I don’t even know how we started talking about make-up. Gina said she never wore any at all until she went to college. And I, as a freshman in high school, wouldn’t even walk out my front door to get the mail without a full face applied. By the time I got to college, I had sworn off most of it.
My roommate insisted I didn’t look any different with mascara on. So, eventually, that fell away. And the rest of it seemed superfluous once my eyelashes were bare. But I had this teeny tiny obsession with my eyebrows that was a little harder to shake.
Throughout most of my teen years, I convinced myself that my face was too boyish. I didn’t have fine chiseled cheekbones – or any chiseled anything – so I was afraid I would be mistaken for a boy if I didn’t do something radical to my face. And that something was browicide. I started out just wanting shape and definition. My eyebrows were never bushy, but they occupied a lot of facial geography. Once I got used to the feeling of yanking a hair follicle out by its root, I actually grew to enjoy it. And so I became an obsessive plucker.
At the end of high school, I plucked my eyebrows so often – and so unsparingly – that what I was left with was essentially a single-hair-deep browline. I doubt there are micrometers that measure that sort of thing, so I will just say that the net effect of having an eyebrow that thin is to appear to have no eyebrow at all.
I plucked my eyebrows daily – sometimes twice a day – and prided myself on extracting a stray hair (and they were all strays) at the very moment it broke through the skin. I couldn’t see that I looked like a cancer patient. Only that I was tidy and feminine.
My best friend in college finally staged an intervention. She filled the room with naturally-browed women who tried to convince me that I needed to fill in my brow line. They said it wouldn’t be easy, and that they were all committed to help.
Then they took away my tweezers.
Four excruciating weeks later, I had my old teenage face back. I slowly began to pluck again, but this time only true stragglers. Unlike many who recover from addictions, I never really had a setback. Sometimes I let them go too much, but I have never been browless since.
Gina asked what it was I replaced that compulsion with. “You know obsessions like that never really go away,” she said. “They just take a different form.”
I’m not really sure of the answer to that, but I guess maybe you’re looking at it.