As I am jetting off to North Carolina this week to celebrate my father Bill Hardy’s 93rd birthday, I am recycling this blog post, which originally appeared on August 14, 2013. Fittingly, it’s about getting old.
My eyebrows were not the first thing to go, but, thus far, they are proving the most intractable.
I’ve never given much thought to my eyebrows. I did not have a uni-brow, just two furry caterpillars that responded relatively readily to plucking. When an influx of Vietnamese into North America made aesthetics affordable to the middle class, I discovered the joys of eyebrow waxing – could this have been one of the unintended consequences of the Vietnam War, the sudden profusion of inexpensive nail salons? If so, hooray! At least one good thing resulted from that debacle.
I worried about other things: my BMI, my amazing disappearing waist, crusty bits and nurdles. One morning I looked in one of those “up close and personal” mirrors that old vain people should really try and avoid and saw that the skin under my eyebrows had plopped itself right down on my eyelashes — no eyelid visible, just two tiny eyes peering fearfully from under overhanging cave mouths of skin. I couldn’t believe it. I‘ve been bitten by something, I thought. Maybe a spider. Best go to the pharmacy and get something to reduce the swelling. Then I realized: OMG. This is why people get eyelid surgery — this right here!
Then my eyebrows began to turn grey – really grey. As grey – and this is how my mother would have put it – as a badger. I’ve never really petted a badger; I’m not sure that’s advisable. But I imagine that my eyebrow hair is not only the color of a badger, but its texture as well – vigorous, wiry hair that stands up and out and wants to go one way when you want it to go the other way – in short, bad hair to have on your face.
The thing about grey eyebrows is not so much that they are grey as that they tend to disappear into your face – such eyebrows are not so much a feature as a smudge. An aesthetician who specialized in permanent makeup once told me about a client of hers who had been born without eyebrows. “When I tattooed her a set, she was so grateful she cried,” she told me. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but now I understand.
At first I tried having my eyebrows tinted at my favorite nail salon. This was not too expensive, nor should it have been, since the best thing I can say about the results is that I looked very surprised.
Then I had it done at a pricier spa. As opposed to painting two half moons over my eyes, as had been the case at the nail salon, the aesthetician labored over my brows with artisanal concentration and fervor. It was expensive and the effect was subtle. By which I mean that in about three days my inner badger had reasserted itself and I was all bristly again.
In Episode 464 of This American Life, Invisible Made Visible, the late, fabulous David Rakoff says of life, “You go along the road as time and the elements lay waste to your luggage, scattering the contents into the bushes. Until there you are, standing with a battered and empty suitcase that frankly, no one wants to look at anymore.” (http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/464/transcript).
I am vain, but I’m also a feminist – albeit a highly flawed one. I’m also a realist. I’m not going to have eye surgery and, as for my eyebrows, I’m going to release these badgers into the wild and be done with it.