I never thought much about my double-arches, or the fact that they weren’t considered attractive, until I was a preteen. One morning before school, I looked in the mirror and all I could see were thick, dark, joined, below-average eyebrows. They, most certainly, were ruining my face! I walked the halls of Crescent View Middle School wondering how my eyebrows could be a little better — a little more arch, a little less thick, a little more far apart. I hoped, by some miracle, my eyebrows would make the rest of me seem smaller; small enough to fit into a white, blonde, hairless ideal that was attractive to everyone around me. To be petite, in every physical aspect, was the feminine thing. It’s what would make me achieve all the milestones of successful teenagehood: boys, cute clothes, visible collarbones.
In the pre-internet world I lived in as a teen, I couldn’t aggressively type into Google: “Could my eyebrows ruin my face?” Thank goodness for that, because if I could have, I would’ve quickly hit enter and been met with a chorus of yeses from brow experts and gurus. They’d say that eyebrows are the frame of your picture. They’d also say that mine were a little wonky, and without some work, my frame would be broken.
Eyebrows, a complex facial feature, have been part of cultural discussions around hair and gender for centuries. I knew from watching TV and movies that the shape of an eyebrow was truly a pursuit of someone who was seeking femininity. Take ‘The Princess Diaries,’ for instance. Princess Mia’s makeover is quite dramatic. Her transformation was in the hands of Paolo, and the scene made me question my beauty routine altogether.
He takes a brush to her curly brown locks, but it gets caught. “You have thick hair. Like a wolf.”, he says. As he struggles to untangle the mess, the torture device snaps right in half. Clue number one that my natural curls weren’t ideal. “Do you wear contact lenses?” Paolo asks, while he gently strokes them off the bridge of Mia’s nose. “I have them, but I don’t like to wear them.” Ah-ha! It was like Princess Mia and I were sisters separated at birth. I hated my contacts, but then again, I also hated my glasses. Paolo then grasps Princess Mia’s lenses, and snaps them right in half. “You broke my glasses!” she cries. Paolo shrugs. “You broke my brush.” Clue number two: because of my glasses, I couldn’t fill the role of a white, blonde, hairless teen ideal. Last, Paolo approaches Mia’s famously bushy eyebrows. They were unruly, thick, and unkempt. While she would eventually get them plucked during her princess makeover, the beginning of the film saw Mia embracing her eyebrows, including the infamous eyebrow-wiggling scene as she got ready for school. Why couldn’t I embrace that kind of beauty, just like her?
I’ll never forget the day my eyebrow anxiety all but spun out of control. In eighth grade gym class, everyone was divided into teams for a volleyball game. A classmate and I stood in formation, hardly putting any effort into the activity. When it came time to rotate, she walked towards me to replace my spot. “Whoa! Why do you have a uni-brow?!” She said it loud enough that I could feel the heat of stares of the other boys and girls around us. Tears blurred my not-so-perfect vision (because, remember? Paolo made me believe glasses would never make me pretty), and I held my head down with my hand covering my forehead the rest of the day.
When I got home from school, I immediately dug through my mom’s top bathroom drawer where I knew she kept all her beauty necessities – Q-tips, eye cream, mascara, blush, lip balm – but all I needed was a shiny pair of tweezers. Surely then all my eyebrow anxieties would disappear. I searched and searched, but couldn’t find my special surgical tool. Without second thought, I stepped into her shower, stole her pink razor, and walked up the stairs. In my purple and forest-green bathroom, I switched on the light, climbed onto the counter top and sat cross-legged as I leaned my body into the mirror. I gazed into my own eyes and familiar tears swirled inside them. “Why do you have a uni-brow?!” Anger and embarrassment shaved my uni-brow into a naked, hairless mole rat.
It was as if self-dissatisfaction consumed my every thought. Overtime, I gained an unhealthy preoccupation with aesthetics, and I wanted my body to look like what I saw on the screen. That’s why I did dramatic things to mask my insecurities; lost 20 pounds, over-plucked my growing-in wisps of hair, and chopped off my blonde curly locks. I felt like, and probably looked like, a scrawny little boy when I was 14 years old – all in pursuit of a perfectly manicured set of eyebrows.
Years later, in high school, I was finally allowing my arches to grow back and find their place on my face. It took an insane amount of self-control not to pluck as soon as I saw a single strand trickle in. So, to cope, I used everything from pencils, powders, gels, pens, and mascaras to try and define the scraggly little things. However, I learned such an effort helped nothing on one fall afternoon.
I was with a bus load of kids driving back to Alta High School after our classes off-campus at the technology center. Sitting and talking with a group of friends, a guy I knew real well caught a close look at the growing-in specs of hair that covered my what-should-have-been-eyebrows like tiny freckles. “Whoa! What did you do to your eyebrows?!” I could feel the heat of stares of the other guys and girls around us. Tears blurred my not-so-perfect vision (still refused to wear my glasses), and I held my head down with my hand covering my forehead as I ran off the bus to my car. I threw my bag in the back seat, turned the key, and drove away.
It wasn’t until after college that I finally gave in to brow restoration. I had tried every kit in the cosmetic aisles, hunting for my solution, but my eyebrows were still sparse, and they were still my archenemy. I talked to my husband about ‘microblading,’ and how a girl at my work could fix the damage I had done throughout those many years. “But your eyebrows are great!” he’d say. It’s not that he didn’t support what I wanted, that wasn’t an issue. What he didn’t understand was how this more permanent fix would change my life. And it changed. For good.
While I laid down in my esthetician’s salon, she drew hair-like strokes with a tool that mimicked the natural hair in my brows. Pigment was implanted under my skin, but it wasn’t as scary as it sounds. Within a few hours, I had all the confidence I needed. Waking up in the mornings now and having make-up on isn’t so bad, because at least I have eyebrows.
It’s clear that I’ve given my eyebrows more thought than your average, fashion-minded young woman, but it’s kind of terrifying to consider how insecurities effect our minds and our perception of self-worth. I have yet to meet a single human being who doesn’t have any insecurities, but as I have experienced eyebrow anxiety most of my life, I have come to appreciate that my eyebrows, like most people’s, are not naturally tidy creatures. I have also come to care less and less about their possible impact on my life. Instead, I will always look back on my eyebrow-enhancing experience, put aside the insecurity, and embrace my delicate-arches, just like Princess Mia. All that’s left is the perfected eyebrow-wiggle. But until then, confidence is what will make a world of a difference.