For the first 13 years of my life I never once thought about my eyebrows. They were just some hairy lines on everybody’s face, well most people’s face, some people never quite recovered from the 1990s tweezer purge. But this all changed when I went to high school. Suddenly these hairy lines became the only thing I thought about.
At high school I started to hear words I had never heard before: T-zone, acne, blackheads and the word that scared me the most, mono brow. I was quickly informed a mono brow was when your two eyebrows joined together above the bridge of your nose to create one huge hairy caterpillar. For the rest of the day I casually (see: awkwardly) shielded my face when I spoke to anyone until I could assess my face under the blinding bathroom lights at my family home.
Inspecting my 13-year-old face in the mirror I was concerned. My eyebrows were unruly and unkept. They were no longer just a facial characteristic, they were now the cause of my first foray into superficial vanity. I returned to school the next day and learned a new word: waxer. For every problem there is a solution and a waxer came to represent my insecure teenage salvation.
That night I told my mum, with the same urgency of someone who had completed a marathon requesting water, that I needed a waxer. Sure I was 13 but it was non negotiable. To me my eyebrows were so out of control that you needed a compass to make your way out of them. Alive. My mum looked at my eyebrows perplexed and answered: “No.”
Unfortunately for her she had raised a persistent and ambitious daughter. She had probably hoped for me to cash in on these personality traits in more earnest ways but I was teenager and my eyebrows were my world. For a whole year I campaigned to have my eyebrows waxed until in the middle of one of opening speeches, fed up, she said: “Fine.”
Lying on the waxer’s table and looking up at the ceiling I thought: miracles do come true. I also thought: Did I just agree to have a stranger put hot glue on my face and then aggressively rip off it off in one swish motion? What if she accidentally ripped off my entire eyebrow? Surely a mono brow was less humiliating than one eyebrow? What if the glue got stuck mid rip and I had to have surgery leaving a permeant scar or worse the wax got stuck to my eye socket and my eye rolled across the beauty parlour’s floor and into the food court? That would be so unhygienic. Sensing my fear the waxer told me it would be all be over in a minu-
And just like that it was done.
Then came the tweezers to remove the rogue hairs that were like dinner guests that refused to acknowledge it was time to leave. The waxer plucked away and occasionally paused to appraise her work. She was Picasso and my face was her canvas. Pluck. Pluck. Pluck. It was like she was told she had 24 hours to paint a masterpiece for the Guggenheim. Her hand was moving rapidly and her expression fervent. Finally she stopped, pleased with her efforts. She rubbed aloe vera on my face and reached for the hand held mirror on her waxer’s trolley and waved it in front of me. Her masterpiece was complete.
I looked at the magnified version of myself in the mirror and was shocked to see my eyebrows looked: EXACTLY THE SAME. Nothing had changed. Maybe they were a little tidier. It was like when a teacher told you to read over your work before handing it in and you skim your handwriting and add one comma to your essay, thinking you’ve earned an A to A+ because of your lazily astute observation. This is how I felt about my eyebrows - they were essentially the same with a hairy comma removed. But before I could say anything my waxer beat me to it: “Don’t make the same mistake as me, your eyebrows are perfect!”
She pulled an antibacterial wipe from her stash and rubbed her right eyebrow until it almost disappeared. It turns out she was an artist but her canvas was her own face because the brushwork she used to paint these fake small feathered hairs were so lifelike that they would make Frida Khalo’s eyebrows have an existential crisis.
Jaw to the floor, I said thank you and left. I did not touch my eyebrows for several years after that encounter. I was no longer scared I would get a mono brow but an invisi-brow. Now when I get my eyebrows waxed, I ask for the bare minimum and keep them as they are. Just two hairy lines on my face.