December 28, 2011

Smacking Myself

I guess even a woman with a beard has some sensitivity lessons left to learn.

My step-sister has been getting eczema off and on for a while now, and recently developed an infection in the eczema around her eyes.  It's gotten emergency-room severe a couple of times now, as antibiotics in pill-form seem unable to help her overcome it.  Her face has become a hard, cracking, crusty, scaly, itchy, painful visage.  Because of the infectious nature of the infection, she is not allowed to attend her college classes.  So she spends much of her time in her room.  She says its because she doesn't like people looking at her.

I caught myself saying, rather haughtily, "Well, now she knows how I feel all the time!"  What the heck was that?  When did I start thinking I have the monopoly on humiliating cosmetic conditions?

So what if a sudden acute attack of a skin condition is not quite comparable to an incurable chronic issue that calls into question one's gender identity?  That's just technicalities.  It's all about the way a person feels about themselves.  Whatever the severity of someone's perceived "problem" with their body, it's all relative.  It's not a contest to see who is the most hard-done-by. 

There are girls who call themselves "bearded ladies" who simply have a lot of blond vellus hair on their chins.  I might wish that was all I had to contend with, but the way they feel about themselves is valid.  They might very well feel worse than I do.  I've got to be careful of this tendency to be too full of self pity.
 
I think sometimes, as human beings, we enjoy self pity.  We enjoy being in pain.  Maybe becoming okay with ourselves as women with beards involves letting go of the pleasure of wallowing.

I have promised myself to be more understanding and encouraging to my step-sister from here on.  Maybe it could be worse.  But to her, nothing could be worse right now.

December 20, 2011

Dreaming

Lately I’ve been fantasizing about what it would be like to be totally comfortable with myself as a hirsute woman.  ...A hirsute woman who hides her hair.

Kind of an oxymoron, but in my fantasy it makes sense.  In my fantasy, I still shave and pluck and cake on make-up and take three pills a day so as not to draw attention to myself, so as not to let hair get in the way of first, second, third impressions.  But in my fantasy, I’m also okay with who I am, how I was born, how my body has developed.

I’m in a car with a bunch of friends.  And friends of friends.  Not all of them are people I know well, but probably people I’ll see again.  And there’s an argument of the sexes going on, as often is the case with people around my age, trying to get a leg up on the other.  A guy tries to win the argument of who has a harder job getting ready in the morning by saying, “Until you know what it’s like to have to shave every morning, you know nothing about hard work!”  (And yes, I’ve seen this argument in action before.  It has been used, heh.)  I say, a little bit smug, “Well since I do know what it’s like, I think I win.”  And when the raised eyebrows fly my way, I shrug comfortably and say, “What?  I have a beard.  So?”

...I guess, to me, being “okay” with being hirsute means talking about it.  (It may not be so for everyone, and that’s fine.  That’s awesome, in fact.  I remember when being “okay” with it meant I didn’t wake up, look in the mirror and want to cry.  Each step leads to another.)  Not all the time, just when it would be natural to bring it up in conversation if there were nothing “wrong” with it.  Talking about it as I would talk about my freckles; they’re there, they can’t be controlled, and even if some days I don’t like them, they’re nothing to be ashamed of

I imagine it being common knowledge amongst my acquaintances that yep, I have a beard.  And it ain’t no thang.  So common that it’s as boring, as old news, as when I cut my bum-length hair to my shoulders.  It shocked people at first, but now they have trouble even remembering it happened.  Maybe once in a while they might think of it, be reminded of it in idle conversation, but it’s hardly a topic to ponder on.  Or judge on.  Or act on. 

It’s just little old me.  Just a girl who shaves her face.  But dang does she ever make good cupcakes!




You know, as I'm formatting this for posting, it occurs to me to wonder something.

If I'm fantasizing, why am I not just fantasizing about not having hirsutism?

What do you suppose that means?  ;-)

December 13, 2011

The Jeremy Kyle Show - Woman with a Beard

The Jeremy Kyle Show - Woman with a Beard:





Rather simplistic when it comes to dishing out solutions, but I love that this woman appeared on TV. She's so dignified and calm and I want to hug her!

Thanks once again for finding this, Soph!



Also, this week on the All Kinds of Fur tumblr (always potentially NSFW) we're celebrating armpit hair with two photo posts a day.  Yay!  (Most of them are celebrity photos, as it's hard to find non-fetishized pictures of everyday girls and women comfortably displaying their fur.)

December 6, 2011

Product: KoS Azor System Razor

King of Shaves has never steered me wrong with anything of theirs I’ve tried so far: shaving oils, shaving gels, new shaving gels...  And their razor kept receiving awards so when I saw it on sale (as they were discontinuing the white model), I figured, worth a shot.  I’d never tried a men’s razor before; all the popular ones (and their replacement blades) were all so expensive.  And what’s more, I’d learned that the only real difference between a woman’s razor and a man’s was the angle of the head and/or the shape of the handle.  Shaving your face versus shaving your legs and armpits requires a different grip on the razor.  I’d become accustomed to shaving my face with disposable women’s razors anyway.

The first time I used it, I was amazed I'd only nicked myself once.  The angle was weird to me, and the Azor’s particularly bendy head was awkward because I wasn’t used to it.  But it was a nice result from four lovely, sharp blades.  Every razor’s first shave is usually nice.  Since April, I got through the learning curve, and I've finally gone through my first set of three cartridges.  I just ordered more

King of Shaves Azor System Razor

Features:

  • Four "Endurium" coated blades
  • Hinged razor head which they call their "Bendology Technology"
  • Large rubber bumper to lift stubble
  • Wishbone-shaped head
  • Ergonomic handle (light-weight or heavier version available)
  • Eco-friendly packaging

Things I liked:
  • The blades really last!  Whatever this “Endurium” stuff is, and yeah it sounds a bit like something they’d infuse Wolverine’s bones with, but I think it works.  I can go almost three months without replacing the cartridge--this is just using it on my face and armpits.
  • You can’t argue the price point.  At under $8 CAD for your first handle and the same price for 4 replacement cartridges (you get an even better deal if you buy 8), even with International shipping it’s cheaper than going into your local drugstore and picking up the leading men’s razor.  And as it lasts longer than my usual pack of disposable ladies razors, it ends up being cheaper than that too.
  • Because I go through less product, I feel I’m producing less waste.  Always a good thing.
    Things I didn't like:
    •  It is definitely a learning curve to switch to this, particularly from what I using before.
    • The “Bendology Technology” is a little soft for me.  It’s great if you’re a man as it provides just the right pressure for a close shave without irritation.  But as a woman who feels she simply cannot have any trace of shadow, I have to prop a couple of fingers against the cartridge when shaving around my chin for extra pressure.  I realize it's not proper but it's a necessity.  
    • Four blades makes for a flat but rather broad razor head.  A little more difficult to use on the curves of my girly little chin.

    Did it do what it promised?
    For a guy, it probably does shave better because it bends.  As a girl, that’s probably true in some areas of the body, but I’ve gotta press hard on my chin.  I don’t find any advantage of the large soft rubber bumper as regards to preventing cuts, but then I nick myself out of carelessness, regardless what kind of blade I’m using.  The blades last long, as advertised, and I have to agree it is certainly eco-friendly in design with minimal packaging.  I like it enough to keep using it, simply for the long-lasting blades.  Face shaving isn't ever going to be 100% comfortable, particularly for a woman, is it?
     

    See what other people thought of the Azor system razor:

    Amazon.com
    Skin Care for Men
    Review Centre
    dooyoo.co.uk

    November 29, 2011

    Hair in History: North-Western Europe

    This post came entirely as an extension of my research on the Bronze and Iron Age in Europe.

    It appears to be that the best sources on north-western Europe and Scandinavia were observations recorded by the Romans as they tried to push the boundaries of their frontiers.  We haven’t covered body hair in the Roman Empire yet, but suffice to say, the face of the average Roman in his prime was clean-shaven.  So the full, striking beards of the Celts (various groups from the British Isles) and Vikings (from Scandinavia) made an impact.

    One source shows that Julius Caesar wrote about the “Britons” (apparently all Celts, though this may not be accurate) that they kept long hair and had "every part of their body shaved except their head and upper lip.”  According to some sources, beards and/or mustaches could be braided, and others claim the Celts in particular used lime to bleach their beards and head hair.  It is speculated that this was for intimidation on the battlefield, but whether it was or not, it sounds like it was a fearsome sight to the Romans. 

    There is also suggestion that Vikings and Celts attached abundant body hair to higher status.  A Roman historian, Diodorus Siculus, observed that some shaved their faces completely, but higher ranks left "a mustache that covers the whole mouth.”  The masculine instinct that head and body hair connotes virility, perhaps?

