I don’t remember exactly how I played myself into wearing a tail for a week—I just know that it wouldn’t have happened were it not for my pride.
At the end of August, ASOS, a UK-based clothing brand, had begun selling dinosaur tails out of nowhere. I remember the Jezebel staff was amused by it. Why would they sell this product? Who would wear a tail? I remember I said, “I will” to the second question, mostly to be hilarious. Dressing up a specific way for a week is an easy stunt to pull in internet writing—you get to look (usually) cooler than you would otherwise; you get some vanity photographs taken, and a byline at BuzzFeed or something. If I wore a tail for a week, I thought, I probably wouldn’t have any major revelations, but I’d have a funny story to tell my children, should I be so lucky to be fertile.
I have managed to unearth this excerpt of the preceding Slack conversation (the rest of which has been lost to the archives):
Next thing I knew, I had expensed a $41 neon green dinosaur tail—the most flamboyant available tail option—and it was headed to me in the mail. How arrogant I was back then! What unearned confidence! If only I could go back to a time before I strapped on, but I cannot.
I rather hastily decide that the week of October 3 would be Tail Week, after Senior Editor Kelly Stout asks me on Slack, “When is Tail Week?” So, I don’t be-tail myself until I arrived at the office at around noon on Monday. The tail is about three feet of spandex-y fabric, filled with plastic beads, and straps onto your waist by a thick black belt with a fanny pack-like buckle. As I put it on, my coworkers laugh. This is funny, we agree.
Wearing the tail in the office poses several physical challenges, first among which is the issue of sitting. After not much thought, I choose to sit with the tail propped straight up and resting against my spine, which, by the end of the day will give me lower back pain and will have to be solved. I am also not yet used to how it alters my turning radius, so when I (thoughtlessly) stand up from my desk and turn around to get a cup of water or something, I whack Madeleine Davies in the face. She says it isn’t painful and not to worry, but I don’t believe her and feel badly.
Additionally, using the toilet is uniquely and unexpectedly difficult. Since I am forbidden from taking the tail off thanks to my own rules (I resolve to wear it like I would shoes, i.e. everywhere but my own house), I have to wriggle it up to my bare belly and sit on the toilet ass-first to avoid nipping the tip in the bowl of water. I feel foolish here, but I am alone.
As soon as I leave the office that evening, it becomes clear that the mostly passive non-questioning I experienced in the Gizmodo Media Group offices will not extend to the real world. That first trip outdoors, two men speak to me. One says, “I like your tail.” The other lets me pass in front of him as I walk to a door: “Dragons first.”
I walk bravely through the streets of the West Village, tail dragging limply behind me, to my boyfriend’s parents’ apartment for dinner. While I’m there, his father warns me about my stunt: “One day you are going to be really embarrassed you did this.” He doesn’t know that day has already come.
I’m sad today because I decide to wear a new sweater and feel like I look really nice, but then remember that I have to put on the tail.
I commute first thing in the morning instead of in the afternoon for two reasons: 1) my boyfriend commutes in the morning and I desperately want company on the train, and 2) I want to experience an actual commuter experience, rather than my off-hours trip around lunchtime. That day I wear the same coat which falls to my mid-thigh, which is helpful in weighing down the tail a little, but it also forces it to brush the floor behind me at a 45 degree angle, tickling my fellow commuters’ ankles.
The subway ride is hell for a number of reasons—I want to avoid whipping my fellow travelers with my new appendage, which means I have to stand with my bottom tucked under (to avoid any splay that would cause the tail to flap into someone’s face), and completely still, which makes all of me hurt. Additionally, I am holding an extra hot coffee in addition to my coat, and the air conditioner on the train has been shut off for the season. I overheat rapidly, but I am unable to improve my situation because I cannot remove my coat or else I will draw unwanted attention to myself and my tail will whack a man in the face as it whacked Madeleine yesterday. Also, there is nowhere to put my coffee.
