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September 26, 2019

On Beauty

If there is one mistake of mine that it’s really important to me that my children could learn from, it is this: leave your eyebrows alone. More important than not smoking or getting ill-advised tattoos, because there is no coming back from eyebrow ruin. During the early years of my life, I had perfectly acceptable, unremarkable eyebrows, and I could have stayed that way, were it not for a teenaged need to perform womanhood with stupid grooming rituals.

So I went and got my eyebrows waxed, and waxed, and waxed and waxed, and there was a point in 2001 where they were tiny little lines, skinnier than I’ve ever been, and there was also the women who did my brows the day before my wedding who nicked me with the tweezers and made me bleed, so I gave her an extra big tip so she would feel less bad about the whole thing, and being a woman is so idiotic.

And then one day a couple of years ago, I decided I didn’t want to wax my eyebrows anymore. I didn’t even want to tweeze them anymore, standing before the bathroom mirror, hair-by-hair, each pluck making me sneeze. I don’t have time for that, because it always grows back. The same reason I’ve sworn off dieting, and colouring my hair, and running on treadmills—the whole thing is Sisyphean, and I refuse to be pushing a boulder for the rest of my life. These are losing battles, and I will not engage.

But the result now is that I have terrible eyebrows, sprawling and patchy. Would be that after all the waxing, my eyebrows would have thinned out altogether, but instead they’ve grown back in wide but with bald spots, a shape that is so far from a shape, and I just don’t care. And also I do, because I’m already on my fourth paragraph writing about it. But I just can’t go in for the incessant demands of grooming, and most of the time I don’t, which is one great benefit of being in a romantic partnership with someone who is terrifically far-sighted.

I was listening to a podcast today (which is the way that I start most of my sentences lately) when the host came on with an ad for some kind of skin care product I wasn’t paying proper attention to, and she talked about how much she loved her nightly skin care regimen, how it was just so fantastic that it gave her “me-time,” and I almost died of despair right then. The saddest thing I’ve ever heard, though perhaps I’m reading more into this than I should be. It is possible that no podcast host is quite as enthusiastic about the product she’s endorsing as she sounds like she is, and I actually really hope she isn’t, because that’s the saddest excuse for “me-time” I’ve ever heard.

It is also possible that she has nicer skin than I do. Most people do. Earlier this year, I turned down a prescription for rosacea from my dermatologist, so I’m hardly an expert on any of this. I’m just kind of lazy when it comes to grooming, and also would prefer to squander all my money on books instead.

Which is not to pass any judgement on those people who heavily invest in their aesthetic appearance—they’re are a million ways to be a woman after all, and who am I to tell another person what to do with her body, but this is kind of just my point, that the whole world is actually telling us what to do with our bodies, and I wonder sometimes if the whole thing is a conspiracy to keep us from doing anything more useful.

All those boulders we’re pushing, even once we’ve refused to push the boulders. I have no idea what liberation might look like.

9 thoughts on “On Beauty”

  1. Rebecca Rosenblum says:

    You always look lovely, Kerry, truly. You are putting in the right amount of effort, whatever it is.

    Also–I never did anything to my eyebrows and they were huge and wrong for years, and then one day in 2017, my eyebrows CAME INTO FASHION. And for a few months, without my having done anything, my eyebrows were perfect.

    If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone!

  2. Beth Kaplan says:

    Hilarious, apt, and true as always. I think of Nora Ephron, who was so meticulous with her appearance, getting her hair done and her skin and nails and always wearing turtlenecks, on and on, and yet she wrote all those books and screenplays and articles – how did she have time? Maybe she got all her ideas at the hairdresser. Anyway, Kerry, I’m with you, life is too short. Especially as we’re writers, so no one should care what we look like anyway.

  3. theresa says:

    I’ve just come back from my swim to read this. For years I avoided the pool because, well, I don’t have a perfect shape. Who was hurt by this? No one but me. The irony is that the more we take our pleasures in real stuff and not the shape of our eyebrows or the numbers on the scale, the lighter we are. Swimming in a tattered one-piece suit with hairy legs and maybe a rash on my upper arms? I am light and beautiful and strong. You are lovely. Your spirit shines through. And wouldn’t you rather read a book than stress about rogue hairs?

  4. kate says:

    eyebrows. thank god that one passed me by. and I have to say, I have never once been struck by your ungodly eyebrows. so there is that. (and thank you for the levity today, I needed it.)

  5. Diane says:

    Oh yes, I’m with ya sista. Who needs to be pushing those bloody boulders up any kind of hill. Much to my hairdresser’s chagrin, I won’t even colour my grey — I too save my money for better things. Like books, or lunch with a friend.

  6. Sharon says:

    hahahah…I ALSO heard that ad on The Cut on Tuesdays (I love that podcast, btw) and IDK, maybe I’m giving them too much credit but I feel like the hosts must know that brand has the snobbiest most idiotic, overtop name on the planet ….like it was invented for a novel to telegraph that the product and everyone who used it had more insecurity than brains. every time they name the brand it just sounds like they are trying hard not to laugh. but maybe i’m the one trying hard not to laugh. and does it have some weird ingredient that comes from a mountain in thailand or something too? COME ON.

  7. Hear, hear.
    I think the compulsion to spend a lot of time grooming and using skincare regimens decreases with age.
    Or maybe not. I guess not for all of us.
    I just laugh nowadays when I look in the mirror, and carry on. WASH ‘N’ WEAR, and no apologies.


  8. Laura Frey says:

    Anyone who came of age in the 90s has eyebrow issues. The whole “look” was basically to not have eyebrows. Now it’s swung the other way, young women are painting on HUGE eyebrows and I’m like damn, I was born in the wrong era. I’m lucky that mine came back okay, apart from where I had my eyebrow pierced (90s!)

    1. Kerry says:

      They also get to wear track pants to school! (Okay, I wore oversized army pants and longjohns under floral dresses, so I wasn’t exactly wearing a corset, but STILL).

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