    I wanted to dig a little further into north-western European aesthetics and found a bit more information spanning 8th to the 13th century, primarily for Viking culture.  For example, according to some who have looked at Viking literature, physical attractiveness was directly related to a fictional or historical person’s rank and/or moral character.  They would often be named for their physical characteristics, as well, particularly if they were unattractive or antagonistic in some way.  Even being dirty was a negative characterization. 

    This might be surprising, based on what we've seen in movies, but Vikings were apparently very neat and tidy.  A law book from Iceland contains severe punishment for someone who pushed a man into dirty water, urine, food, or otherwise made him dirty on purpose.  Tools for grooming (pictured) have been found in both male and female graves.  I read that said other groups knew to attack Nordic invaders during their hot-spring bath time.  A Viking treaty was found demanding that they be provided not only food and supplies, but baths as well.  According to a couple of sources, the women of an invaded country supposedly found Vikings attractive because they were better groomed than their own men.  It was a woman’s job to wash and cut her man’s hair, particularly as part of a ritual before he left on a campaign. 

    Men who couldn’t grow a beard were mocked.  It was apparently a huge insult to accuse a man of having feminine characteristics.  There was one ancient narrative examined online about a man who was wealthy with a family, but he could not grow a beard.  Someone suggested he spread fertilizer on his chin, and his children came to be known as “Little Dung-beards.”  Another character in the story made a poem to that effect, and one of the beardless man's children murdered him for it.  The Vikings were certainly into "manliness" as well as cleanliness.

    By contrast, a law book was found forbidding women from having masculine traits such as wearing their hair short.  Some tribes may have cut the hair of their slave women.  There is a Norse myth that Loki once cut off Sif’s hair as a prank, and Thor told Loki to either replace her hair or be killed.   The most attractive parts of a woman were her eyes, hair, and arms; much else was covered.  And considering how infants born with a deformity were thought of as not human and therefore abandoned, it makes you wonder how a hirsute woman might have survived in that culture?  At least they did have razors so they could have shaved...

    November 17, 2011

    Pondering My Goals

    Ugh, guys, the aliens are back.  The cystic ingrown hairs are making a cozy home out of my chin, the malicious little lifeforms.  Every two weeks it cycles.  I'm starting to wonder, is this a new aspect to shaving my face (which I've been doing for years) that I'm just going to have to live with?

    But that's not the topic of this post.  I've been thinking a lot about hiding the hirsutism we're born with versus wearing it proudly.  There are women who do this, even for a brief time, and I am so in awe of them.  I would feel so intimidated to meet one of them, even though we're living with exactly the same thing.  I view this courage in defiance of social norms as something so far above what I'm capable of.

    And then I start feeling ashamed that I hide my body hair.  And even though it's not right for us to feel ugly or worthless because we don't look the way we're "supposed to look", it's not right to feel there is a "proper way" to deal with it either.

    The thing is, what are people thinking about women who openly wear their beards?  Even as they challenge the world's boring notions of beauty, they're still subject to certain connotations.  These connotations are sometimes positive to people, not just negative. But even the positive connotations are not me.  I don't like to bring that much attention to myself, either by being bearded or anything else. 


    The beard is not who I am, in a negative way.  It is also not who I am in a positive way, if that makes sense.

    To put it another way, the perceived offensiveness is not who I am.  But perceived bravery and defiance is not who I am, either. 

    I sometimes ask myself, "What am I trying to do here?"  Do I hope to be part of a movement to make women with beards acceptable to all people?  Is it so we can wear our beards unashamed?

    The answer is no.

    I want people to stop judging based on appearance.  I want them to stop thinking women with beards are ill, or crazy, or in any way less deserving than other people. 

    And that's a tall order, so I also want all the girls with beards to stop hating themselves and obsess over what the media tells them is wrong with them.  I want them to start investing in themselves and feel comfortable being who they are.

    So there we are.

    Today there's a picture of my chin as it existed before my first endocrinology appointment on my tumblr.  Remember, some of the other images on there may not be appropriate for minors.  Not that I reblog nudity to be provocative.  I reblog it to be honest.  ;)

    November 8, 2011

    Beautiful Girl with a Beard

    Ugh, what a week for me, so it's video week for you guys!  This one's an interview with a woman with a beard by columnist and comedian Shazia Mirza.  If I find her BBC documentary F*** Off, I'm a Hairy Woman in full, I'll share that one of these days, as well.





    Thank you for finding this, Soph!

    November 1, 2011

    Guest Post: Carly of The Pink Razor Project

    This week's post comes from Carly of The Pink Razor Project, which is rapidly gaining momentum and if you haven't checked it out already, what are you waiting for?

    Carly responded to the optional prompt: "Do you think hirsutism is something women should be hiding?"


    First, I want to thank Allerleirah for the opportunity to post on what I think is such an important topic!  Hers is a great blog, and I'm excited that it's around :-)

    Talking openly about my, or your, facial hair or body hair is such a personal choice... It's difficult for me to definitively say whether or not it's right for someone else to talk about it or reveal it or whatever.  Who can tell someone else what's right for them?

    But...

    If I'm really honest...

    I do NOT think hirsutism is something women *should* be hiding.

    However, keep in mind that I shave my own facial hair.  I have a lot of mixed feelings about it.  On one hand, I think that for me, if I grew out my hair, it would be tough for people to swallow.  I think I would end up having to explain myself a lot, and I just... don't want to have to do that. 

    It doesn't feel fair.

    But then, on the other hand, there's a part of me that wants to be a pioneer.  To educate.  To break barriers and make it safer for other women like me to be open about it.  And that part of me feels ashamed about the first part.

    I was diagnosed with PCOS when I was 13, and since then, I have been trying to come to terms with my hair.  For the first 10-ish years, I was only mortified.  I just wanted it to go away.  There were so many mornings in the shower (where I shave, because the steam makes it easier for me and less likely that razor burn will develop) when I found myself in complete despair, thinking, "What did I do to deserve this?  Why am I being punished?"  I swung between thinking those sorts of thoughts, and trying not to think about it at all.  My long-term high school boyfriend had NO idea about it.  And people I've told about it since, who have known me for a long time, also had no idea.  I lived in constant fear that someone would see - would find me out - and so I became extremely good at hiding it.  Trust me, I have done probably everything you can think of, including expensive procedures, to get rid of my hair.

    Toward the end of college, and I'm not sure exactly why, I got tired.  Tired of hiding.  Tired of not feeling authentic.  I felt like I had learned so much about myself, about the world, about others from the hair, and I had no outlet for those lessons.

    So, slowly, I started telling people I trusted.  Luckily, I have wonderful friends who are supportive and have been very positive about it all.

    It was a coming-out process of sorts for me.  I told more and more people.  Not everyone, but people I thought would take it well.  It was around that time that I had the idea for a documentary about the daily lives of women with facial hair.  We're really quite normal (whatever that means), with the added special quality of more hair.  The idea came out of wishing that there was something like that that *I* could watch, and my fascination with peoples' reactions to it.

    A friend suggested doing a photo project together as a beginning.  That was a fantastic, intense experience for me, mostly because she photographed me shaving (in the sink, not the shower!).  That remains the only time another person has watched me do it.  It's such a personal thing, and it was cathartic for another person to witness it.  And not just witness it, but get it on film.  And not only that, but react positively.

    Shortly after that, I went to graduate school in another state, and I told more and more people about it.  I went to school at kind of a crunchy east-coast place, and it wasn't hard to find supportive people who were appropriately interested.

    I find that I feel so much better when people know.  I feel like I can relax a little more.  Be more myself.  The more I tell others, the easier it gets.  And the thing I keep repeating over and over in my head to feel ok about it?  "It's just hair.  It's just hair."

    I don't think women should have to hide it, because I don't believe anyone should have to hide ANYTHING about themselves.  What's the point?  Don't we owe it to ourselves to be authentic?  What favors are we doing by hiding?  Ideally, we should feel like we have the choice of whether to remove it or not.  And if some days, we feel like not removing, we should be able to feel just as confident as on the days we do.

    Wouldn't that be awesome?



    Carly recently posted some of her personal story on her own blog, which are an enjoyable read as well:  Some History, or My Journey to Beardiness, Part I and Reflecting, or My Journey to Beardiness, Part 2.

    October 27, 2011

    Living with a Pharmacy-Tech-To-Be

    A month ago, I talked about how my step-sister hinted at wanting to know what my prescriptions were for her classes.  I didn't tell her.  I knew she knew what Spiro is, as a diuretic, because it's on her whiteboard.  She might not be so aware of the off-label usage--yet.

