Tuesday, 14 February 2012

ARCH ENEMY



You may have seen on here that I appear to be trying to change my entire life. Lots of therapy. Curing a phobia. Avoiding sugar. Stopping smoking. Giving up Diet Coke. Not content with all that, I have set myself the biggest challenge of the lot. I'm growing my eyebrows out...

Snigger at the melodrama all you like. But I am obsessed by eyebrows. I pluck mine pretty much everyday. In fact this is how I relax. I rarely find it painful, just delighfully methodical and soothing. I trim them if needed. I dye them every couple of weeks and I shade them in and seal them everyday. I've stopped carrying emergency tweezers so I could take advantage of really well lit changing rooms, but I think you'll agree it's an obsession. And not just mine. I'm fixated with other people's too. I generally can't tell you what colour someone's eyes are after I've met them, but I will know what shape and shade their brows are. I stare at them to see if anyone really does have the strong smooth brows with hairs that all grow in the same direction that Hollywood starlets and beauty adverts always have. I have chronic brow envy and often seethe at home with my tweezers when I think of certain people's arches. Yet I've never ever had my brows done professionally.

I didn't actually start plucking my brows until I was 21. In fact the most memorable thing about the Millennium was that before I went out that night, my friend Naomi plucked my brows for me the very first time. It was better than fireworks. Suddenly I was all grown up looking, with great cheekbones and eyeliner looked sleeker and better. Problem was that a bit like when I took up smoking, I took to plucking like a duck to water. I never spluttered or felt sick over a cigarette and plucking never hurt. My daily habit started almost immediately. I didn't just take the obvious darker hairs out, I like to rip all the peach fuzz out too for a super smooth look and before long I was so used to a hairless brow that even the smallest amount of hair seemed alien. It seemed silly to spend time and money getting them shaped since I was going to being doing all the maintenance myself. Plus I learned how to go this stuff when I was doing my make up training.

Then two things happened. My arches started looking odd in photos. And everyone else was talking about threading while showing off artfully even brows that looked suspiciously like those Hollywood ad brows even though I knew they weren't shading a la Sophia Loren. My interest was increasing when I realised I keep conversing directly with people's brows. But it spilled into action recently after a Twitter conversation about eyebrows and the quite honestly lifechanging revelation that threading doesn't just remove the hairs, but also keep them all level and neat and orderly. I put the tweezers down immediately and enquired how long I would need to grow my brows for before I could try threading. Hearing it would need to be a month minimum made me feel funny. I'd have to find another hobby to fill my evenings.

The first week was torturous as my brows realised they were allowed to rebel. Encouraged by the spectre of Dennis Healey they began sprouting strangely and patchily almost immediately. Several completely white hairs waved at me from amongst the regular coloured ones. And right in the middle of one arch, one monster hair stuck straight out greeting everyone a few seconds before I did and making me resemble a human angler fish. It took superhuman effort not to tweeze myself silly. By the start of the third week I was almost used to my tatty eyebrows, although some of that was being distracted by accidentally ending up with a pixie crop so severe, I actually had more hair on face that my head. On the fourth week I surprised myself by not actually running to find a threader the second I'd managed 28 days tweezer free. No one had actually recoiled in horror at my new fuzziness and the sky hadn't fallen in. Plus since it was freezing outside and i had no hair, I was glad of the extra warmth.

So last week after gathering threading recommendations in South London from people with admirably good brows, I trotted off to a place in Clapham for the grand defuzzing. I was weirdly anticipatory about it. Was I about to get the brows of my dreams? Would my whole face suddenly look different to me? I leaned back and waited. And was struck by how oddly painful threading was to me. While neither tweezers or wax have ever raised some much as an ouch, threading felt like hot pins on sensitive skin. Aware that this made me sound like a total wuss, I bit back a small yelp and wished that there was only one brow needing done. Although it was actually much quicker to do the two brows and the space between than tweezing, it seemed to go on a bit. But finally she was done and it was time for the big reveal. I swung round to the mirror in excitement and was amazed to see that my eyebrows looked exactly the same as when I pluck them myself.

Somewhat deflated, I paid my 3 quid and went off to do the rest of my messages. I did keep wanting to touch my newly smoothed skin but since it was freezing cold and I had gloves on so resisted the temptation and forgot about them as I busied myself so i wasn't out in the cold longer than needed. Back home a few hours later with the heat on, I became oddly aware of my brows again. No longer chilled by the weather, they had started to burn unpleasantly and sting. When I touched them they felt hot and swollen. I looked in the mirror and realised they were bright red and actually swollen as if filled with fluid. I tried some Bonjela to take the sting out but it wore off quite quickly and resorted to holding a bag of frozen peas to each brow in turn. When I went to remove my make up before bed about 8 hours after the threading, they still throbbed and ached. Next morning they still looked swollen, giving me a heavy serious look. It took a full three days for them to return to their normal selves and I realised that my brows were in fact a little bit softer and less surprised looking than my slight overplucking had caused and that they had a lovely smooth line that was closer to the dream shape than I manage.

Six weeks ago, I'd probably have been happy to put up with days of discomfort just to have slightly sleeker brows. But in my new found attempts to not be inutterably shallow all the time, I think I might not bother with threading again and go back to the tweezers. The trick will just be not to spend 20 minutes at a time in the front of the mirror hunting for non existent peach fuzz. Maybe I'll get a job instead to occupy me?