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So, since the 14th, I've not been keeping a daily journal. I have more time than I did before. But I'm not sure I'm getting any more work done (though, that may never have been the point). Anyway, I am making an entry today. Because I want to, that's all. Well, no. That's never all, is it? Regardless, you ought comment, kittens. It might encourage me to make more entries. Yeah. Okay. That was a tease. Or a taunt.

ONE


My thanks to Marisa Sandlin, for recently introducing me to Stars, a wonderful, wonderful band from Toronto (now based in Montreal), fronted by Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan. Yesterday, we drove down to Warwick, to Newbury Comics, and I got two of their more recent albums, The Five Ghosts and Set Yourself on Fire, and I've been listening to nothing else since. Anyway, before I proceed, watch this video. Note that it's not fucking "work safe." It contains female nudity. Very splendid female nudity. Though, if your employer has a problem with that, you need to tell them to fuck off, then find a saner job. Anyway, this is a prologue to my very short little tail...um, tale. Just watch that video. It'll all make sense soon (but isn't that what They always say?). Oh, my thanks to kiaduran for finding this uncensored version of the video for me yesterday:

Stars - Changes (Uncensored) from Stars on Vimeo.



Yeah, a fucking beautiful, brilliant video. Be sure to have watched it before proceeding to the next section (though, assholes will, here, do as they please, which is their loss).

TWO


This won't be the first time I've told the world I was born with a tail. I sort of wish it were the first time, but it's not. Also, I may have said – can't recall – that my vignette "Pas-en-arrière," was, in large part, about my lost tail. Yes, lost, because it was routinely amputated when I was born, which is a matter of course in "civilised" nations when a baby is born with so unsightly a thing as a tail. I was also born with a caul and a layer of black skin on my face, but those are others tails...er, tales.

I had no idea that I'd been born with a tail. I did know, as a small child, that I had a tiny spur of cartilage just above the cleft of my buttocks. I had no inkling what it was. Sometimes, it itched. Sometimes, it even got sore. But I didn't give it much thought. I never spoke to anyone about it (I already knew about the caul and the black facial skin things, by the way).

It wasn't until 1989, when I was in college, that I learned I'd been born with a tail. I had a physical (my most recent full physical exam, by the way). I'd hurt my lower back lifting something or another at the museum, and an x-ray was taken to see if I'd done any genuine damage. I hadn't. But the doctor discovered the internal remains of a cartilaginous "soft tail" branching off my coccyx. No extra caudal vertebrae (the human coccyx is composed of four fused tail vertebrae; birds have an analogous feature, called the pygostyle), just a sort of cartilaginous shaft tucked into the musculature, rising from the base of my spine. The tiny spur, I was told, was all that remained of what would have been the external portion of the "soft tail," which, I was told, was robust enough it would have been snipped at birth. The doctor told me that, based on what he could see, it would likely have been about two or three inches long, maybe a quarter of an inch in circumference.

And that's how I lost my tail. And then discovered I'd lost my tail. My atavism. Oh, atavism. You may, or may not, have read Stephen Jay Gould's essay on atavistic characters, "Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes." Anyway, to quote Wikipedia:

Evolutionarily, traits that have disappeared phenotypically do not necessarily disappear from an orgcnism's DNA. The gene sequence often remains, but is inactive. Mathematically, such an unused gene has a reasonable probability of remaining in the genome in a functional state for around 6 million years, but after 10 million years it is almost certain that the gene will no longer function. As long as the gene remains intact, a fault in the genetic control suppressing the gene can lead to it being expressed again. Sometimes, dormant genes can be induced to be expressed by supplying the stimuli artificially.

So, on rare occasions horses are born with "extra" toes, evidence of the ancestral five-toed amniote/tetrapod pes (hindfoot). Or a human may be born with a bit of a tail, harkening back to earlier primate ancestors.

Anyway, since that day, I have mourned the loss of my tail. And when I saw the video for Stars' "Changes," the mourning became as poignant as it has ever been (oh, and great opening Sam Harris quote). That sense of having been robbed of a part of me by doctors seeking the perfect infant. One of the many things that caused me to fall so hard for Karen Dunn's Geek Love was Miranda's tail. But, anyway (again, and, so, redundant). Below, behind the cut, is a photograph that Spooky took last night, which I present here as proof of my amputated atavism, the translucent stub of my tail. Complete with tiny white/black butt hairs and aging flesh, Spooky's fingerprint and the proximal terminus of my ass crack. Not entirely pretty, and maybe not "work safe" (that phrase almost always gives me the giggles).

Soft TailCollapse )


So, there you go. One of my several anatomical sob stories. I would have kept my tail, had I been given the chance. It was a part of me.

Bobbed,
Aunt Beast

Comments

( 52 comments — Have your say! )
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pisceanblue
Feb. 20th, 2012 09:44 pm (UTC)
Lovely video, you teasing beast you.
Your tale of your tail reminds me that when I first read "Pickman's Other Model (1929)," I thought immediately that you were referencing your own experience in that detail, in regards to Lillian/Vera's tail.
greygirlbeast
Feb. 20th, 2012 09:56 pm (UTC)

Your tale of your tail reminds me that when I first read "Pickman's Other Model (1929)," I thought immediately that you were referencing your own experience in that detail, in regards to Lillian/Vera's tail.