    The other day was a great day.  It was one of those days where you are full of energy and get a lot accomplished, feel really good about yourself, and treat yourself to something special (for me that would be a Filet O' Fish from McDonald's).  I was buzzing around the house, chipper as anything.  Across the room, my step-sister is studying.  Out of nowhere, her voice carries from the family room to the kitchen: "What diuretic do you take?"

    I hesitated for half a second between the sink and the refrigerator.  It's hard to avoid a direct question.  But as I began to wonder how to squirm my way out of answering, I realized I was not terribly bothered.  And so, barely missing a beat, I called back, "Spironolactone."

    "I know that one!" she exclaimed with triumph.

    "I know you know," I laughed.  "I've seen it on your w--"

    "--Whiteboard, yeah."

    I came back to the family room and we sat in companionable silence.  I wasn't troubled at all.

    I have to wonder, really, if the step-family hasn't noticed after all.  I do walk around with a days' worth of stubble now and then, and although I figured safe to assume most people are not all that observant (I know I'm not), perhaps it's not something worth betting on.  When I was taking one of my days off shaving and was wandering around the house in my pajamas, my step-dad warned me one of his friends was over and had just stepped out to get something from his car.  I wasn't wearing immodest pajamas (I'm a big fan of flannel, and it's gotten quite cold here) so I did wonder for a split second if he meant something else.

    Maybe I'll never know.  But eventually, they'll probably figure it out if they haven't done so already.  Maybe by then, I'll be totally okay with it.  And so I'm not going to rush it.  But I sure am not hiding it like I used to.

    October 24, 2011

    Al Returns

    I am back from my travels.  I had a wonderful time.  Traveling by yourself is an amazing and challenging experience, and I learned a lot about myself--in particular that I prefer to travel with family so that memories can be shared in person.  That's just who I am.

    During and since, I've been ill off and on with what feels like a bad cold.  The weird thing is, before the symptoms start, I begin to get really bad ingrown hairs on my chin.  If you've ever had cystic acne, it's been bad like that--such deep infections that it actually misshapes my chin.  I think my immune system is just run down from travel stress, work stress, and family stress, like all human beings. 

    It has especially sucked to have while traveling, as I'm on a tight schedule and have no choice but to go out every day.  And so, I had to shave.  I had to shave over these bulging, throbbing sore spots over and over, shearing off scabs so that it was impossible for them to heal (and impossible to cover over with make-up).  When I got home, I had to work immediately the next day, but after that I took off two days to help my skin.  The cold subsided, I began to heal, but then it started up all over again in a week or so.

    So my current status is that I'm sick, sore, and feeling ugly.  But I know it's temporary, and that nothing can reverse this but time--and perhaps getting back to eating healthy.  And for now, at least my dog still loves me.

    I see I've got lots of mail and comments to catch up on!  Thank you all so much!  Those of you who've checked out the new All Kinds of Fur tumblr, what do you think?  Relevant to your interests?  Have a great week!  (I'm going back to bed.)

    October 15, 2011

    We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Programming...

    ...for an important breast cancer PSA... along with some eye candy and a good ol' giggle.


    October 11, 2011

    Russel Peters Talks About His Body Hair

    Comedian Russel Peters on the media, self esteem, and body hair (given it's men with body hair, but I love body hair comedy bits!)




    He does say the word "penis" a few times, so if the easily offended are around, turn your volume down. ;)

    October 4, 2011

    Hair in History: Bronze and Iron Age Europe

    I started looking at Bronze and Iron Age Europe for information on societal mores in respect to shaving and aesthetics ages ago--likely years.  I had been to an exhibit on bog mummies years before that, and it fascinated me.  One of the reasons was because the mummies were so well preserved you could find their beauty kits with them, and see their chin stubble and tell if their hands were manicured.  However, the more I looked into Bronze Age shaving, the less I found, beyond pictures of artifacts showing these cultures did engage in some forms of hair removal.  This frustrated me, so I left off researching for some time.

    And then I started looking at these Northern European cultures beyond the Bronze Age, and found a little more to go on.  Enough for a blog post, finally.  As always, much of this information is taken from the Internet, and I can’t vouch for its authenticity.  All I can do is try to get a sense of what is a legitimate research paper by someone of authority, and what has just been copied and pasted from hobby website to hobby website, and little more than hearsay.

    When it comes to the earliest societies like those of the Bronze Age (3200-600 BC in Europe), sources seem inclined to say that people were not concerned with vanity, as they did not have mirrors to really preen in front of.  It’s certainly intriguing to think of a time when people were not concerned with aesthetics, but even though aesthetics as a set of clear principles was said to originate in Greece (700-300 BC; see this post), it’s hard to believe people weren’t judging each other based on appearances before that time.  Perhaps, though, body hair was not considered a changeable area of one’s appearance.

    Still, we have tweezers and scraping utensils dating back to the Bronze Age (pictured), so obviously there was some plucking and shaving going on.  Try as I might, I could find no information on why.

    Moving on to the Iron Age in Europe (1200 BC-400 AD), when most bog mummies are found to have lived, we have apparent evidence of shaving, hair gel and manicures.  Because these bodies are believed to be either victims of a ritual sacrifice or a criminal execution, they are usually found naked or partially clothed and usually without any utensils, there is only forensic evidence to go by.

    The Tollund Man (pictured) for instance, was found with about 1 mm of stubble on his chin, which they suggest meant he did not shave on the day of his death.  (I’d love to find more information on how they draw this conclusion, as the skin normally does tighten after death, forcing hair under the skin through the hair follicles so it appears to be still growing.  Maybe being buried in a bag counteracts this?)  Of course, the question remains, why was he shaved at all?  Was it normal for him, or part of the ritual?

    Some of the bodies have been found with half their head shaved, like the Yde Girl and Windeby I, but it has also been suggested that one side of their heads may have been exposed to oxygen longer than the other while in the bog.

    Now, two of the most interesting bog mummies to me are the Clonycavan Man and the Old Croghan Man, which according to National Geographic were found at the same time, 40 km apart, and dated around the same time as well.  Both were assumed to be of high status.  The Old Croghan Man’s hands indicated no manual labor in his lifetime, and are said to be manicured.  The Clonycavan Man’s hair was discovered in a mohawk-like style, and evidently held there by the aid of hair gel made from plan oil and pine resin from France or Spain.  So not only was it hair gel, but it was imported hair gel, and probably expensive.  Some also guess that he wore his hair that way to compensate for being shorter in stature.

    And that’s really all the relevant information I could find for aesthetics in this era.  However, as the Romans begin to encounter the tribes of Western and Northern Europe, we get to see some actual recordings of what they looked like and how they lived, as well as writings from such cultures themselves.  I’ve found more about ancient Scandinavia than the British Isles, so you can look forward to some information on Vikings!

    September 27, 2011

    All Kinds of Fur - The Tumblr!

    I'm excited to announce a new feature to my online presence as "Allerleirah," a companion Tumblr to collect images of bearded ladies, female beauty, quotes about self esteem, and the odd post by others who complain of their hirsutism on their own Tumblr's.

    You may well ask, "Al, why not just post what you find here on your blog?"  It's a fair question, and an idea I've turned around and around in my mind.  My answer is twofold: firstly, it's easier.  Tumblr is such an effortless way to collect this kind of thing into one place. 

    The second reason is the more important concern I had about keeping this blog around PG-13ish.  Sure, I discuss ladies' problems, talk about various parts of the body, and post the odd video that deals with such.  But there are inspiring things out there that are a little more... Not Safe For Work, that I still feel are worth sharing.  Now, I know the reality is that even those of you who are underage have probably seen stuff even more explicit, but I prefer to give the choice.  I will leave it to each girl's sensibilities as to what they'd like to see, regardless of age. 

    So my Tumblr is going to be a place for more mature content, which you can consume or ignore as you will.  And keeping in mind those of you who voted for more posts, hopefully this will appease you somewhat.  As it's easy to find content, as it's mostly created by others and waiting for me to find, it will likely be updated often, and I may schedule posts so that there's something new as frequently as every day.  I hope you enjoy it!

    Now, I'm off on a couple of trips so I especially won't be around to approve comments or apply to emails in the next couple of weeks.  However, also keeping in mind those votes for more posts, I've got a couple of things lined up to be posted automatically in my absence.  I'll see you all soon!

    Stay positive!

    September 26, 2011

    Yet Another Small Triumph

    Ladies.

    I am packing for my trip.

    And I realized.

