Browdown 2016

28 Jan


This week, I had a browdown.

Now, before I explain what happened, I need to warn you that this blog post will contain nothing of substance (because my posts usually cover really intense political and cultural issues). But honestly, the most trivial things in life are also parts of life, so why not write about them?

My eyebrows are very important to me. It used to be that they were a point of shame because they were really thick and unruly. (This type of eyebrow runs in my family – multiple of my grandfather’s relatives can form shapes out of their eyebrow hair. It’s just a known talent.) Some of my friends even made comments, telling me I should wax and pluck and trim. Others just assumed I was part chimpanzee, which – conveniently – also explained my appetite for bananas and my ability to swing between tree branches…

And so, after all of the peer and internal pressure, I decided to get my eyebrows waxed.

When I emerged, I felt like a new woman! And my vision was no longer blocked, which was extremely useful when it came time for things like crossing the street or taking standardized tests.

Ever since the tender age of twelve, eyebrow waxing has been a part of my routine. I see the same specialist every few weeks – she gives me candy and rips hair off of my face. There is nothing but love between us.

Before today, I had yet to wax my eyebrows in France. Mostly because I was afraid of seeing someone other than my brow lady…but also because it took me a few months to feel comfortable with my “eyebrow instructions” vocabulary.

Today, I finally took the plunge. And you know what? THIS IS WHY I DON’T DIVE OR SWIM. PLUNGING IS NOT ADVISABLE.

Simone welcomed me to the esthetician center with a soothing voice and really smooth hands. She told me to take a seat in the chair, and asked me how I wanted my eyebrows.

“You know,” I said, “If you could just follow the natural line, that would be great.”

She nodded and acted like she does nothing in life BUT follow the “natural line” of people’s brows. I felt confident.

“When was the last time you waxed your eyebrows,” Simone inquired. “A very long time ago?”

“About five weeks ago,” I said.

Simone lifted her own petite brow as if to say, “Bénédicte, I win the bet, it hasn’t been ages since she waxed, she’s just part chimpanzee!”

After what seemed like an eternity – which was my first indication that things had gone somewhat awry – Simone told me I could look in the mirror.

What if one day, you decided to go in for an eyebrow “touch up,” and you came out looking like a Madame Tussauds wax figure? What would you do? How would you respond to someone asking, “Are they OK?” (Seriously, there was enough space between my eyebrows to set up a regulation football field.)

I imagined I had a smile pasted to my face – which I’m sure matched my tattooed-looking brows – and replied that yes, I was pleased with her work.

Had I been able to do anything in that moment, I would have taken a tiki torch and run around torching off everyone’s eyebrows that looked normal and hearty. I would have grabbed a banana cream pie and shoved it into Simone’s face, only to take the remnants and shove them down my own throat as a way to swallow my feelings.

Because tiki torches and banana cream pie don’t really exist in France, I opted for the more traditional reaction of paying for the services and hauling ass OUT.

I frantically texted a handful of my “Statement Brow” friends (yes, they are a separate group in my contacts, reserved for emergencies such as this) asking for feedback and advice:


Me: “Mano, something awful has happened to my face. I look like a wax figure. I could cry.”

Mano: “Just seeing this. What?! Are you ok? Might not look as bad as you think.”

Me: “It’s OK. I’m OK. It was just a shock, you know?”

With which situations do you usually associate the statement, “I’m OK, it was just a shock”? Car accidents? Ex-lovers getting married or having babies? Realizing your favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavor has been discontinued? Those are all possibilities. But less than desirable hair removal? Maybe not.

Mano: “Just tell people you’re a Lebanese artist, or something!”

*(Mano is Lebanese, and also happens to have great statement brows.)*

Ah yes, what a good idea… “I’m a Lebanese painter, but I just love the French countryside”…would be my cocktail hour story, from that moment forward.

A few moments later, I engaged in another heavy, emotionally-charged conversation:


Me: “Got my brows done in France. She murdered them. The lady goes, ‘I took a lot off in the middle because your brows were much too close together! They need space.’ I COULD HAVE PUNCHED HER. I, like, am having a brow breakdown.”

Deepti: “A browdown? Lol see what I did there.”

Me: “I’m gonna get drunk tonight, alone, because of this browdown.”

Deepti: “It’s a Wednesday.”

Me: “I know. Your point is?”

Clearly, I was not in a good place – even too deranged to see the humor in Deepti’s brilliant word combination (thanks for that, Deeps).

Then, looking for familial support:


Me: “OMG dude this is the end. I got my brows done and look like a fucking Kardashian wax figure. This might be the worst thing to ever happen to me.”

Cecelia: “Omg show me!!”

Me: “Wait, I have to get to a private place.”

*Ran into an alleyway and took a quick Snapchat.*

Cecelia: “They don’t look terrible! I’ve definitely seen some that are worse.”


Maybe the other sister would have something uplifting to add to this brow saga (“Braga”? Sounds kind of German):


Me: “Lydia HELP, I got my eyebrows done. The lady ruined me forever.”

Lydia: Send a pic!!

*Pic was sent.*

Lydia: “The FUCK did they do? Why would u ever trust them!!”

Sophie: “LYDIA. OMG everyone said it wasn’t that bad!!!”

Lydia: Eggs.

My God. It was SO bad that she had to respond with a nonsensical word to change the subject.

At this point, I had wandered into a lovely little park and was pacing back and forth, awaiting further responses from the Brow Brigade. Everyone was trying to help, but I had visions of going back to work and having all of my students ask why my eyebrows had been replaced by Caillou’s head.

I mean, eyebrows are on your FACE. And your face is what the world sees on a daily basis! And to add insult to injury, my thick brows make – or, made, I should say – a statement! They made people question my ethnicity and inquire about my heritage! What other defining traits could I use to start conversations?! (It’s like when Jo cuts her hair in Little Women, and Amy says, “Jo, how could you? Your one beauty!”)

Should I just go home and forget all of the other (one) plans I’d had for the day? Should I just spend hours in front of the mirror, trying to convince myself that I am more than my brows?

I decided to press onward, and to go to the gym. As I used the rowing machine and stared at my face in the mirror, Beyoncé’s “Pretty Hurts” came on my iPhone.

Yes, I thought, pretty does hurt. And so does waxing. And so does this rowing machine.

The next day, I went to school, sporting my non-existent eyebrows. At the end of my one-hour English club, one of my twelve-year-old students was milling around with his friends.

“What’s wrong, Robin?” I asked.

“Madame, you are not beautiful…” he said.

(Oh dear. Can I get a bottle of red? No, make that gin. I will take a bottle of gin, please. And a cake. Do they make gin cakes?)

“…You are magnificent,” he concluded.

Bow down to the browdown.



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