I’ve been staring at certain people, lately.
People with the good ones.
In real life or on Instagram.
I wonder how they got them. I wonder if they’re natural or if they had professional help. I’ve even messaged someone, complimenting theirs.
My name is Christine and I’m an eyebrow creeper.
Author, Lisa Scottoline, wrote in her Philadelphia newspaper humour column a while ago about the disappearing eyebrows that come with age and I found myself thereafter scrutinizing mine.
She was right, I thought, as I squinted into my vintage dressing table mirror (with corresponding bubbly glass that is actually more like looking into the surface of a pond, than a mirror). I had to turn on all the lights and get up real close but when I did, I saw that I am, indeed, a middle-aged woman with disappearing eyebrows!
The hair on my head turned from dark blonde to very brown, in my thirties. It still startles me sometimes. I have some strands of grey in my hair but my eyebrows seem to be rebelling, by not hopping aboard either the brown or grey train.
They are staying blonde. Clinging to an earlier identity, I guess: blonde and basically invisible – just like I was in high school.
Back then and not being the sort to spend a lot of time (any time) on easthetic-type activities, I always just let my eyebrows live their lives in peace. No plucking, no waxing. They just sat there, on my face, above my blue-grey eyes. They weren’t bushy or particularly straggly and even if they had been, I still don’t think I would have ever noticed them.
But now that I have a rural, home-based lifestyle and barely go outside, I find myself wondering: are my eyebrows really living their best life?
You were thinking that too, weren’t you?
I’m also not sure how this fits with my being purr-fectly content to spend most of my days in lounge pants (read: pjs), leggings, or yoga pants.
As a writer and career advisor, I work mostly from home and I don’t dye my hair or even get it cut more than a couple times a year. I’m surprised at the depth of my eyebrow envy. Given my personality and my job, I should be able to let my poor, pale, brow caterpillars rest in peace. But, increasingly, I’m doing videos and social media engagements–a world where it seems that everyone has ah-mazing things happening above their eyes.
Like Jessica Kellgreen-Fozard.
Like Tara McCallen.
These are all women doing inspiring, world-changing advocacy and disruption work. They don’t seem frivolous (as I tell myself that my eyebrow concerns are) but they do their world changing with such lovely eyebrows.
Not only that, but I feel like we’re at optimum “raising eyebrow” time in our culture at the moment and I’m missing out.
I think I might need impeachment-worthy eyebrows.
Yes, oh yes.
I am distracted in Instagram videos and on TV by the sight of a perfectly-curved arch. I wonder how people get those vintage-style eybrows. They swoop up over to a delicate point and I am frankly slightly breathless with their beauty. But, surely they must have to start with eyebrows that don’t exist?
My eyebrows just don’t bend that way!
I had my eyebrows plucked once years ago, when someone dragged me to her regular appointment. I was reluctant and it was painful and I broke out in a bumpy rash, all over my eyelids and forehead.
Ha! You want shapely eyebrows, said the universe? I see your vanity and raise you one violent case of contact dermatitis!
And that was before the current eyebrow craze.
Really, I feel strange to even talk about this. I didn’t think I was the sort to give in to this sort of appearance-focused idiocy, no, no, no. Of course, in the grand scheme of anything, it’s not important. But, eyebrows follow me everywhere these days. They’re just out there, on everyone’s face.
And then, there are the eyebrow products at the drug store.
I’ve always had an aversion to the cosmetics aisles (incompetence) and I think other people must be much better at drawing and colouring than I am. I’m both VERY near-sighted and slightly far-sighted both (welcome to your 50s) so doing anything in a mirror feels like a contortionist attempt I’m not qualified for. Not only that, but all the brush-y things and the pencil-y things in the world don’t seem to result in sassy eyebrows. In fact, when I’m done using them, they only remind me of those products that encourage you to spray paint your bald spot or your roots. My blond eyebrows are lying there with brown paint that somehow only goes underneath them, and doesn’t coat the individual hairs.
For better results, I’m told you need tattooing and/or micro-blading.