    I can pack any dang shirt I want.

    This is pretty wonderful.  Until now, when I've packed a suitcase, it's always a well-agonized plan of how often my chest will react kindly to being shaved during the length of the trip.  I tend to assume that I will shave the first morning at destination, then give my chest a day off, shave again the third morning, and so on, giving myself an extra high-collared shirt or two just in case I break out in an angry rash from too much hair removal.

    Now that I'm not shaving my chest thanks to the Spiro, only plucking any dark hairs I see, I don't have to worry about that.  I can pack all pretty shirts if I want to!  Not that I ever hope to be bathing-suit worthy, but this small improvement is a huge boon.  I'm so excited!

    September 23, 2011

    Outed by a Curriculum?

    Readers who have been around for a while may remember that I came to live in a blended family in my very late teens.  By then, I was reaching my peak of hirsute awesomeness, and not about to let these virtual strangers in on my secret.  I didn't know if I could trust them, and thank goodness, because one of them could certainly not be trusted.  After she moved out, however, there was still some concern about what would happen if I let people in on this oh-so-embarrassing part of me.

    And it hasn't been easy to hide it.  The odd places I keep razors outside of the shower, the plethora of shaving mediums under the sink, the doctors visits, the very obvious prescription refill runs...  Maybe that only seems obvious to those of us who know what the clues add up to, but I still worry and keep things to myself.

    My step-sister started her accelerated course in pharmacy tech, and the stuff she tells me she's learning is so fascinating.  There's a lot of memorization, and she's working hard using many different techniques to make all the drug names stick in her head.  The other day,  I walked past the whiteboard she's using, and my eyes were drawn to something written there.  The very familiar word "spironolactone."  I am so used to seeing that word now that I almost didn't stop to think about it.

    But I glanced up and down the whiteboard, trying to get the context around this unprecedented appearance of my magic-pill-for-hairiness.  She was listing diuretics.  Of course.  The on-label use for the medication.  Not likely she'd be studying the non-FDA-approved uses just yet... right?

    Also of interest was last, when the two of us were chatting with some friends, and everyone was coming up with humorous ways to help her study.  And she gestured at me and said, completely casually, "Maybe it'd help if she told me what medications she was taking..."

    Over the years, I've worried less and less about what my cohabitants know about me.  But I'm so used to hiding it I do it now by reflex.  I'm still scared of what might happen if they know.  But that's another entry.  For now, I just thought it was pretty comical that she might clue in through such a totally independent means.

    Now, I know I've got some comments and emails and notifications waiting for me, but I'm trying to stave off a migraine so I'll have to get to those later.  Thanks for your patience!

    September 13, 2011

    Guest Comment: From J

    Incidentally, I have a comment from dear reader J that I've been meaning to share for months, as it communicates so perfectly what I would have loved to say in that post.  I asked her if I could share it, because those who don't read the comments all the time would be missing out on how well she articulates the frustration and despair of trying to hide hirsutism day after day after day.  It gives us all a chance to see what a guest blogger post might look like, too.

    Thank you, J!


    I wish I could bottle up the emotion and psychological heartbreak of those kind of moments into a jar so other people could sample what it really feels like for us at times.

    The one's like you described where no matter how hard you work or creative you get there is like no possible way to leave the safety (and confinement) of your home without feeling like the "elephant in the room" everywhere you go, like you're on display, and disgusting.

    And how it feels to feel no choice but to cancel plans and disappoint the people we care about most, and then to have them upset and not understand why, to have them think we are being antisocial, or lazy, or straight up superior and rude... because they cannot know the reason and feelings behind our choice to withdraw ourselves. When in reality we would love nothing more than to be with the one's we love, uninhibited and whole and bright and shiny :p Isolation in your physical circumstance is one thing, but repression in and negative portrayal of who you are inside... That's an aweful feeling in itself.

    How about the one's where you groom and primp and paint and finally reach "normality", but are so drained after the process that you cry and ruin it all, or simply misplace your identity, feeling fake or vulnerable, or so insecure, not knowing how to proceed with the day.

    There's the one's where you are invited to a stellar event or a once in a lifetime opportunity, and you get so excited!! But it lasts for only a second, before it hits you... these types of things are not for me... they are for normal people, the lucky ones, the old me, the me that one day will be... but not now, not this thing I am now... these are not meant for me.

    But like a cycle, like you did then, with the frustration and the tears, and tea and the dog. We accept it, experience it, we get through the pain, we pull it together, and "just... go on with life."

    Just a few of the types of feelings we have the joy of living with.


    Read the original comment here.

    September 8, 2011

    Call for Guest Bloggers

    I know I’m not the only bearded lady who has something to say about the subject of hirsutism.  There are as many different ways to deal with it as there are women who have it, so after four years of listening to only me, I’d like to officially invite others to share their thoughts.

    You don't have to have your own blog or online presence, and you don't have to reveal your identity.  An interchange of expressions about excess body hair is a beautiful thing, and I'm hoping we won't have to dig through forum upon forum to find it.  I'd love to have a little of that right here, and that's why I need you.


    Guidelines for Submission

    Please stay on topic.
      This blog is about living with hirsutism.  You can be angry, funny, educational, but don't forget why we're here.  Personally, I deviate as far as body hair removal in general and certain women’s problems, but let’s not get too far off track!

    About prompts: they are only suggestions to help get you started.  I will keep them up for a month as a springboard for guest blogger posts, but if you have something else you want to talk about, I’ll be thrilled!  And if, down the road, you find you do want to talk about the subject I used in the prompt, you can submit your writing then.  Even if it’s been covered, your angle is unique.  Don’t be afraid to share!  (UPDATE:  I ceased doing prompts after a year.  Now it's up to you to find what moves you to speak out!)

    You can submit as many times as you want!  You don’t have to worry about compiling all your thoughts about hirsutism into a great big essay.  You can pick a particular topic, challenge, success, treatment, or experience to focus on, and submit again later when you have something else you want to talk about.

    Please proof read your submission.  Typos happen, and goodness knows I've made my share!  But attention to technical detail both shows and commands respect.  I‘d rather spend my time working on new posts and replying to all your wonderful comments, rather than correcting spelling and grammar in guest blog entries at the risk of altering your personal style.  In the same vein, don’t feel you have to be a narrative genius to submit something!  I am looking for open and honest expressions above all else.

    There are no length restrictions.  My posts can be fairly long sometimes, but you don’t have to do what I do!  Of course, if you have a lot to say, I won’t drop a word count cap on you.  I may split your submission up into several posts, but I’ll ask you first.

    Please avoid offensive language.  I know hirsutism can bring out a lot of passion and anger, but I’d like to keep this blog relatively safe for all ages (as safe as a blog that discusses women’s problems can be!)

    I reserve the right to refuse to post any submission.  I don’t anticipate having to do so, but for the same reason I approve all comments before they appear, I wish to keep destructive thoughts far from here.  My blog is a place not only for encouragement but also showing the ups and downs of living with hirsutism, however I will ignore crude and hateful messages and owe such people no explanations as to why their words have no place here.

    Be sure to include your name or preferred alias, and if you wish to have the entry linked to your own site, don’t forget to add that as well!

    Email submissions to: allerleirah@gmail.com

    September 7, 2011

    A Little Ovary Update

    It’s the way it always goes; I was out running errands when the endocrinologist’s office called, and got their message that my results were in about five minutes after the office had closed for the weekend.  And, of course, it was a long weekend, with a lovely statutory holiday right at the end of it.  So I tried not to think about my nervousness after the ultrasound, and waited until Tuesday morning to call them, just before work. 

    The receptionist just looked at my file and told me right there that the cyst was there, and it was stable.  Using my background in health insurance, I take that to mean it hasn’t grown or shrunk, which I suppose is good.  I would have much preferred to hear it was gone, and that the black spot I kept seeing on the ultrasound was just an ovary, but... (shrug) oh well.

    I felt weird asking questions about my scan of the receptionist, but when she said that the cyst needed no further follow-up, I asked if that meant I would not be referred to an OBGYN.  It didn’t say anything on my file, so she said she’d check and get back to me.  I don’t necessarily want to go to an OBGYN, but when I first found out about the cyst and asked questions of the endo (questions I can’t even remember at this point) she said she was not in the best field to respond to them.  I’d at least like to hear from an OBGYN what I have to watch for to make sure this cyst doesn’t cause serious problems, or how to catch such problems in time.

