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One day, during my brunette years, I was standing in the cosmetics aisle of a CVS surveying eyeliner and mascara. An elderly woman was diligently searching for something to my right, but I wasn't paying attention to her. I was engrossed in considering black brown versus black rose mascara. Then she spoke to me.
"Excuse me, dear," she said, "Do you know where the eyebrow pencils are?"
I turned to her, and she looked up into my face. Her eyes went straight to my eyebrows.
"Oh," she said, "I suppose you don't."
And then, before I could even speak a word to her, she walked away.
I have thick, black, and, when I don't groom them, bushy eyebrows. They are the most prominent feature on my face. I've never asked anyone outright, but I've always assumed that one of the first things someone sees when they look at me is the eyebrows. It was certainly the first thing that old woman in CVS saw when she looked at me. One glance and she knew I wouldn't know where to find eyebrow pencils, because I obviously have never needed an eyebrow pencil. She was right, too. I've never owned an eyebrow pencil. I'm not even 100 percent sure what you do with one.
I've always had these thick, dark eyebrows -- even when I was a child. As a little girl, they stood out against my pale, freckled skin. My mother would sit on the edge of my bed when I couldn't sleep and smooth them down gently -- first one and then the other -- until I drifted off. It was a tender gesture, one that I repeat now with my own children, both of whom have substantial eyebrows of their own.
I don't know that I ever thought much about them until I was a teenager. I used to worry they would grow together into a single mighty eyebrow like Bert's on Sesame Street. I know I thought my heavy eyebrows made me look mannish. In middle school, before boobs, sporting short hair and not given to particularly frilly outfits, I was often mistaken for a boy. I was called "young man" on a regular basis, and I hated it. It was the beginning of my well-entrenched belief that I am not pretty, and my eyebrows have always been a part of that.
Despite my concern about a masculine uni-brow, I didn't pluck my eyebrows until I was well into adulthood. I'm not sure why. Perhaps it was the memory of my mother gently smoothing down my eyebrows and telling me my eyebrows were beautiful . . . that I was beautiful. Perhaps it was because of a 30-second conversation when I was 12. I was getting my hair cut at an expensive salon where my mother got her hair cut. The stylist was an older, handsome, impeccably dressed man with a European accent. He looked at my face in the mirror quite fixedly for a moment and then said, "Don't ever tweeze your eyebrows, my darling. They are exquisite. Divine."
Instead of plucking, I wore bangs for more than 20 years. I thought the bangs covered my eyebrows a bit and made them less obvious. I believed this well into my 30s. Finally, my current stylist, Gwen, convinced me to grow out the bangs. She started trying to convince me to lose the bangs the second time I saw her. It took five more years before I listened.
"I wear the bangs to cover up my eyebrows," I told her. "They help balance out my face."
She cocked her head to one side and looked at me like I was insane, "There are a lot of reasons to wear bangs, but that is NOT one of them."
I grew out the bangs, and Gwen was right. I look much better without them.
I do have my eyebrows waxed now. I started several years ago, and once you start, well, you can't go back. I keep them thick, though. I just tidy up the errant hairs around the edges and hold ground against the unibrow. Honestly, I can't imagine my face without my thick, black eyebrows. They are so much a part of who I am. Somewhere along the line, I grew to love them.
Once I let my hair go gray, my eyebrows became even more noticeable. It is good that I've learned to love them because, now more than ever, my eyebrows are one of the first things people notice about me.
Usually, I get a comment about my hair first, "Is that your natural color?"
Then I get the comment about my eyebrows, "Do you dye your eyebrows?"
The Vietnamese women who wax my eyebrows are fascinated by my dark eyebrows. Every time I get a new person, I have to explain all over again.
"No, I don't dye them."
"No, I didn't use any black pencil on them."
"Yes, this is my natural hair color now."
"No, my eyebrows just didn't turn gray.
I don't know why."
Since I have to repeat this almost every visit, I'm pretty sure they think I'm lying either about the hair or the eyebrows.
Lately, I've been finding a gray hair or two in my eyebrows. It honestly never bothered me to find gray in my hair. I love my gray hair. But my eyebrows? I'm not happy to see the gray interlopers there. It's odd. Why would I care if my eyebrows turn gray when I don't care that all the hair on my head did?
But I do care. I pluck those gray ones out.
I can't imagine my face without these thick black eyebrows. I feel like I might disappear without them.
So for now the answer is, "No, I don't dye my eyebrows."
But if you ask me again in a few more years,
the answer might be different.
This blogger is also featured on EndlessBeauty.com, a website focused on a fresh look at beauty, from skin to hair to makeup, plus celeb style, fashion, and fitness.
Megan writes at www.acorndreaming.com, a chronicle of her life and all the beautiful, crazy people who inhabit it, including her ADHD son, Ace, her old soul daughter, Tink, and her husband, IT Guy, that liar guy who used to wear tights.