Sunday, March 21, 2010

Vanities, or, The Longest Essay Ever Written About Eyebrows, Part 1

I think it's safe to say that most of us spend an embarrassing amount of time obsessing over vain, trivial pursuits. For guys, video games and fantasy sports immediately come to mind. For ladies, it has to be appearance. I've known several females who have been locked in lifelong battles against frizz, belly bulge, and wrinkles. If there were a physical feature I’ve spent an inordinate mount of time obsessing over (Okay, if I had to choose just one) it would be eyebrows.

The obsession began in adolescence. It wasn't bad enough that I had glasses and braces, and was generally awkward and gangly. Oh no, genetics also had to bless me with dark hair. Lots of it. And while I'm forever grateful for the thick mop atop my head, I realized around age ten or so that having hair anyplace else was socially unacceptable and gross. I was mortified when Travis Z-- grabbed my arm on the bus and declared that it was hairier than his own. I felt afraid and somewhat ashamed when my mom deemed me old enough to begin shaving my legs. And when Sara J--, who was supposed to be my friend, squinted hard at my face and declared, "You have hair above your lip," I could only sputter that it was peach fuzz. She quickly responded with, "It looks dark to me." Sara, of course, was blonde, and could not begin to comprehend the unfair, hairy-knuckled hand I'd been dealt in life.

And while all of that stuff was eventually handled with razors, smelly depilatories, and the like—my eyebrows, which hovered on my forehead like black furry caterpillars, were not so simple. The only person I knew with worse eyebrows was Miss Good—a misnomer if there ever was one—our inept sixth-grade substitute teacher. And it wasn't the mere fact they were thick, but that their dark color was in stark contrast to her bottle blonde hair. I knew at age 10 that like it or not, I'd be a brunette for life. (Though there was that one unfortunate attempt at fooling genetics and lightening my brows with Jolen crème bleach, which resulted in an interesting if not attractive tiger-stripe effect.)

When my brows began to grow into a Frida Kahlo-style uni, I knew something had to be done. I begged and pleaded with my mother for help. She, bestower of half my genes, could sympathize with my plight. She herself had beat her brows into submission via electrolysis, years before I was born. My mother’s brows—for better or worse—were now two faint semicircles above her eyes.

Afraid that I may growing up too early, my mom reluctantly handed over tweezers with instructions to pluck between the brows only. But with those tweezers in my hand, I couldn't help myself. Though she said to pull out only one hair at a time, I attacked them in clumps. I was a maniac; I looked a mess.

My mom decided we should let a professional handle my brows from then on—and while that seemed like a solution to my problem, my troubles were only beginning.

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