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  • My Undoing
  • Anna Louise Peterson (bio)

About the follicle itself I know nothing.

Is that even the correct word, follicle?

I think so. But knowing for certain would require me to look it up. Which would defeat the purpose of not knowing.

Rose Ellen has explained it all to me of course.

But mostly I just tune her out.

Because there are situations in which greater understanding is the enemy. Rose Ellen calls herself an electrologist.

But the word sounds ugly to my ear. I call her my electrolysis person. Because sometimes an unwieldy phrase is best.

Rose Ellen.

My intimate, my assailant. Unweaver of my mask, unburier of the aging remnants of this long-lost girl.

Rose Ellen says:

. . . that there can be multiple undeveloped follicles concealed within the root of a seemingly single hair?

. . . so that when you kill that supposedly single hair these sleeper cells within the root can emerge into the light at last?

. . . something like that?

I let my mind go blurry when she talks that way. [End Page 87]

The words themselves I allow in; what I block is their consolidation.

This can be a useful skill.

Say, for instance, you are going into surgery. Something relatively simple or elective: an appendectomy, a nose job. How much do you really want to know about what is going to happen while you are under? About the intubation, the incisions, the manipulation of your fascia, your guts, about the mechanics of the severing and removal, the reattaching of whatever lies beneath the surface of your skin?

They might try to explain it all to you. You need to be ready to block that shit out. Because beyond a certain point, informed consent becomes a kind of bullying. Because consciousness is a weapon. Be careful where you point it.

For instance: I have to be careful about using the word surgery.

I know this.

People get squirmy.

Not always. Of course. But often enough.

Here’s what I think happens. When I come into view, people allow their consciousness to start trying to solve what they perceive to be the problem of my genitals. Which makes them start to contemplate the state of their own genitals. Which leads them, sometimes, to imagine their own untroubled genitals coming needlessly under the knife.

And who wouldn’t squirm, thinking thoughts like that?

When I say people, I mostly mean guys. Because, well . . . guys are the squirmiest.

Not all of them. Of course.

But enough.

I know this because I have spent most of my life as an anthropologist in the land of guys. I speak their language, I know their ways. I recognize what I sometimes see in their eyes when they look at me. Which is, in order of increasing danger posed to me: unease, distress, panic.

What I see is them wishing they didn’t have to think about what they apparently allow themselves to think about when they look at me. What I see is them wishing that I had never come into their field of vision in the first place. Like I just totally killed their buzz. [End Page 88]

I have no idea what I’m supposed to do about this.

I mean, mostly I keep to myself.

But sometimes I have to be in places. Places where I can be seen.

Sometimes not being in places is not an option.

When guys get squirmy, I get worried.

Because a squirmy guy is just a sidestep away from panic. And panic in a squirmy guy resolves into anger. And when the day comes that I get beat up, I assure you it’s going to be an angry guy who does the beating.

So I pay close attention to the looks in men’s eyes.

Especially in public places.

Outside of such places it’s less of an issue. Because men have mostly vanished from my personal life. They ebbed away from this shore, all the guys I used to know. It happened almost imperceptibly, that receding tide.

These days, I mostly live on a planet of women.

There are other things I have to be careful about.

Like walking into rooms.

Part of...


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Print ISSN
pp. 87-109
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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