Because I am so piercingly aware of my situation and unable to zone out with a podcast or some music, I am able to pay attention to people around me. This is, I guess, nice. There is a short woman standing close to me wearing sunglasses and drinking Red Bull out of a straw (huh!), and a man in a pastel plaid shirt with one hefty diamond stud earring who stares vaguely past me and doesn’t move once the whole trip. Above, or maybe below it all plays a frantic beat from unidentified headphones. So there I am, tucking my hips and butt under me like an upright armadillo, sweating heavily from my face and body, looking nervously at my fellow riders, all to a barely audible, pulsating EDM banger.
The thing with wearing a tail is that from the front, I still look totally normal, so when I walk down the street, nobody looks at me particularly funnily. It’s when you get behind me that you see a puffy three-foot long tail gamely jiggling in my wake. So, essentially, I am finding that I am able to basically forget that I’m wearing a tail for long periods of time, because it feels like a comfortably tight belt, until, of course, something makes me remember and fills me with a mixture of humiliation and shame. This happens when I leave the subway, suddenly filled with the soothing misapprehension of normalcy. I go into Pret A Manger, buy a hard boiled egg (I won’t apologize), and then walk out, hearing people cackle behind me. I am unsure about whether or not they are cackling at my tail.
Having a tail will do that to you—make you both numbly apathetic and constantly suspicious, like you are normal except you also aren’t normal at all. You’re wearing a tail.
As I walk to work, everything is fine until a man with wet, collar-length hair passes me and turns back, evidently to see how my front looks. “I HAVE A TAIL!!!” I thought of screaming after him. “CAN’T YOU PEOPLE LEAVE ME ALONE?!” But before I could, another man, this one handsome and balding, passes me and says sweetly, “Your tail is showing.” As if I could forget.
At the office, things are status quo. I have learned to shimmy the tail to my side while I sit at my desk, avoiding lower back discomfort. But I am also learning that the tail belt presses firmly into my bladder, making me have to pee (which, as stated, is in itself a whole thing) twice as much.
And worse: It is impossible for me to hide.
On Wednesday I feel nothing, except dull, consuming dread. The last thing I want to do is snap on my tail and leave my cocoon of a home, because I know exactly what lies ahead. But I do, because there is no other option.
I am mostly dino by now, if being a dino means knowing that you are an outcast—an inconvenient blip on a world that is happy to function without you. I am a fool and a sucker, and I’m reminded of that every time a good-natured man comments on my ponderous green ass torch. And more than that, I am responsible for my own foolishness.
I have devised a way to sit with my tail wrapped around my waist like a lumbar support pillow, which only works on benches, or other platforms that don’t have backs or sides. This is hard to find, and not a reliable method.
On the subway this morning, I catch myself in a reflection in the window. Save for a sliver of green peeking out from behind my leg, I look—dare I say it?—almost normal. I silently rejoice. Across the subway car I see a seat that is wide enough to fit both me and my tail and I spend several minutes scheming how to make my way there without attracting too much attention to me and my bottom son, and, in a wonderful surge of self-confidence I drop my tail and let it flop behind me, free and perky.
A moment later, I look back to my section of the subway and find that literally every person is quietly staring at me. One taps me on the arm. Oh great, I think, I’m going to have to explain this stupid fucking thing. She points to the ground. Ah, I have dropped three dollar bills.
For one hour at work on Wednesday, I forget almost completely that I’m even wearing a tail. It is glorious, but then I move an inch, or get up for a snack, and my torture is once again inescapable.
I am blowing off plans because of my tail—I cannot go to my fancy barre studio and be mocked by all the beautiful engaged women with rippling backs. I’ll never have a rippling back now, just this hideous spike. Like a son, but deaf, dumb, and 100 percent stupid. And also, a tail.
I go home right after work and rip it off in misery. My cat mounts it and stares at me. So this is Hell.
I have figured out a way to wrap my tail around my right hip under my coat and hold it with my right hand so that you can see a giant bustle-like mound on my butt, but the tail doesn’t hang out the back. I consider that some of my colleagues might call this cheating, but decide for myself that it isn’t since I am clearly holding a vaguely obscene neon green scaly phallus out of the front of my coat that happens to look, quite obviously, like a tail. And also, anyone who thinks they know or can comment on my experience this week can please shove it.
