below my jaw onto my neck, where my black hairs are virtually non-existent. In 8 weeks, I’ll return and we’ll do the whole face and neck.
Tisha took me to my hotel room, where I applied an ice bag and took some ibuprofen, but honestly, no amount of medical tending will change the fact that I received 14 hours of electrolysis on my face in one sitting (7 hours times 2 operators).
I walked over to a sports bar called Cape Buffalo for a beer, it being the only eating establishment around, and I drank a couple of very tasty beers and ate a huge, stuffed, baked potato. It was a smoky, annoying place, the kind of joint I might have enjoyed when I was 22. Most of the customers were in their 20’s and perhaps their 30’s, and the decor was supposed to be cool, but it simply struck me as trying (but falling short) for coolness. The most interesting part of the evening (besides a brief discussion with this 40-something bartender about the existence of a tomato-juice flavored vodka) was that a couple sat right next to me at the bar and started (and maintained) an increasingly heated argument about breaking up, some of it in English, some in French (she kept saying jamais, or never), and some in a middle eastern language. The guy was apparently clueless and the woman got increasingly frustrated with him, recounting all sorts of wrongs and slights in the past.
As fun as eavesdropping was, I felt the swelling in my face and the fatigue in my body, so I walked the two blocks back to my hotel, applied more ice, and got a good night’s sleep. Upon waking, I felt my face (or I should say I felt something like a large balloon that an overnight prankster had placed on my face) and jumped out of bed to see freakish, inflated lips, cheeks, chin, and jaw. I looked like a cartoon, and the sad thing was I was out of ice. I put a cold washcloth on my face and while it felt good, I don’t think it achieved much reduction in swelling. Not wanting to sit around any longer, I called for a cab to the Addison airport, took 4 ibuprofins, and vowed to deal with this when I returned to Bedford Falls.
The trip home was pleasant as I skirted the puffy cumulus clouds blown into the Dallas area by Hurricane Dolly. The clouds petered out by half way and I had a great tailwind as I averaged 165 kts. When we met for lunch at an Indian food lunch buffet, I could tell that Mary Jo could barely contain her laughter at seeing my face. I think it’s funny, too — in a few short days, I’ve gone from regular old Joyce to androgynous George to monstrous, cartoon George, and it feels like I’m backsliding. Or maybe I’m just pleased that for once during this transition, I actually get to embody the monster that I have sometimes felt I am. It’s not bad for a few days, but just as the physical monster recedes, I believe the psychological monster that I am (or that I imagine others see in me) will also vanish until all we’re left with are writings and photographs from the past.