Hi, I’m Mary, and this is my column no one asked for about things I like!
As I’ve stated in this column already, I’m always on a journey. Today I’m going to tell you about one of the more challenging journeys I’ve embarked on in my life. No, I’m not talking about the time I held in explosive diarrhea in the Bolivian desert for two days — I’m talking about my eyebrow journey. It’s been fraught with challenges, from overplucking to unevenness to stray hairs galore, but each trial taught me an invaluable lesson. About eyebrows. I’m still just talking about eyebrows.
As a child, I often accompanied my mother to the hair salon. Though it was only two blocks away, we usually drove, and though that’s not relevant to the story it just dawned on me that we could have walked. Huh.
On our way in the door, my mother would pause, take out a quarter and get a handful of M&Ms from the little candy machine. M&Ms were her favorite treat but like most women, she was always watching her weight and therefore rarely allowed herself to purchase them except for this small handful at the hairdresser. Sometimes, if she was having a hard day, she’d go back and get a second quarter’s worth, then spend the next several hours explaining all the various reasons why she deserved a second helping even though no one was judging her but herself.
Every time my mother visited this salon, she got her hair cut and her eyebrows waxed. I remember sitting in the little curtained booth with her as a woman poured hot wax on her face. When she ripped it off, my mother would wince, and I’d wonder why the fuck she was doing that to her fucking face anyway, but I recognized that the salon was a woman’s domain, and that as a girl, it was my duty and privilege to sit there and quietly observe. Once I asked my mother why she waxed when it seemed to hurt so much, and she told me plucking hurt too. She had a point, but I think the real reason she waxed is because she didn’t have a mother to teach her how to do things like pluck her eyebrows or put on makeup, so she outsourced things like that as much as possible.
My next eyebrow memory involves the older sister of my best friend. I spent a lot of time at this friend’s house drinking pickle juice and playing with her hamsters while listening to Guns n’ Roses on cassette. We knew better than to disturb her sister, especially after we made the unforgivable mistake of using her eyeliner to draw one day (she screamed at us for a long time about how expensive eyeliner was and even now, all these years later, having purchased dozens of eyeliners at various price points and having realized that she’d bought that Wet n’ Wild at the Rite Aide down the street for $2 max, I still think of eyeliner as a substance nearly as precious and valuable as gold).
One day we were in the kitchen when her sister came in, sat down at the table and started plucking her eyebrows. She was only in sixth or seventh grade at the time, and I was probably in fourth, but it was so deeply ingrained in me that eyebrow maintenance was a woman’s game that I remember watching her and thinking, “Wow. What a slut!”
Of course, at that age, I wanted nothing more than to be a slut myself, but I knew better than to just go ahead an start plucking. My mother still hadn’t forgiven me for the time I absentmindedly trimmed my eyebrows with a pair of scissors while lying on her bedroom floor watching soap operas, so I held off.
I was probably a freshman in high school by the time I got my hands on a pair of tweezers and felt brave enough to actually use them. By that point, I had already been brainwashed by women’s magazines (which I’d first read at the salon while waiting for my mother to get her hair cut, ahem) into thinking I had the beginnings of a unibrow (and also that I had to have all my teeth pulled in order to give a good blow job, but that’s another story for another time).
So I began to pluck. Because I had no idea what I was doing, I started slowly and continued to chip away at my brows little by little until I eventually thinned them out, not into the razor thin lines that were popular at the time, but certainly more than I should have. I remember being endlessly concerned they were uneven, and in the course of trying to even them out, I always ended up overplucking.
For years, I tried to make my arches as high as possible and to keep my brows separated from each other like preteens at a middle school dance. At some point, they got too far apart, and I tried to grow them back in, but the hair that grew back was…spiky. I had plucked too much for too long, and I was being punished!
A few years ago, maybe six, I decided my brows were too thin, and by decided I mean my sister told me and I got offended but eventually realized she was right. The new trend in beauty was to have thick, untamed brows, and I read somewhere that fuller brows make you look younger which, though I was still young at the time, was all I needed to hear to begin the painful process of growing back in my eyebrows.
It took months, and looked awful at times, but I did it. Once the process was complete, I went into a specialty grocery store in Brooklyn, not to show off my eyebrows, but to buy hummus. I walked in, and an old man who worked there looked up at me and said, “I like them eyebrows. Thick. is. in.” Though I knew he wasn’t actually talking about my brows, I was thrilled. I had accomplished my goal: my brows were thicc!
I had noticed, however, that certain patches grew back a little thin. One day, I was at Sephora, probably because I was having a hard day (Sephora is my second helping of M&Ms, though a second helping of M&Ms is also my second helping of M&Ms.). I was browsing (no pun intended lol ) the Benefit section when I saw a product I’d never seen before — a little mascara wand, but for eyebrows. I tried it and fell in love. It filled out my brows without looking like I’d used a product to fill out my brows.
Though I loved this product, I noticed it dried up in a matter of months. A few months ago, I went to Sephora to replace a dry tube, but they were out. I asked a saleswoman for an equivalent product and she directed me to the Anastasia section.
Anastasia! Everyone knows Anastasia is the Hollywood brow guru, and I felt it was time for me to finally get myself some movie star brows. So I purchased her tinted eyebrow gel, which goes on a little wet at first, but looks more natural than the Benefit gel. Everyone is obsessed with Glossier’s Boy Brow, which I’ve admittedly never tried, but I’m pretty sure Anastasia shaped Jennifer Aniston’s eyebrows, so buying her products is the least I can do to repay her.
And that’s how I became the woman I am today: one who has eyebrows and knows what to do with them. My mother passed away almost a decade ago, and I miss her every day, for every reason imaginable. But it’s little things that make me miss her most. For example, I’m not upset that she’ll never see me get married, because I don’t know if I will get married, but I thought she’d at least stick around long enough to see Jim and Pam’s wedding on “The Office.” People tell me it’s a shame that she can’t see who I’ve become since she died (JK literally no one tells me this), but I think the greater shame is that she didn’t live long enough to see me figure out my eyebrows. I used to help her with her makeup sometimes, because she was, in her words “incompetent” when it came to all matters feminine, and if she were still around, I might even be able to help her figure out how to stop waxing, grow out her brows, and tame them herself, like a real slut.
OK, this might not have been very funny, but it’s definitely thorough! As always, I’d like to clarify that this is NOT a sponsored post. I received nothing for it and am, in fact, pretty sure no one ever wanted me to write 1,000+ words on fucking eyebrows. Still, if anyone is reading and ever wants to give me literally anything for free, eyebrow-related or not, I WILL TAKE IT!!!!!!
Anyway, I hope this was helpful. I’ll be back with more unsolicited recommendations soon!