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Pulling out my hair

One day, while I was waiting for my appointment with the tattoo artist, I was talking to the really pretty blonde woman whose appointment was before mine. She had her act together: she was in recovery, she had a Harley, she was thin and beautiful, she had the money for a sleeve, and she had a fantastic job that didn't care about her tattoos. The artist took a break, so the woman and I went out into the sunshine to smoke. Somehow, we got onto the topic of pulling out hair. She knew exactly what I was talking about - even that pulling out top eyelashes felt better than pulling out the bottom ones. I couldn't believe it. This was before the Internet was in people's homes, and until that moment, I thought I was alone. A pretty person went through what I went through - I was in awe. Unfortunately, we never got the opportunity to talk again. It was probably a dozen years ago and I have long since forgotten her name.

People who know me know that I pull out my hair when I'm upset. I started pulling out my eyelashes in first grade. I'm ugly in all my class pictures, until I got old enough to use eyeliner. (I pulled out my eyebrows, too, but that could be hidden with mom's old fashioned cake brow enhancer. You put the brush in a drop of water, and gently stirred the cake until you had a creme to apply.) By third grade, when my grandfather died, I'd moved up to ripping the hair from the crown of my scalp. I liked getting the little bulbs at the end of the hair shaft; if you put one on a piece of paper and press with your finger (if you have dark hair), you'll make a mark. Most of my childhood books are marked up that way. I also learned to scratch my scalp when my hair was still wet. When it dried, it could bleed. The pain felt good. I'd worry the scabs over and over until my parents found out and took me to the doctor. I was mis-diagnosed with Alopecia Areata because I kept insisting that I didn't do it; it just happened. I thought I'd get into trouble. My mom pulled out the cake of makeup to hide the shine of the baldness, which irritated the scabs (and delighted me). The only thing that upset me was the taller kids looking at the spot on my scalp, about the size of a Kennedy half dollar, and they'd point and laugh. That, of course, was nothing I wasn't already used to. Even in my twenties, I pulled my hair under stress. From time to time I'd forget how soothing it was, but then some random instance would trigger me. I'll never forget going to lunch with a friend... I was upset over a wonderful job that had gone bad because the manager was being an ass to everyone (about five people wound up quitting) and my friend saw my bald and bloody scalp, and started to cry. At work one winter morning in 1999, instead of whatever it was I was supposed to be doing, I read BME Experiences. No More Eyelashes was so close to what I did! I, too, loved the addictive burn when I plucked. (I don't wear mascara because, when I feel it on my eyelashes, it triggers me to rip them out. Oh, how I wanted to ask questions of this author!!) I contacted BME, who had no contact information for the anonymous author. By this time, I knew that the disorder had a name: trichotillomania. There are tons of articles about it on the web, but I haven't read them. I don't want to stop. When it's done right, fortunately or unfortunately, it's actually socially acceptable. If you want to cut yourself, you're probably going to get funny looks, going into a store to buy a scalpel or, if you're a teenager, buying nothing but razor blades. I had no problem going to the beauty supply store and getting all the implements needed to wax: the professional hot wax burner, a container of wax with tea tree oil, the wooden sticks used to spread the hot wax, and muslin for pulling the wax off. It wasn't cheap but it usually works better than cold wax (which I sometimes carry when I travel during times of stress - the hot wax isn't very portable!). If someone wants to get a cutting, he or she can take chances with a hack, or can ask around for someone trustworthy. If someone wants to wax, she or he can probably find someone to do it for under $10 and within a mile from his or her house. Any hair or nail salon will probably oblige your desire for pain as long as you don't say why you want it, and as long as you're paying.

I've been feeling like complete and utter shit. I don't leave the house without my tweezers. I haven't had the energy to set up the hot wax for a while. Today, I did. I figured I'd take a hot bath when I was done. I pulled out bath salts. Went into the bathroom and took off all my clothes. Put my hair up, out of the way. Took off my eye glasses to get them out of the way. I began with my eyebrows. Right bottom, right top. Left bottom, left top. Not nearly enough pain. Maybe my skin was too oily? I washed well with Dr. Bronner soap, and rinsed well. My skin was now DRY. Right upper lip. Center. Left upper lip. The little fuzzy patch where my vertical labret will go someday. Not enough pain. I put alcohol gel on my face, hoping that it would sting the wounds. It felt like an astringent. For some reason, at this point, I remembered butterflies on the maple tree two houses down from mine. They drank the sap after termites ate the tree. I don't know why I killed them. I think I wanted to own and preserve their beauty. I accidentally smushed them. I moved to my under arms. Began with my right... I put my left hand against the wall, and held the wooden stick in my left hand. Some pain, not enough. Usually, the alcohol burns nicely after this. The stinging only lasted a second. I tried again with my left arm. I was able to grab more hair this time, and there was a bit more sting with the alcohol. I hate letting the hair get long enough to wax; I don't like the way it looks. But when it's too short, the wax doesn't grab it well. (My next wax purchase will be without the tea tree oil... maybe that will work better.) If the police find an unidentified body, the detectives can get an idea of the person's background by the condition of the body's skin, the general health... and the body hair. I learned this in a detective novel when I was a kid. Ever since I started to pull, I have been afraid not of being murdered, but of being murdered and having the detectives (now the CSI) thinking that I'm low class. But I need the hair to be long enough to pull. Lower down. I moved to the pubic area. Put on my glasses so I could see what I was doing. Looked in the mirror. I'm so ugly. I didn't feel what I pulled, even though the muslin was covered with hair, ripped out to the follicles. I'm so miserable... is my body that numb, too? Why isn't this working? I'm getting no relief... I looked down. Blood... not from waxing. I have an overhang of skin, which I guess a lot of women have. Surgery would fix it, but I live in the United States and our insurance companies defy logic on a daily basis. I seem to have gotten a slight infection: no big deal, except that I pulled on it when I was trying to find a good place to wax. I got some wax on my fingers and pulled as much hair as I could pullpullpullpullpullpullpullpullpullpull. Now my pubic area looks patchy. How wrong will it be to pay someone for a Brazilian wax if I want it for the pain and not for the aesthetics? Oh, well, I guess I'll take a bath; maybe the bath salts, a new addition to the ritual, will help. I've just just just gotten my period. No sit-down bath. Nothing went right. I'm too upset to even move down to my legs.

So I clean up. A balm over the broken skin, broken not where I wanted it. Half an inch lower, and it would have been good pain, not bad pain. Why is it that a short distance on an area of skin changes whether the pain is good or bad?I put on clean underwear, my boyfriend's shirt. Though he's much of the reason I'm miserable. In a ritual, I've just broken my skin, I've made a semi-permanent, publicly visible modification to my body. When I go to work tomorrow, people will see only that I've waxed hair from my face, and will tell me that I look pretty. No one will know that, under my clothing, I'm an unfeeling failure.

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submitted by: Anonymous
on: 12 Dec. 2005
in Ritual

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