    Hearing from the doctor always beings that stupid ovary to the front of my mind.  It gets me all emotional, and it was bad enough that this past weekend was the second anniversary of an attempted suicide in my family.  I’d succeeded in not thinking about it up until I heard about another attempted suicide that had happened that very weekend.  So I was a little “off” yesterday.  I haven’t had any really bad mood swings on Diane-35, but I do get the odd day like this, where things affect me more than they would on the average day.

    I got a call today from the endo's office (and thankfully I was home to catch it), and found out I am being referred after all.  I don't expect to actually be given an appointment date for a while yet, that's how referrals to specialists go.  But that's good too; means it's not an emergency, right?

    And that’s my update.  Official “rules” for guest blogging will go up tomorrow!  :)

    September 3, 2011

    Happy Anniversary!

    Four years ago today, I posted my first entry on this blog.  I was 22, and at the time, I had no idea why I had excess body hair.  My previous family doctor and the dermatologist he'd sent me to had both been discouraging.  I'd spent far too much money on laser hair removal with no knowledge of what was really going on inside by body, and had seen little results.  I'd done very little research myself up until my blog, terrified that the hair indicated something seriously wrong with me.  I felt ashamed to even type it into the search box.  Trying to read about it was depressing.  I was in a state of defeat.

    And yet, I wasn't.  I was still going on, shaving every day, hiding behind long hair, high collars, thick tights.  I wept and moped but I hadn't stopped.  I wished there was somewhere that I could go to find people who were going through the same thing... and not just a one-off forum post somewhere out there in the ether that detailed the emotional and sometimes physical suffering and then gave no evidence of how the poster coped with it every day, but proof of someone who really did live with excess hair every day.  How did people do that? I wanted to know.  How many were there?  Where were they?  Why weren't they talking?

    I had been thinking of finding a way to rant anonymously about the challenges of living with hirsutism for a long time.  I was timid and taciturn but I needed an outlet.  I didn't know where to do it.  And eventually, I decided if I couldn't find anywhere to read the things I wanted to read, or post the things I wanted to post, well, I'd have to create place and populate it all myself.  So I created a Blogger account and here we are.

    Since that first post I've finally had the tests to put my mind at ease.  I'm on a medication that seems to be helping.  I've accepted that there is no cure, and more than that I'm starting to accept myself.  Maybe I don't want to grow out my beard and dare the world to disapprove, but when I shave in the morning (now with a regimen more kindly to my face) I am not trampled by demoralizing feelings about myself.  Some of that was probably just time and age.  Some was research, and talking it out.  And some was meeting a wealth of inspiring ladies who live with the same condition.

    The progress has been incredible looking back.  But I still had to take it one day at a time.  I'll still have to.  I have my days when I crack under the strain of being hirsute.  So for those who are not there yet, hang in there.  Don't give up.  It will come, as long as you don't cut yourself off from the beauty in life or the love of your family, friends, and fellow fur-dusted maidens.  Personally, I also found much solace in the Bible.  I am so grateful that I got this far, but I certainly didn't do it alone.  This blog wouldn't be any kind of success at all without each and every one of you reading this right now.  Thank you for your support, your opinions, your voice.

    So it's rather fitting that the new addition to this blog, in honor of being four years online, is going to be guest bloggers.  It was one I honestly did not expect to see so much enthusiasm for, and that's just because it used to be so hard to find the personal expressions of bearded women online.  I started to think very few wanted to talk about it, and after they did, they disappeared from the Internet as though they had never existed.  However, nearly half the votes on the poll were in favor of hearing the stories of others.  I think that's awesome, and I'm hoping that those who voted are rabid to express themselves further by compiling their own thoughts on living with hirsutism and sending them in to be posted here.  I can't very well have a guest blogger feature without submissions!

    Maybe some of you have something already written and ready to send!  Until I construct a permanent bulletin in the side menu calling for contributions, you can email your stories to allerleirah@gmail.com.  I'll be posting an entry soon with submission guidelines, but until then let me just say that I reserve the right to choose what appears on these pages, just like I approve all comments before they become public.  I want this to continue to be a safe and upbuilding place for all ages.

    August 31, 2011

    Creatures with Confused Genders

    Did you know there are animals and insects that are half-male, half-female?  I'm not talking about male seahorses that carry their young in a pouch or frogs that can gender mutate.  Here's an article about creatures that have both male cells and female cells in their bodies, and exhibit a "split" of both traits on the outside.


    Meet the gynandromorphs!

    (See pictures!)


    Being a bearded lady I can't help but be interested in this kind of thing, even though it doesn't occur in humans.  Sure, people are born with both sets of gender characteristics to varying degrees, but we can not be born with one side physically female and the other side male, the way birds and insects can.  Fascinating!  (Or am I just a real big nerd?)

    August 25, 2011

    Who Gets the Hairy Roomie?

    Still waiting on those ultrasound results.  Last time it took about three weeks to hear back, so I know it's a little soon to be expecting news.  To be honest, I've had other things on my mind.

    One of those things has been some upcoming travel.  It seems that all my trips this spring and summer will not be for holidays, but that's all right; I like to travel.  My next trip in particular is for work.  They're bringing a random selection of people in my industry in North America down to California for some educational touring.  No complaints there, right?

    Thing is, most people in my industry are women.  And they are generally infamous for being catty, party-crazy, and prone to drinking a lot when they have a good time.  In addition, in order to keep costs down (as usually we don't pay for these trips ourselves) we can be expected to be put two women to a room.  Now, I've heard a lot of roommate horror stories over the years from colleagues who have been on trips like this.  Poor hygiene, thunderous snorers, and those who don't come home at all (so you have to keep your deadbolt off your door all night so they can get in when they want).  And I would probably be horrifying to some, actually, because I like to keep the TV on quite late when I'm in an insecure place.

    But beyond the natural human differences in sleep habits I might have to compromise on, there's also the worry of morning ablutions.  Let's face it; most hotels have their sink on the outside of the washroom.  I know what I have to do, of course, but I don't like to do it: I can shave by feel in the shower if I have to, but it's never as good of a shave as when I can watch my movements in the mirror.  Just the agonizing question of "Which hotel will we be in, and where will the sink be?" is enough to give me a stomachache... never mind what stranger might witness me shaving my face.

    However, I put my hands figuratively on my hips, and told myself quite resolutely that I was not going to give up a free trip because I was scared.  I've waited five years for a perk like this, and I've backed away from plenty of other opportunities because of my extra fur.  Not this time, Al, not this time.

    So I RSVPed with my resounding "Heck yes I'm coming!" ...but I didn't stop worrying.

    Then I got the itinerary, with this news:  Everyone is getting their own room.  

    Practically unheard of!  I cannot believe my fortune.  But it shows that we shouldn't let fear of the unknown rule us.  Not only will you likely not experience the worst case scenario, but sometimes you'll get the best case scenario to boot!

    Next bridge to cross is the bathing suit, as there's a beach on the itinerary...

    August 19, 2011

    Ultrasound; the Sequel

    It is against human instinct to leave the house without going to the bathroom first.  I dislike ultrasounds. 

    I always drink as much as they ask, which is always way more than I have capacity for.  And then I end up being unable to keep it for the two hours before the appointment, and have to start all over again half an hour before leaving, which means my bladder continues to fill up in the waiting room, even though I’m no longer drinking.

    This time when I went, the technician didn’t even ask me to empty my bladder partway, and I know I was as full last time.  I had to lie there in agony, toes cricked and ankles twisting, as she did the sonogram.  And because of that cyst on my ovary, or whatever it is that causes that random severe pain in my lower abdomen, holding it for that long is actually a little painful, especially at the time of the month where I’m somewhat bloated anyway.

    Interestingly, she asked me if I would be all right with a trans-vaginal exam.  (Last time, this wasn’t even offered, though I had gone in expecting one.  Obviously they’d found what they were looking for without one.)  I said this would be all right; after all, I'd carefully groomed myself for close quarters.  But when the technician found out I was not and had never been sexually active she said she couldn’t do it.  I was both puzzled and relieved--I mean, if she needed to look at the back sides of the ovaries to ensure I had no other cysts developing, what would it matter what else had been there?

    She was, of course, puzzled that I was on birth control although not sexually active, and I surprised myself by saying quite matter-of-factly, “Well, I’m hirsute, so it’s part of my treatment for controlling the hair.  I also take aldactone.”  Maybe I was tired, after being wrung-out about the appointment for so long.  When I get emotional and stressed, I become very frank with people.  She just hmmed like this was a perfectly normal answer, which I actually found vastly reassuring.

