And by 'fifty thousand follicles' I mean that over the five years that I've been having electrolysis, this is the number of times that a needle has been inserted into a hair follicle - mostly on my face - and an electric current passed through, electrocuting the hair. That's obviously fifty thousand moments of pain, of course. It's been bearable, but talk about slow torture! Many a reader will understand perfectly how exquisite the discomfort can be.
It's a simple calculation to arrive at 50,000 hairs. Roz (who has throughout wielded the needle, except on two occasions when her business partner Trish lent a hand) uses the blend method of killing the hair. Going flat out, it's Death To Bristly Hairs at the rate of one every five seconds, or twelve per minute. Each session lasts ninety minutes. So in theory that's 12 x 90 = 1,080 electrocuted hairs each time. But Roz reckons that her true rate has been about half of that, so more realistically it's about 500 hairs per session.
And yesterday it was the 100th session! So we have 100 x 500 = 50,000 hairs cleared by electrolysis since it began in mid-2009.
As with the 50th session, I gave her a bottle of wine to mark the occasion. But it also happened to be her birthday tomorrow, so the bottle has served a secondary purpose!
There still much to do, even now. Clearing the upper lip took so long, as there was so much regrowth. It is now cleared of all the darker bristles and most of the lighter-coloured stuff too; and lately Roz has been able to give prolonged attention to hairs elsewhere, on my chin and jawline for instance. But cheeks and neck remain practically untouched so far.
If only I'd had dark hair! Then laser treatment could have quickly killed off swathes of the offending hair growth, and I might have been done with it all much, much sooner. But laser only works on dark hair, and being naturally fair-haired (some would say blonde, of course) and old (like Father William in Lewis Carroll's poem), most of my facial hair has been colourless, grey or white. Lasering would be useless for that. It had to be slow-but-sure electrolysis, and therefore a long, long tale of hot needles.
Apparently - depending on the individual - it can take 200 to 300 hours to get rid of facial hair by electrolysis alone. I've had 150 hours so far. Roz is now getting into parts where there shouldn't be any regrowth, so once fixed, it'll stay fixed, and we will make faster progress henceforth. Or would have. Roz and Trish are both retiring, and from November, possibly from October, I will have to find another place to get my electrolysis. Fortunately a local friend has recommended somewhere in Brighton. I'll give them a go when the time comes.
One day I will get to the 'maintenance stage' - when basically it's all cleared, and although the odd hairs will still come through, they can all be dealt in a brief session once every six weeks or so, just like an ordinary woman with a hair problem. But I think it'll be another two years before I get to that stage.
The ambition of course, is to get rid of everything except the soft downy vellus hairs, unnoticeable on me. O Happy Day when that state is achieved! I have loathed facial hair - really all hair except head hair - since puberty kicked in. It'll be so nice to finally feel soft-faced and 'clean' fifty years after the onset of what I've always regarded as a dreadful and depressing disfigurement.