Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Vanities, or, The Longest Essay Ever Written About Eyebrows, Part 2

A “professional” brow waxer, in the confines of Shelby Township, Michigan, was Sandy, the woman who cut my mom's hair at the local salon. She knew nothing of arch and shaping, and would just drip on the wax and rip away. Sometimes she would leave the wax on for too long, and it would get cold and hardened. As a result, when she ripped off the strips, a good portion of my skin came with it. I'd be forced to go to school with angry, red commas below my eyes, as I painfully learned that cover-up wouldn't stick to open sores.

If that weren't enough, I began to develop a horrible nervous tic. I'd pull out my eyebrows with my fingers while bored or anxious. On a long car trip back from a high school cross country meet, I was worrying away at my brows when my friend awoke from a nap and shrieked, "Stephanie! Stop!" I had created a sizable bald patch above my right eye. The first thing I did when I got home was purchase an eyebrow pencil. I colored in that patch for weeks.

In college, the trauma continued. On a trip to the local mall with my roommates, a woman at a nail salon (I should have known better) did a complete hack job on my face. I still shake with anger when I think of how she handed me the mirror afterward, as if nothing were wrong. But things had gone terribly awry. On the right, my brow looked normal. On the left, only three hairs remained above my arch. I was a lopsided monstrosity. I should have demanded my money back! Instead, I think I even gave her a tip.

And then there was my trip abroad. In Spain for six months, I could not rely on tweezers alone. So I found a salon, where I (once again) had a layer of skin taken off along with the offending hairs. By this time I had begun to accept that this was the price to pay for beauty—that is, until I took my battle-scarred face to my usual Internet café, and the young guy at the desk handed me a password and asked, "What's wrong with your face?"

I was shocked, appalled, embarrassed—and said as much to my host mother that evening. She shrugged. "He knows you; he felt he had the right to ask." Talk about culture shock. I made a mental note to question his next blemish if ever I saw one.

Two years later, I moved to New York City. I was excited to begin my life there, and live and work among the best. Of course, it didn't escape me that “the best” also applied to the eyebrow gurus who plied their trade there as well. Okay, on a publishing salary I probably couldn't afford the BEST, but I could at least go to a place that was written up in magazines.
My trip to the Anastasia Brow Studio (pronounced Ana-stah-see-a, not Ana-stay-zha...see, fancy!) was, of course, a disaster. I sat in the brow guru's chair; she took one look at me and shook her head.

"I can't do it."

"What do you mean you can't do it?"

"You've overplucked. You'll have to let your brows grow back in and come back. Say, in four to six weeks."

"Four to six weeks without plucking?"

"That's right."

It was like telling an addict he couldn't have drugs for a month; cutting a porn addict's Internet connection; telling Rush Limbaugh he had to live among the hippie-liberals of Brooklyn, join the Food Co-op, and attend lesbian mothers' parenting group meetings. (Okay that last comparison is a stretch; I just wanted to imagine it.)

So I was tasked with the most difficult challenge of my willpower to date. I circled the date on the calendar, and every time I thought of picking up my tweezers I imagined how great my brows would look in six, four, two weeks. I did it. And I was thrilled. I came home and waggled my new brows at the mirror, my cat, my boyfriend—all of whom could have cared less.
Now Anastasia was able to keep my happy—for a while. But then my dermatologist introduced me to my current and forever love: threading.

All that waxing had taken its toll. I was still losing epidermis, and I believed I was beginning to lose sensation in parts of my forehead. I think there was a point when people could have stuck needles above the bridge of my nose and I wouldn’t have flinched, so tough was the skin. An awesome party trick…maybe.

So, threading. For those of you who aren’t familiar—I’m with you. When I first heard of it I imagined people sewing your brows into position with needle and thread. Ouch! And while it can still be an ouch, that’s not really how it works. Actually, I’m not sure how it works, exactly, and I’m fine with that. I think the threads actually work like a lasso, pulling the hairs out one by one. All I know is, the Indian ladies at my salon know how to whip my brows into shape, and I am no longer losing skin. Though sometimes they will still stand over me and tsk tsk. “Here,” Soma will say, handing me a mirror, “See that bald spot over on the left? No more pluck.” And I’ll nod, but won’t really listen.

What can I say? I’m a tweezer addict.

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