    When the technician had enough pictures and said I could go to the washroom, I bolted out of there, not even bothering to wipe off the gel.  Then she got me to lie back and began really squishing my abdomen with the transducer.  It wasn’t causing me any pain, but here’s the thing: the monitor on the wall was on, so I could see what she was seeing.  And I’d been having twinges, mere ghosts of that severe pain, all week, radiating from the same spot she kept going over and over, a couple inches under my navel and slightly to the right.  And I could see cross-sections of this dark spot, almost like a hole, as she passed over it again and again, pressing and pushing and trying to get good shots of it.  I was too afraid to ask what it was, because it looked big enough to be an ovary, but... it just didn’t seem to look like one to me.  Was it the cyst?  Did I want to know?

    She took the pictures to the radiologist, and then came back saying she needed more.  In the midst of this, my bladder was filling up again from the water I’d downed half an hour ago.  So I had to go take care of that, come back and let her literally dig around some more.  And I just gazed at this mysterious oblong hole on the sonogram on the wall, horrified but intrigued, and oddly pleased that whatever pain I had been experiencing for years, we were looking at the right spot.

    But now I have to wait until the endocrinologist calls me with the results, to find out just what that black spot was.

    But you think ultrasounds are awkward?  My pharmacy is not too far from the clinic, so I went over to pick up my prescription refills, and as we got into line I was explaining to my mother (who drove me, I would speed like a bat outta hell if I drove myself to an ultrasound on a full bladder) what had happened.  Little did I realize, one of my old friends from high school who I hadn’t seen in eight years was standing right behind me!  She was on her phone, and though she stopped to exchange pleasantries I got no hint that she heard me say “trans-vaginal.”

    August 10, 2011

    Another Small Triumph

    Guys, guys, guys.

    I've been wearing a belt.

    Why is this a big deal?  Well, I stopped wearing belts in high school, when I realized that having that extra bulk at the waistband encouraged t-shirts to ride up, and I was more likely to expose my lush and luxurious treasure trail.  I would try to pluck, bleach, dissolve, and shave it away, and then wear the belt once the foliage had been culled, but eventually I just gave up and hung all my belts at the end of the closet. 

    They've been hanging there for years.  I have one, sugar-pink leather, that I never really had much opportunity to wear.  I bought it at a leather store's closing sale, and the only reason I bought it was because my best friend at the time had been lusting after a red one.  She was very recently feeling low, so I was putting together a care package for her, with books, an oil diffuser, lip gloss... you know, all the things a teenager could want.  As the sale was two-for-one, I got her the red one she wanted, and myself the pink one.  I always thought of her when I thought of wearing it.  And I just could never feel confident enough to wear it.

    The other day, I was feeling colorful in the nice weather, and thought of adding that extra splash of brightness via a cinch at the hips.  So I pulled out this neglected belt and slipped it through belt loops I had never used except to yank my jeans up over my hips.  I realized it didn't matter if my shirt rode up that day.  Because the treasure trail was blond, barely noticeable.  Maybe the belt was out of style, but I wore it with pride.

    August 5, 2011

    Beauty: The Human Face

    BBC Series on Beauty - The Human Face (with John Cleese!)  It's a rather light-hearted, slightly irreverent look at what makes a face beautiful.  I found it totally fascinating (and twisted).

    Watch it here to automatically be directed to each part when the last one finishes.













    Oh my goodness, when they start measuring faces it reminds me of examining cattle or horses for purchase for stud.  *lol*

    Thanks, Soph, for sending this to me!

    July 29, 2011

    A Secret Bursting to Escape

    Today was my day off, so I was up early this morning, volunteering with some girls from church.  Five of us, varying in age from 14 to 30, found ourselves waiting in a van and making small talk.  And it was girl talk.  Breast self-exams, when we got our first period, the craziest thing we ever did with our friends.  In fact, I don't think I've ever had such a quintessentially female conversation in my life.

    The subject swerved towards beards.  The younger girls voiced no opinion about the degree of facial hair they preferred on men, but some of the older ones knew what they liked and weren't afraid to share.  Goatees, soul patches, mustaches... and then one of them said, "Do you think it's hard for guys to shave their beard every day?  I can't imagine what it's like, it must be such a pain."

    Another gal said, "I think they should wax, so it grows back slower.  Can you wax your face?"

    "I don't think so, the skin is different on your face than your body.  But can you imagine?  I hate shaving my legs--I'll only shave my legs once a week!  And armpits?  My husband gets so irritated, he hates doing it everyday.  He wants to save up for laser hair removal."

    This goes on for several minutes, while I sit in the back, biting my tongue.  Yes, I can imagine, very well.  Yes, you can wax your face.  And no, being hairy like me is the worst.

    It felt like a safe place to say so, which made it more difficult.  I trusted most of these girls.  But I can't get past the idea that every time I'm in the same room with them, they'll be looking at me and thinking about me having a gorilla hide under my clothes.

    "Guys have it so easy," one lamented.  "They can get away with hair all over.  But being dark-haired and fair-skinned like me is the worst, the hair is so dark on your arms and legs...  The only time off we get is camping."  She looked right at me, as if expecting me to agree.

    "How do you mean?" I asked cautiously.

    "Well, you have no choice but let it grow, right?  No baths or showers..."

    I shrugged weakly, turning it into a joke.  "That's probably why I don't go camping!"

    I really do wonder how they would have reacted if I'd told them.  It would certainly be sensational for a few moments.  (This girl has a beard!  A beard!)  They might be a bit curious, ask some questions.  But after that... I'd never know when they'd be thinking about it, what their opinion of me would now be.  Because they'd probably be too polite to say.

    We expend so much effort worrying about what other people think.  It makes me tired sometimes!   Especially when I can feel the words building up in my throat, wanting to come out, as if it would relieve some huge burden on my shoulders.  I can actually taste the admission sometimes, thick and hard to swallow back down again.  The thoughts are so loud I wonder if anyone heard them.  And then I try to relax, assuring myself my secret is still safe, and I have total control over who knows, and who will remain blissfully ignorant of what's under my make-up and my clothes.


    ...Speaking of what's under one's make-up and clothes, I found this to be wonderfully honest:  http://amarilloo.tumblr.com/post/8151302946/appearance

    July 20, 2011

    What's Happening to My Beard?

    I've come down with a flu (again!) so I haven't been at work.  In fact, I haven't been out at all, except into the yard to soak up a little sunshine and supervise the dog as he explores.  So that means that I haven't been shaving my face.

    Well, I say I haven't been shaving, but what I mean is that usually around dinnertime when the family gets together, I'll quickly scrape in the direction of the hair growth with my razor.  This basically only "trims" my stubble, but it causes less stress on the skin.  You can still see the dark shadow, and if you came close enough you'd be able to see those pesky individual prickles.  However, it makes it a little less obvious than having one or two day's growth of beard.  I still haven't talked about my hirsutism with my step-family, and am still not really comfortable having that conversation.  Even if they have already figured it out, I'd still prefer to keep it out of sight and therefore out of their minds, lest it appears in their own conversations with others one day.  (I know I ought to get over this.  Getting people to talk about it would be a good thing.  Even if it's ignorant and judgmental speech, at least it would make people more aware that it's not something unique to a few Victorian-era unfortunates and Hollywood.)

    Anyway, before my not-shave yesterday I was stretching my skin and looking for any ingrown hairs, which I'll usually nip in the bud by plucking and then dotting on a bit of Polysporin.  And I turned my face to examine my left cheek and jaw, I thought I noticed something, and leaned in close to the mirror, nearly squashing my nose against the glass.  No, I wasn't going crazy, there really was less dark stubble there.  In fact, there was a spot about an inch to an inch-and-a-half across that had very few dark hairs at all.

    When did that happen?  I ran my finger up my cheek, against the direction of the hair growth.  It still felt like the same amount of hair there, but very little of it was dark in that spot.  Had the coarse hairs just lost some of their pigment?  Was this a sign of things to come?  Now don't get excited, I thought, and turned to my right cheek and found everything was still the same as ever.  Am I going nuts?  Was the left side of my face always like that and I've forgotten?  Or are androgens affecting my face less and less?  I have read that the face is usually the last to be affected.

    Maybe things are about to get better.  We can only wait and see.



    And hey, I've seen a few people have already seen and voted on the 4th Anniversary poll.  Thank you!  I'm really going to be taking to heart your opinions.

    July 14, 2011

    Liberation

    As any hirsute woman can attest to--heck, any woman with any insecurities about her body can attest to this--the way we shop for clothes is a little different.  How low will that neckline be?  How high that hem?  What does it cover?  How well does it cover?