This adjustment, plus listening to music through headphones, feels like a good, everyday solution to having a tail—if people are commenting on my appearance, I can’t really hear, and at least it isn’t flapping around behind me without my consent. To be in control of my own tail’s movements feels—and I can’t believe I’m writing this—empowering.
It occurs to me that keeping the tail harshly bent like I am might result in the fairly thin fabric snapping, and whatever toxic beads that kept it so freakishly perky spilling out onto the subway floor, but I ultimately decide my social comfort in the moment is more important than the potential for some greater, more hideous humiliation in the distant future. This, I think, is the definition of immaturity, but it also is who I am now.
On the subway next to me I see a woman feeding something under her coat, much like I am tending to my own tail. It turns out to be a little papillon dog, and looks like one she loves very much. I certainly do not love my tail, though I would be lying if I didn’t say I don’t feel some sort of protectiveness over it. For instance, if someone were to insult it or call it grotesque or question its purpose, I don’t know that I wouldn’t defend it. Why does a tail need a purpose anymore than does a silly hat or the show Bloodline?
The week is almost over, and I’m feeling both at peace with the tail, and more tormented than ever. It’s a lot like my period, in that it turns me into a recluse, makes me growl incoherently and also periodically faint.
Today is the last day of my self-imposed Hell and Emma has given me permission to work from home for the day and trot around my own neighborhood for some scenic diversity. I am so pleased I could sing, and so I do for a minute or two.
I decide to go work at a coffee shop nearby—not my normal coffee shop (god no), but another coffee shop that has more seating and is generally slightly emptier. As I walk there, I let my tail bob and weave in my wake, and I am unable to feel shame. My nightmare is just hours from ending! A man sitting on a chair in the middle of the sidewalk calls after me, “Hey miss, you have a tail hanging out from the back of you.” I shoot back a cheerful, “Thank you!” The world is glorious!
Walking into the mostly silent coffee shop, I expect to explain myself to the barista and to the three quiet laptop users at the communal table. It’s for an article, I’ll laugh, Believe me—I’m sufficiently embarrassed! I’ll be charming, and maybe earn a new neighborhood chum.
But that doesn’t happen. The barista smiles at me and asks if I would like to try their new maple-pumpkin spice latte. I say no, slightly deflated, and order a regular coffee. I sit in a chair next to a wall which allows my tail to slither under the chair relatively subtly. I think maybe I should have tried the maple-pumpkin spice latte.
The day flies by as I blog away in the coffee shop, filled with the optimism of a woman who knows her reptilian chastity belt will soon be ripped from her waist. And as the sun sets, I Slack to my coworkers, “Peace out suckers, don’t ever @ me again,” throw my laptop in my bag, and shove my ear buds in my dinosaur ears.
I turn on Gryffin’s “Heading Home,” which has become my theme song this week and start marching up the hill towards my own apartment. [Please turn on this song for the rest of the article.]
As I walk, I think about the week—sure, it was overshadowed by a suffocating cloud of temporary depression and immobility, but it was also smattered with a few moments of oblivious contentment, and other times, even a few seconds of joy. If I could find these moments as a woman-dinosaur centaur, then there is happiness to be found in even the darkest moments of life! Like when you have to pee in the middle of traffic, or your pants don’t fit? (Now I am laughing!) Think of our own emotional elasticity, that I am able to essentially change what species I am, and live as a normal-to-odd participant in human society! (I’ve begun to sob.) If this is so, what else we might be able to do? Exercise three-to-four times a week? Go to an event where you don’t know anyone? Write a book?! (Haha, let’s be real.) (My laughter and sobbing are now intermingling until I am out of breath and tired.)
That evening, I stand in the mirror and unclip my tail, letting it fall to the floor. And as I stand there, nude, save for my underwear, bra, sweater, pants, socks and shoes, I see myself for what I am—a blogger, and a woman of strength.
Then, I lie down on my couch and turn on the television, and instantly forget that I ever did this deeply stupid, meaningless experiment.
Video produced by Nick Stango.