Monday, September 06, 2004

Why Eyebrows Loves Her Eyebrows

If your junior high school was anything like mine, it probably invested thousands of dollars in a "self esteem" curriculum. Ours was called Quest, and what sticks out in my mind most about it was getting to have drug addicts come talk to us who invariably had cooler hair and clothes than anyone else we knew. (Far more convincing "Just Say No" gambit: pictures of the noses of cocaine users. Ew.)

At any rate, I was a dutiful attendee of my Quest classes in sixth and seventh grade, as there’s nowhere worthwhile to go to cut class when you are several years too young to drive. So perhaps through the Herculian efforts of my junior high (or more likely through a solid upbringing by my parents), I learned to love myself the way I am and not worry too much about my looks.

And everyone was proud of me, for liking myself the way I was. But at some point – I’m not entirely sure when – it ceased to be a good thing to be happy with the way I look. Now, apparently, I’m supposed to have quietly acquiesced to society’s expectations of beauty, or at least be dutifully ashamed where I fall short.

If you've glanced at the picture to the left there, you may have noticed that my eyebrows are just a tad prominent. Just a tad bushy. Well groomed, of course, but they leave Brooke Shields in the dust. They are, in a word, big. (Actually, the word – an archaic one – is "blepharon," and means "he (or she) who hath great eyebrows." If I could figure out a decent way to shorten it, I'd totally get vanity plates.)

This, apparently, is one of those things I’m supposed to be ashamed of, and quietly deal with, so I can have lovely thin, arched eyebrows. When I even consider the amount of plucking or waxing – and federal forest clear-cutting permits – that would have to go into meeting that beauty standard, I flinch pre-emptively. People feel free to comment on this to my face: Store clerks, friends, hairdressers, random people on the street, such as the stranger who offered up, "You have such a pretty face – wouldn’t you like to wax those eyebrows so you could attract a nice man?" Sadly, I’m not kidding. Happily, my eyebrows never seemed to impede men from asking me out. My sarcasm did that just fine.

Even with all this public criticism, I remain unmoved. I like my eyebrows. They’ve been with me since birth, and I think they’re distinctive. They didn’t spring from nowhere, of course: my dad, my sister, my grandfather, many of my cousins all have the same feature. It gives people something to remember me by. ("Oh! The eyebrow girl!") And I find it hard to feel freakish for something perfectly natural. There’s a puzzler: Injecting your forehead with botulism is acceptable; having natural eyebrows is bizarre. Most of us don’t fit the American beauty ideal, and never will. We preach how wrong it is to force all women into one mold. We teach our daughters to love themselves the way they are. And then we turn around and insist wrinkles be injected until they’re smooth, the gray be colored into oblivion, and eyebrows be plucked away.

What’s the message? Little girls ought to love themselves the way they are; grown women ought to know better? We cross a threshold some time during college, I think, when we’re supposed to learn that self-esteem is all right for awkward adolescents, but real grown-ups – especially professionals – need to look a certain way. We work so hard to instill self-esteem in our children, at a cost of millions of tax dollars, then expect them to guess when that lesson is no longer valid. Sadly, most of them can guess. Most of them learn to edit themselves, to alter their bodies to conform to the expectations of others.

And you may not think so, but I’m naturally beautiful (and my husband agrees, nice man). I have the self-esteem to be "the eyebrow girl." To even call myself "Eyebrows McGee." You may disagree, but I think - no, I know - that my eyebrows are pretty cool.

In honor of Labor Day, Eyebrows has recycled and resurrected this column from some of her earlier work.

(And as a side note, did anyone else know there's a Ken-as-Legolas Barbie doll????)

5 comments:

Empire1 said...

I would like to say that I'm envious of your gorgeous, abundant eyebrows! My own are so thin as to be practically invisible, especially with my glasses on (which they have to be, if I'm to be able to see!).

It's been suggested I use eyebrow pencil ... sorry, but that would just look like I drew 'em on. So I'll settle for my skimpy natural look, and just keep envying those of you with noticeable ones!

Eyebrows McGee said...

Ann can come over and sit by me.

Star said...

*insert much applause here* Well said. I hadn't thought about it much before, but you're right... It is a little bizzare the way we try to instill self esteem into teenagers, encourage them to love themselves for who they are, and then insist that when they're grown they need to alter themselves in order to be acceptable to society. *ponders the effect of this double standard on own condition*

And don't get me started on Botox. Ew. Yes, let's inject a nerve toxin into our foreheads to make them look better. Ick.

(As for Ken--who knew? Huh. Not quite the same, though, somehow.)

prego man said...

As long as it's not a uni-brow, relatively thick brows on a woman ARE SEXY. Big time. Wow. Jennifer what's her name, who won an Oscar for "A Beautiful Mind" is a nice example. Who else? Hmmmmm... can't recall cos I'm going senile. Regardless, I know that they have always turned me ON...

Can I come over and sit by you now?

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