    And that constantly wars with our desire to look nice.  To wear beautiful things.  For instance, I love peasant tops, with the lace and the crochet and the smocking, but try finding one of those that covers up to the collarbone!  I'll be instantly drawn to one in the store, rub the fabric between my fingers, eventually realize that I would be spending money for something I would only wear on an exceptionally "good" day, and then regretfully move on.  Even jewelry can sometimes seem pointless.  Why buy a pair of beautiful earrings when you're just going to pull your hair self-consciously around your face?

    Sometimes I get so sick of my wardrobe full of cotton crewnecks and boatnecks.  I feel like I've been wearing the same clothes since high school.  At my age I'd like to look a little more adult and a little more feminine.  (Fun fact about your friend Al, she looks like she's twelve.)

    Being on Spiro hasn't really changed this, exactly.  I don't expect to be taking this medication forever, and there are still some parts of me the Spiro does not effect very much.  But simply having it work on my chest is surprisingly freeing.  I can pluck the hair there and forget about it for a week, which means I don't have to plan so far ahead about which shirt I'll be able to wear to work or which dress I can wear for a night out.  I don't have to worry about acne as much, either.

    So the last time I went shopping, pretty tops suddenly seemed like a worthwhile investment.  I might be wearing them more than once or twice a year.  And I could pick based on color alone if I wanted to!  Or pattern!  Or embellishment!  I could make choices based purely on how I felt, not on whether or not I'd get my money's worth.  I hadn't really realized how much I missed that.  I haven't really shopped that way since I started earning my own money to spend on my own wardrobe!  It was a beautiful feeling.

    Of course, I'd trade that all in an instant if the pills would work on my face instead.  I'd wear jeans and t-shirts my whole life through if it meant I could get up in the morning and not have to shave my face.  But for now, I'll enjoy what I can get!

    July 6, 2011

    Back to the Endo

    Okay, so the week before last was my latest visit to the endocrinologist. Got a little more lost than usual finding my way through that maze of corridors, but it was the least anxious I've felt going to see her. I told her I was finding myself happy with the results of the Spiro, though she was disappointed to hear it still was making no difference to the hair on my face, either in quantity, coarseness or speed of growth. She brought up laser hair removal again, and I'm finally game to try that a second time. But I'd like to see how this next step in the treatment goes, and I'd also like to time it so that I can enjoy a summer without shaving my face. Maybe I can go camping then, or travel with other people...

    I told her what I really wanted at this point was to find a better birth control pill that would regulate my cycles and eliminate the spotting, so she suggested Diane-35 and I said okay. Diane-35 has a small amount of cyproterone acetate right in it, and though it's generally not used for birth control alone, it is often prescribed to acne sufferers as it has the androgen blocker right in. It is our hope that maybe the combination of Spiro and Diane will make the results even better.

    I see a lot of distaste for Diane-35 on the web, and yes, I am a little nervous about it. Not only is it a new pill and I am never confident in my body's tolerance, but it has been reported in certain studies to have a higher-than-normal risk of blood clots. However, that higher-than-normal risk is still a rare one. The endo only offered it, she didn't say: "This is what we're doing next." She would have allowed me to say no if I wanted to. But from my readings about the type of male and female hormones it contains, it's on the right track. Moreso than Alesse. And I have heard some very happy reports from some ladies who have used it long-term. It's different for everyone.

    There's a little more hormone in this one, which is why I think it will help with the mid-cycle spotting that Spiro seems determined to cause. So I am on the lookout for severe mood swings and breast lumps and things like that. I assure you all I'm being cautious. Longtime readers know what a fearful creature I am.

    Unrelated to hirsutism, the cyst on my ovary came up in conversation when I was telling the endo that my family doctor had moved off to the other end of the city, leaving my file behind. When I said that I still wished to see a gynecologist to talk more about the cyst, she said she would be happy to refer me herself. First, though, she wants me to have another ultrasound, because I haven't had that severe pain in six months and it may be that the cyst was reabsorbed. I have read that bcp's can sometimes help with cysts. Could it be that being on Alesse has helped in that way?

    I've been on Diane for a week now and have nothing to report. Possibly some mild nausea in the mornings, but I'm known for stomach trouble anyway so it might not be the pill at all. And in the meantime, the Spiro continues to do it's job and I continue to enjoy the reduced hair everywhere else. Can you believe that? I'm enjoying the results of the medication.

    June 22, 2011

    6 Months on Spiro with Alesse

    So here we are, 6 months on Alesse and 5 more uninterrupted months on 200 mg of Spironolactone. I've been trying various medications with my endocrinologist for over a year and a half now.

    A quick recap: 100 mg of Spiro was an improvement. 200 mg was better. 5 mg Finasteride did not work, as the progress I'd made visually began to reverse. Nothing changed the hair on my face enough to improve my quality of life.

    So why did the endo recommend adding an oral contraceptive to what was already sorta working? Lowering the amount of androgens in your system in addition to blocking them from reaching the receptors that cause the dark hair to grow (what we've already been doing) might work even better.

    And what do I think? It's working just a little better than anything else so far, though the hair on my face still needs to be shaved every day. But I can shave my chest and not have to do it again for two or three days. I can pluck that hair and go a little longer without hair removal (though the hairs in my cleavage are not usually strong enough to seize with tweezers). Acne has once again been visibly reduced on my face, chest and back.

    The Alesse has made my cycles more predictable, though I still get mid-cycle spotting. I waited for this to dissipate for longer than three months, thinking that it was because of the Spiro, or because of stress and travel, which usually caused me to forget a pill or two now and then. But after six months, I think it's pretty obvious Alesse is not going to control my spotting when my cycle is under the influence of Spiro. That's probably because I don't think there's a lot of estrogen in this pill.

    I should also note that I don't think I had an allergic reaction to the Alesse in the first month after all. The rash has come back twice since then, always at different times of the cycle, including the placebo week.  (EDIT:  It also returned once when I was off the Alesse.)

    I have read that the progestin in Alesse is androgenic (and woman with hirsutism probably want a pill with non-androgenic progestins since they don't want more hormones in their body that behave like testosterone). Between that fact and feeling like I'm bleeding for half of every month, I am considering asking for a different birth control pill.

    With my next endo visit looming, I'm agonizing over my next step. The other choice the endo might present to me again is switching from Spiro to Cyproterone Acetate. I'm trying to ignore the fact that the name fills me with irrational fear. From my research, it seems to be tolerated well by most women, and has been used to treat androgen sensitivity symptoms for longer than Spiro. But it is reported to work only as well as Spiro, so really I'd only be trying it on the off-chance that it works better in my own body than the Spiro, and I'm at the point where I feel like this is the best it's ever going to get. I'm tired of being frightened new medications. Frankly, I'm kind of tired of medications in general.

    I am tempted to just stick with what I'm doing and try laser hair removal again, and see how long the effects last. I know they won't be permanent, but I'm ready to spend a butt-load of money for a few months where I don't have to shave my face, I think.

    But enough about what I think. Here again are some pictures of the progress of the various medications. The most dramatic (and easily photographable) difference is, as always, my stomach:


    Left to right: Before any medication; 6 months on Spiro (100mg); 4 months on Spiro (200mg); 2.5 months on Finasteride; 6 months on Alesse and Spiro (200mg). The three at the bottom are just close-ups of the hair, which you can kinda see get coarser and darker on the Finasteride again.

    Actually, Alesse with 200mg of Spiro looks about the same as 200mg of Spiro on its own. Hm.

    Remember, every woman is different and will have different degrees of success. This is just mine.

    ...Oooh, I don't feel ready to my appointment. I'm going to be as nervous as ever

    June 16, 2011

    Apologies

    No update this week. I am working through some emotional highs and lows right now, and I'm so busy I haven't had a chance to really spend time thinking on them. In fact, this is the first time I've been home all week. It's hard to concentrate on talking about hirsutism when I can't even concentrate on even more personal matters. But it's not all bad stuff, and I'll probably be back next week to contemplate some Important Things before my next endo appointment.

    Love to you all!

    June 10, 2011

    Product: Kiss My Face Moisture Shave

    Kiss My Face presents an image that is environmentally conscious, anti-animal testing and uses natural ingredients. In addition, I like that the products are really unisex. Some stores put the moisture shaves with the women's foams and waxes, and some stores put them with the men's stuff. But they don't look either masculine or feminine, so if you're self conscious about putting a product for guys in your cart like I am, this is a great feature. I have seen some hirsute women recommending this one, so I felt it was time to check it out.