Anything that has the word “blading” in it, scares the vanity out of me. I just can’t work up the nerve, maintenance, [or the money] to go full-on eyebrow.
On Home Town, a decorating show I watch, Erin Napier has great eyebrows. She has also said (and believe me, I was paying attention because it was about eyebrows!) that “shutters” are like the eyebrows of a house.
I think this means that our house has better eyebrows than I do.
Christine Fader’s second book is, Just What the Doctor Ordered: The Insider’s Guide to Getting into Medical School in Canada. Find her at http://www.christinefader.com
I had a birthday last week and I’ve decided that I need a sign.
Maybe, if I wear a sign, it will prevent the bullying. The “do you really think you need that piece of cake?” that the woman at a friend’s wedding felt it was entirely her right to say to me, while I was (sound the alarms!) eating cake with the rest of the guests.
In fairness to her, I don’t look like someone who exercises most days every week.
In other words: I don’t look like someone who deserves cake. (Cake is to be earned, defended, and rationed, I have learned). So, I figure I need to wear a sign.
I wasn’t an overweight child or teenager. But, since adulthood, I’ve grown chubby. Sometimes, I’m really fat. Morbidly Obese, the medical charts say. Morbid, oh yes indeedy, that’s how I have felt.
Even at my fittest and most cake-less, I have flab under my arms and my chin. I’m tall and I take up considerable space. My belly sticks out and I have a very pronounced bottom. Obvious also, to anyone who has worked with or befriended me for over a decade, I have a difficult relationship with food. Sadly, I think it’s the dominating relationship of my life and it makes my weight oscillate visibly and dramatically. Some years, I’m up by 80-100 pounds. Other years, I’m down by the same amount.
At both ends of that deserving or not deserving cake spectrum, I don’t look like someone who sweats through cardio and weight training and biking and running and metabolic resistance and blah, blah, blah exercises for an hour, most days, every week. Because exercise-surely regular exercise–makes you healthy.
But, I don’t always look healthy. I don’t look like a regular exerciser.
For a Capital P-People-Pleaser like me, that really hurts.
You see, I have been programmed–by family, by society, by myself–to equate (low) weight with worth. And not only that, but I am continuously getting bombarded with the message that (low) weight equals health.
Famous people have commented about the maximum size of a woman’s waist being important for health and that to put a plus-size model on the cover of a magazine, as Sports Illustrated did recently, is to “glorify” obesity and ignore its health consequences. There is, in this commentary on women’s “health”, however, no mention of a minimum size of a woman’s waist or the very life-threatening consequences of anorexia that comes from glorifying women (or y’know, any humans) who weigh far too little. Yet, we have done that without any mention of “health” for decades.
I find this oversight interesting. (And when, I am interested, I feel I deserve cake.)
But, not yet.
First, I keep exercising. I keep losing and gaining dramatic amounts of weight. I want to deserve the piece of cake. I want to be healthy. No, actually, I want to LOOK like someone who others think is healthy. Because, that’s what seems to count when I’m eating the cake at a wedding.
Sometimes, I admit to getting discouraged. I stop the exercise for a while. “Why bother?” I fume, “You don’t get credit for exercising, by yourself, where no one can see you or compliment your race time. What matters is what you weigh.”
I gnash my teeth and I forget How Far I’ve Come.
When I can muffle the nasty voices in my head (and those of rude wedding guests), I am surprised to realize that How Far I’ve Come with exercise is not about what I weigh anymore.
How Far I’ve Come is that in recent years, I have started to motivate myself to exercise with different goals than weight loss or a feeling that I need to earn my cake. I have a chronic fainting syndrome for which I take daily medication and modify my lifestyle (no alcohol, caffeine, late nights or excitement–surely, I deserve cake!) With my extremely low blood pressure and heart rate, I look like a super athlete on paper.
Famous TV doctors would be so pleased.
But, they wouldn’t declare me “healthy” because I have trouble dieting as it tends to make me faint. And modern-day-defined-by-media-sound-bytes health is apparently not about all the risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, it is apparently only about weight. Weight trumps ALL. And, I’m not thin. I’m just naturally zombie-like with blue fingernails and a tendency to swoon. The walking half-dead, as it were.
