As of a couple days ago, I have stopped plucking my eyebrows. This might be a revelation to people who know me only because they probably have no idea that I ever started plucking my eyebrows. But it’s something I’ve been doing quietly for the past, oh, twenty years or so. I have tweezers in my car because I have found that tweezing works well in natural lighting. I don’t actually tweeze while driving (surely that would be crazy) (right?) but I have been known to reach for my tweezers when waiting at a light or something. It’s the sort of thing that appeals to someone like me, who can easily become locked into small somewhat useless tasks. But how did it all begin?
For this we need to go back about twenty years (more like twenty-two years, now that I think about it) to a day in which I allowed my friend Alisa (brilliant with makeup; in fact the person who actually did the makeup for my wedding) to give me a “makeover.” This really just means that she thought it would be really fun to see what I’d look like with a ton of makeup. She had done the same thing to our mutual friend Caitlin a few days earlier and the transformation made us all giddy. Before we began, Alisa said, I’d love to do your eyebrows, at which point I realized she’d been noticing them and mentally subtracting from them every single time she saw me (something I do as well, I’m ashamed to admit). Sure, I said.
But this takes me further back, to the age of around eight or nine. I was staying at my stepfather’s mother’s house and at one point she looked at me and exclaimed, Oh my god, you have perfect eyebrows! They are just perfect! Until that moment I had not given one thought to my eyebrows. I went to the mirror and looked at them and wasn’t quite sure what she meant. They simply looked like eyebrows to me, ordinary ones at that. But I figured that a grown woman knew what she was talking about and I carried this pride with me for years.
Until one day in the seventh grade when my right eyebrow was ruined forever.
The way things worked back then is that during lunchtime we could wander around the school (or basically anywhere) (man, have times changed) as long as we were back when the bell rang. My friends Hilary and Kim and I were fond of getting Fun Dip (those candy sticks that you dipped into powdered sugar packs, good lord, why on earth did we like them?) from the ice cream truck on the corner and then, when lunchtime was over, piling into the auditorium doors from the outside with pretty much the entire rest of our junior high school. We sincerely liked this. The three of us referred to this as “The Big Push” (we were in seventh grade) since everyone just pushed until we all were swept like a wave through the doors, not unlike what happens on the subway during rush hour, except that every kid was pretty joyful about the experience. However, there was one big push that was bigger than all the others. That was the one where, during the pushing, I was knocked to the ground and a whole bunch of kids fell on top of me. I was up within seconds but apparently some kid’s zipper had dug into my right eyebrow and blood had started to pour down my face. Obviously it looked a lot worse than it was. To this day, I will never forget the look on Hilary’s face as she stood waiting for me inside the doors, as I was led past by a teacher to the nurse’s office. Her look of horror is what made me start crying.
Stories spread through the school that my eye had fallen out, etc. etc. (you’ve likely been through middle school) and ultimately the cut healed into a scar right in the middle of my eyebrow.
But when Alisa plucked my brows that first time, all the hair below the scar was removed and you could no longer notice it. In truth, the scar had never bothered me at all. I kind of liked how it encapsulated all of seventh grade into that one vivid moment of being trampled by my peers. Who doesn’t think of seventh grade like that? But now that my eyebrows were shaped I had to admit that I could see why people pluck their brows. Just a subtle little thing like that can make your eyes really pop. Or so they say.
However, the maintenance. I had no idea that I would spend the next twenty-plus years tending to them every other day or so. Or that sometimes I would pluck too much in frustration. Or that occasionally waxing them would leave the skin around my eyebrows red and terrible looking for hours. And there was always that feeling of riding a strange eyebrow treadmill that I could never get off.
Recently my admiration for the actress Gaby Hoffmann made me reconsider the whole eyebrow thing. I mean, unfortunately, I would never have eyebrows like that (if I had, I would have no doubt proudly embraced them) but I was finally curious enough to see what they’d look like if left to their own devices. Did they even have their own devices anymore? And also I was just so tired of having to pay attention to them. Who wants to look at their eyebrows all the time? I certainly don’t. It’s time to move on to other things. I’m going to turn 45 next week. So are my eyebrows. We will be just fine.