    Kiss My Face Moisture Shave, Fragrance Free- 118 mL

    Ingredients:

    • Aqua, potassium myristate (derived from vegetable oils), sodium myristate (derived from vegetable oils), propylene glycol, TEA stearate, cocos nucifera (coconut oil), olea europaea (olive oil), aloe barbadensis, retinol, ergocalciferol, tocopherol acetate (vitamin E), lecithin, citrus aurantifolia (lime), alchemilla vulgaris (Lady's Mantle), saponaria officinalis L (Soapwort), mentha piperita (peppermint), equisetum arvense (Horsetail), nasturtium officinale (Watercress), cymbopogon schoenanthus (Lemongrass), salvia officinalis (Sage), hydrastis canadensis (Goldenseal), citrus dulcis (Orange Flower), arnica montana, hydroxyethylcellulose (plant source), methylparaben, propylparaben, sodium benzoate.

    Things I liked:
    • Obviously, it's a gel. You can see where you're shaving, and it feels luxurious.
    • It doesn't smell at all perfumey or chemically. It's a lovely non-smell smell.
    • For people who like a bit of lather, you can get some suds from this one.

    Things I didn't like:
    • It stings on freshly shaved skin. Not nearly as much as BikiniZone, but still, that can't be good. When you look at the ingredients, you can see why it might. Some of this stuff has astringent properties for acne, but personally I don't like anything stinging on my already abused face.

    Did it do what it promised?
    "Emollient and moisturizing" it was, to the point that it makes it one of my favorite gels so far. A shaving oil would still feel more moisturizing of course. "Astringent," yes, I felt that. Not my favorite feature. It didn't make a difference in my spots, but mostly that's because my spots are not caused by acne in the shaved areas--they're caused by ingrown hairs and nicks. "Styptic" (which means, it helps stop bleeding) I didn't really notice, but I think that's a cool feature to advertise in a shave gel.

    This product has a lot of neat plant ingredients that all have benefits. But the important aspects for me were that it felt nice to shave with, and the stinging worried me inasmuch as astringents can dry out your skin. I would probably use it again, if it was on sale.

    See what other people thought of Kiss My Face Moisture Shave:

    Amazon.com
    MakeupAlley
    Nouveau Cheap
    EDS Skin Care Forums

    May 31, 2011

    The Beard Project

    Bearded woman Paula documents her experience when she challenges herself to stop shaving for three months.















    And then this weekend, she posted this video to mark the unexpected end of her project:




    So the beard had to go because of a job interview. And it's one of the last things I think about, when I fantasize about being utterly myself, inside and out, by letting the beard grow. If I had that courage, I could probably deal with the strange looks, or alienating some people who I thought were my friends. My beard would be a filter, separating the important, truly loving people in my life from the shallow ones. As there's no other noted bearded lady where I live, people would probably quickly come to recognize me, and either be repulsed, or realize that here's just another human being with a neat genetic quirk. It might inspire people, the way these videos inspired me... not so much to do the same thing, but to just be okay with who you are. Because really, there are a lot of other women just like us.

    But when it comes to a job, very few would employ a woman with a beard to represent their company in any way. Most want a clean-cut, normal-looking person... and some will only hire especially good-looking employees. You often can't have unique-colored hair or piercings, or express your personal style through clothing... and that's just because so much of a business' reputation is all about image. As Paula points out in her latest video it's true for women and for men. I know I could not be allowed to do my job if I stopped shaving. Actually, that might be a fascinating situation to see how my boss might approach asking me to shave, and if I refused, how he would decide to dismiss me in a legal and politically correct way. That would be kind of amusing...

    And being unable to find a job anywhere but a circus (I'm exaggerating here) would leave me free to pursue my artistic dreams, for which I do not have to represent anybody but myself and my work. That's almost tempting.

    Anyway, I loved watching these videos and seeing a woman who faces her fear like that. If I ever saw her on the street I think I'd just run up and hug her, and royally freak her out. Thank you to Sophie for finding these!

    May 24, 2011

    Whoops.

    This weekend I gave myself one of the worst nicks I've ever had. It immediately flooded me with anger, because I know I was being careless and trying too hard to get a close shave around my chin area. Idiot, it's a new style of blade, I'm still learning how to use it! Should have been more careful.

    So now there's a Psycho-esque mess going down the drain, and it will not. Stop. Bleeding. I tried all the usual tricks. Cold water. Pressure. Bits of toilet paper. Globbing on the thickest substance to hand (usually my facial soap) just to at least keep it from streaming down my neck. Nothing worked but time. And then trying to cover up the scab with make up? Forget about it! Every time I tried, I would disturb the clot and and open the flood gates all over again.

    I ended up having to cancel my plans for the morning. I thought there was no way I was going out to be around human beings. So I shed some tears of frustration and self pity, cuddled my dog, had a cup of tea. And then when I felt I'd wasted enough time feeling sorry for myself, I just... went on with life. But the awareness that I avoided something because I wanted to hide how I looked haunted my mood for some time afterward. I know full well that is not the way it should be. But it's the way that it is--it's hard to help that.

    May 11, 2011

    Where's Allerleirah?

    I'm here. And I've not forgotten about you guys.

    I'm going through various family and personal stuff right now, unrelated to my usual hairy self. Very little of it is dire, some of it is even very positive, but it is very consuming because it's happening all at once. I need to focus on life for hopefully just a little bit longer, and then we should be back to a more normal updating schedule. Please be patient with me. I am coming back.

    Oh, and guess what happened to me tonight? My hair dresser got a little carried away and now my hair is so short I can't hide behind it. That's been a fear of mine for ages, but my hair dresser knows I'm timid about cutting it, and I always remind her of where I draw the "too short" line. Nothing above the chin! Maybe she was having an off day, I don't know. It's a beautiful cut, but it's not me, and it's not comfortable. But regardless, now I have to live with it. At least it'll grow back, and fairly quickly.

    April 24, 2011

    Random Thought

    It's kind of nice to be near-sighted. Without glasses on, and before putting contacts in, I can look at myself in the mirror and see skin blurred to a perfect unified tone. :)

    April 21, 2011

    Animal Kinship

    Every now and then we puppy-sit this English bulldog. She's less than a year old, but already she is almost 40 pounds of wrinkles, snorts, and flatulence. I love her.

    Now, there's nothing terribly aesthetically pleasing about a bulldog. That stout body, loose skin, bulbous eyes, droopy jowels and the fearsome underbite. There is no dog in all of God's creation that was meant to look like that. They were fashioned entirely by humans and bred to be fighters, especially for the sport of bull baiting. It's quite tragic that this results in quite a lot of health problems and a relatively short lifespan overall.

    But a lot of people find bulldogs' unique appearance enormously endearing. I'm one of them. And that's before I even realized what sweet personalities they have. This little girl who comes to hang out with me is indiscriminately friendly to a fault. It's a wonderful thing to have the companionship of a living, breathing thing that does not, and cannot, judge you for how you look.

    My favorite thing about her is that she'll come up to me, snuffling and with her bottom teeth poking out, to nuzzle my face. And she's got the most prickly whiskers, giving the scratchiest kisses. But that's okay, 'cause there are days when I'm just as scratchy. We're weird together.

    April 13, 2011

    Got Hirsutism?

    One day at work, I was assisting a cheery young woman. To paint a picture: she was mousy of coloring, freckled complexion, hair in no particular style, and glowingly positive which, when you work with people, is a rare jewel. She was the sort of person you'd have a rapport with instantly, no matter who you were and what your own personality was like. It was a pleasure to serve her. As we were talking through the transaction and making eye contact, I noticed that her complexion seemed darker around her jaw and chin--the kind of thing you'd probably only really see if that area of the face was of personal significance to you. And then, of course, it was all I could see. There was no point in which I could get close enough to really tell, but I became more and more convinced that it was beard shadow.

    But what is the protocol for asking? There just isn't one. I was burning to ask, and she seemed like she would have been frank with me. But I had to think about how I would feel if it were me being asked.

    If it were one of those days (as it has been lately) where I had fought with my face all morning to hide my secret and struggle to even leave the house and go about my day, someone asking me, "Hey, are you hirsute?" would probably be devastating. Was it that obvious? Does everybody notice but no one has the guts to ask? I'd probably slink home and crawl under my covers for the rest of the day, feeling sorry for myself.

    However, if it was a good day, and I felt confident... I don't know, maybe I'd be relieved. Maybe I'd sigh like a weight had been lifted off me and say, "Yes! Oh thank goodness, yes!" I'd be excited to meet someone who was aware of the issue. And I bet this is more the case for me than it used to be. I get closer all the time to telling people I wouldn't necessarily trust implicitly. As I begin to see that there is no "fix" for the symptoms, it's becoming clear that my beard is just a part of me, like my near sightedness or that freckle on my butt. It makes me no less a woman, it just makes me me. If only I could feel like that all the time...