My thick brows taught me I don't need to change how I look for anyone

Mar 3, 2016 at 7:30 a.m. ET

When it comes to eyebrows, bigger is better, but it wasn’t always this way.

Growing up, my brows were thicker than most and I wanted to fit in, to look like the other girls with thin pencil-like arches above their lashes. Mine in contrast looked connected, like someone took a big brown Sharpie and drew a line across my forehead. I needed to take matters into my own hands. So, it was sometime in the fifth grade that I decided to separate them. I grabbed a pink Daisy razor and swiped it firmly down the middle of my forehead. I noticed there was little change so I tried again. And again. Finally leaving me with two small rectangles on top of my eyes, resembling a set of Charlie Chaplin’s moustache perched on my forehead.

I figured no one would notice at school, but I was wrong, I was teased mercilessly for my new eyebrow crew cut. On picture day I thought I was slick and grabbed some brown eyeliner to fill in the missing lines; the contrast only making my forehead more noticeable. Eventually my eyebrows grew back, but now they were on my radar more than ever.

As puberty struck, I discovered a pair of shiny silver tweezers resting on the top shelf in our bathroom’s medicine cabinet. I grabbed them and spent endless hours aiming the metal object at my loose hairs. I could not hold my hand steady enough at first, yet after a while got used to it. To add sheen, sometimes I would sleek Vaseline on them to keep them in place. They were finally starting to resemble my peers' eyebrows.

But no matter how slim and sleek my eyebrows appeared I still got comments. “You know who you look like? Brooke Shields!” While I knew she was envied for how good she looked in her Calvin’s, I took it as an insult. That was one pair of eyebrows I’d preferred not being compared to. She and I were just about the only two women at the time with thick eyebrows. One of us was faring better than the other.

Eventually I began to invest my income in a myriad of painful ways to remove the unwanted hairs. Waxing. Electrolysis and even threading at a popular store in Jackson Heights, Queens, where they displayed their procedure live on television sets for viewing on the street below the number 7 train. Glad I was onlygetting my eyebrows done. Threading seemed harmless enough, but those thin white strands felt like knives slicing off bits of your face; leaving remnants of my cilia resting like sheaves on the floor. How long would I have to keep this up?

Years went by and my tweezers became my crutch.

I used to carry them with me everywhere I went; like a trusty weapon against strayed tresses. Then one day, airport security took my trusty Tweezermans. I went through serious plucking withdrawal, reaching for my apparatus even when I knew it wasn’t there, but I got used to it. I survived a full week without a single removal. At first I was horrified, but ultimately I grew to like their thicker shape. I liked how they complemented my features, how they set me apart. I’d spent so much time trying to tame them that I never permitted myself to see how they would look au naturel. The verdict was surprising. People started to tell me they actually liked my eyebrows better now. “Your eyebrows were too thin before,” a friend commented. I’d never been accused of being too thin of anything so I took notice.

When you are younger, you want to look like everyone else, even if it means you stop looking like yourself. It took hijacking my tweezers to realize I was better off just the way I was. I wish I learned that lesson earlier. Now I have come to a happy compromise. My eyebrows are still a prominent feature, but I go to the salon for maintenance. Today strangers come up to me to and compliment them, which always makes me raise an eyebrow. Some even expressed envy — how they wished theirs could be so thick. Imagine that.

So when I notice other women with bold, thick eyebrows, I smile and wonder how long it took them to discover their beauty.