I was. There was wishful thinking in there.
(Deleted comment)
greygirlbeast
Feb. 20th, 2012 10:29 pm (UTC)

You never cease to amaze (both factually and fictionally), Aunt Beast.

Then, thank you.

the world wide spiderweb.

Nice. Though I think LJ is becoming a corner we'd refer to as the world wide cobweb.
gayprez
Feb. 20th, 2012 11:15 pm (UTC)
Regrets, I've had a few...
It makes me a little sad to know that you've missed on a life of swinging by your tail from tree to tree. Do you suppose it would have been furry? Would it have wagged when you're happy or puffed up and switched back and forth like a cat's?
greygirlbeast
Feb. 20th, 2012 11:32 pm (UTC)
Re: Regrets, I've had a few...

Do you suppose it would have been furry?

Human tails are generally hairless, and tend to lack bones.

Would it have wagged when you're happy or puffed up and switched back and forth like a cat's?

Nope. It would only have dangled there. Still.

whiskeychick
Feb. 21st, 2012 12:07 am (UTC)
My son and two of his cousins have accessory nipples. He often hides it from the world -- having suffered bullying because of it (think swimming lessons).

I often wonder about the genetics of it, especially given that his cousins who bear the same accessory nipple also have non-neuro typical issues (yeah, I hate the word and the inference, but I don't know a better word to use), as he does.

I've somehow missed your tail, er, tale about this part of you before, so thanks for sharing. I'm totally intrigued about the caul and black skin. I hope you will share this tale with us as well.

So happy you posted today.

Edited at 2012-02-21 12:13 am (UTC)
momerath9
Feb. 21st, 2012 01:14 am (UTC)
Atavism
I find myself strangely touched by the story of your tail. One of my cats has seven toes on each of his front paws. Which, when he was a kitten, a veternarian was so insistent on removing the extra digits, I decided to take him elsewhere. The vet seemed genuinely offended by their existence.
I've enjoyed both of the Stars videos you posted. It's always nice to find new bands.


Re: Atavism - slothman - Feb. 21st, 2012 06:28 am (UTC) - Expand
Steven Barritz
Feb. 21st, 2012 02:26 am (UTC)
The second I read about your tail, I thought about the Pony story in Red Tree. The write up about atavism made me think of Mystique's reptilian qualities (though as I understand it, this was only featured in the movies, not the comic).
greygirlbeast
Feb. 21st, 2012 05:23 am (UTC)

The second I read about your tail, I thought about the Pony story in Red Tree.

Yes, though...that's another thing, as well.
ceewayne
Feb. 21st, 2012 03:15 am (UTC)
First I would like to say thank you for the video. Just the simple human form dancing makes it quiet elegant. Second also about your tail tale. Also I never understood about atavism until you explained it. You do have a knack for teaching science. Thank you Aunt Beast.
greygirlbeast
Feb. 21st, 2012 05:24 am (UTC)

Just the simple human form dancing makes it quiet elegant.

Yes.

You do have a knack for teaching science.

I did it for two years, college level. I enjoyed it. It would have been a good life.
corucia
Feb. 21st, 2012 04:28 am (UTC)

Thanks for posting the video. I also went and watched the censored version - had to see how they modified it. A pity, the tail reveal gets completely lost in the censor fog.

Atavism - always an interesting phenomenon when it crops up. Your discussion and the SJG quote dovetailed nicely with other topics I've been considering lately, with some bearing on an email or two I previously sent to you. I should try to write them down before they vanish...

However, I'm feeling the need for a micro-kindernacht, so I'm off to watch an episode of 'Ultraman'.


greygirlbeast
Feb. 21st, 2012 05:26 am (UTC)

A pity, the tail reveal gets completely lost in the censor fog.

I'd watched the video three times before I even noticed it.

Your discussion and the SJG quote dovetailed nicely with other topics I've been considering lately, with some bearing on an email or two I previously sent to you. I should try to write them down before they vanish...

Yes, you ought.
rai_ryu
Feb. 21st, 2012 04:48 am (UTC)
I didn't know there was a video to that song, but I thoroughly enjoyed it, so thanks for posting. I got The Five Ghosts for Chrismas and I'm still listening to it very often. I also like their album In Our Bedroom After The War. But I've been meaning to check out Set Yourself On Fire.

You do seem like the kind of person who would have had a tail. Interesting how they still left a little stump, and that you were never told about it when you were younger.
greygirlbeast
Feb. 21st, 2012 05:28 am (UTC)

I also like their album In Our Bedroom After The War.

Don't have that one yet.

You do seem like the kind of person who would have had a tail.

That's an interesting observation.

Interesting how they still left a little stump,

I doubt it was intentional.

and that you were never told about it when you were younger.

This is complicated, and a story that's actually too personal for me to tell, but I'm not sure my parents ever knew.

smallpinkfish
Feb. 21st, 2012 03:33 pm (UTC)
thanks.
I really enjoyed the video. Thanks for sharing. It's always great to discover new music. Too bad about your tail, I wish I had one. I almost had a sixth finger on my left hand, and if it had worked out I bet it would make playing the violin easier. Here's to genetics, repressed or otherwise.
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( 52 comments — Have your say! )