So, lose weight, I must.
I’m very good at it. I hope you’ll agree that 80+ pounds lost is an impressive achievement. Especially when it’s been accomplished several times. Exercise has made me dramatically thinner sometimes. But, so many pounds lost has also sometimes made me forget How Far I’ve Come.
In the beginning, being a fainter made exercise really scary because when my heart started beating really fast and the pulse pounded in my ears, it felt alarmingly similar to what happens just before I skid, unconscious, across my bedroom carpet on my face and end up with an oozing forehead abrasion the size of a cookie (mmmm: cookies.) But, Practical Man (who cleans up the mess that is me and the carpet in the middle of the night) and I believe that exercising actually increases my tolerance against fainting. We think it helps my cardiac and nervous systems get used to being pushed and they learn not to react quite so dramatically at the slightest assault.
I faint far less frequently than I used to. I am healthier–even when my bum won’t always fit into the XL pants.
But, I continue to ignore How Far I’m Come re exercise when I forget that I have adapted exercise in recent years to help me cope with chronic vertigo (a sensation that the room is spinning very rapidly around me). I have to be very careful how I hold my head or move my eyes. I can’t do most yoga poses. I sleep sitting partially up and elbow Practical Man in the forehead when I roll my eyes the wrong way during a dream and everything spins violently. I can’t let my body escape completely in dance, in the ways that I used to. My balance problems have reached a place that I can’t walk quietly around my neighbourhood with a friend, without sweating profusely and feeling as if I have just disembarked from a boat on rocky seas. But, I’ve learned to exercise despite my fear of triggering an intense spinning episode that can last weeks or even months.
I can do it, even though I have to be careful. In this way, exercise has made me braver, which I think is healthier–whether or not my maximum waist size meets a former super model’s approval.
I’m also minimizing How Far I’ve Come with exercise when I overlook that nowadays, I exercise to reduce the chronic pain I have when I move my left eye. I take medications and vitamins and see specialists to try to solve the mystery of what causes only one of my eyes to hurt with every glance and feel as if it’s boring its way into my brain. The working theories so far have been serious and even life-threatening possibilities. But, I have learned that exercising produces endorphins that give me a few minutes or half an hour of all-natural pain relief. I can look around “recklessly” without it hurting for a while.
Such a blessing that I never knew exercise could give. I thought it was all about making me allowed to eat cake but, no. Exercise makes me happier to live for a while without pain and healthier–even though I still have double chins.
Most of all, I realize How Far I’ve Come because even when my thighs rub together with every kilometre I clock, exercising makes me feel strong. Even without losing a pound or an inch, the deep breathing and physical release is a boost to my mental health. It reminds me that even though I am a fainting, spinning, eyeball aching sicko, I am also brave, strong and capable of valuing myself for more than my size.
Yep, I had a birthday last week and there are so many interesting things to do and contribute and learn in life. I am dealing with–and may be facing more-chronic or serious illness. And, with all my health issues — with all that doesn’t work in my body, with all that I continue to try, I want to appreciate my body for what it lets me do, not what shape it has.
So, keep your pursed lips and disapproving eyes to yourself, rude wedding lady. Ditto to you famous people commenting on things under the dubious label of “health“.
But, staying in that, ahem, healthy head space–where I can believe that I deserve to have my cake and eat it like everyone else–will continue to be difficult.
We live in a world where instead of worrying about how our bodies are FUNCTIONING and CONTRIBUTING and LOVING, we are bombarded with messages that tell us that the only thing that really counts is how our bodies are LOOKING and MEASURING and WEIGHING.
Because if we don’t focus on the LOOKING and MEASURING and WEIGHING – well, then, we’re obviously not healthy.
And since health is something that apparently can be measured simply by glancing at someone, that means that anyone can–ahem–weigh in on our right to cake, or to be on the cover of a magazine.
I say that’s a sign that needs changing.