Eyebrow Grooming: One Woman’s Tale

When I was fifteen, I won a pageant contest pageant and became a rodeo queen. For the first time. It was somewhat out of character for me, given that I was a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl by default–partially because it was easy and partially because I didn’t want to be the kind of girl who was fussed about her appearance and partially because fashion was an enigma that I just couldn’t grasp at all. At that time, I rarely wore makeup because I thought I looked alright without it and see that thing about not being fussed above. I was (am) a shy introvert. So what made me want to do the pageant? Dunno. Couldn’t possibly recreate the logic for you, but some of the women at my barn (it was the first year I had Tigger) told me that I should, and I just wanted to. So I did, and I then I was a rodeo queen. [Some other time, maybe, I’ll tell you all about why being a rodeo queen (twice) was among best experiences of my life, but this post isn’t really about that.]

And as a rodeo queen, I found myself in the situation of having to be fussed, somewhat, about my appearance from time to time. I had to learn how to curl my non-compliant hair, for example. And I mean curl, because after all, I was a rodeo queen in Texas, for crying out loud, and that means BIG HAIR. I had to invent a technique because my hair eats hot rollers for breakfast and a curling iron alone wouldn’t make the curls last long enough. And I had to learn stuff about makeup, too. It was kind of useful in that I learned some things about how to be a real girl (even though the hair and makeup and rhinestones were all somewhat mitigated by the fact that I was regularly tearing around rodeo arenas on horseback at a full gallop, waving nonchalantly at the crowd). Or, at least, I learned how to look like a real girl anyway.


This is one of the photos that sparked the crisis. In retrospect, not so bad, really.

So, anyway, some few months after I had won my title, I needed photos because I was going to be the Grand Marshall of the Christmas parade in Ballinger, TX, and the local paper was going to print a little blurb about it. Well, we hadn’t had time to do professional photos yet, so this occasion involved me, our backyard fence, and mom with a little point-and-shoot camera (which wasn’t digital because no one had digital cameras in 1998). And when we got the film developed, I was aware of two things–first, I look stupid when I pose for photos, and second (and so much more importantly to fifteen-year-old Shanna), EYEBROWS. All I could see when I looked at those photos were these massive, dark eyebrows sitting there under my hat like a couple of wild caterpillars. Eyebrows that were made for (and in, as it were) the 80s. I had a lock-myself-in-the-bathroom teenage panic, y’all. At least internally–I’m not sure that I actually locked myself in the bathroom. But suddenly those 80s caterpillar-brows were all I could see when I looked in the mirror and in every photo.

Something had to be done.

Somewhere in the midst of this crisis, it occurred to me that girls pluck their eyebrows. Had I seen that in movies? Had I read about it in my middle school subscription to Seventeen magazine? Who knows? But that is when tweezers became a weapon in my beauty arsenal.

Did I know what I was doing? No. Y’all, 1998. There was no such thing as YouTube, and even if I had known how to search the interwebs (which I did not–no Google either in those ancient days), I wouldn’t have found the now-available archive of wisdom from every fashion-forward girl with a video phone and the desire to help her wayward sisters learn the secrets of unlocking outer beauty.

Did I ask for advice? Nope. Of course not. I was fifteen, remember? And mortified by my newly-discovered physical defect. So obviously, I was not going to point this out to anyone else. I also didn’t know that there were professionals who shaped eyebrows. I had no idea about that. So I just attacked. And showed no quarter.

And when I emerged from my battle-fury, low and behold, the caterpillars were gone. Better still, I had managed to avoid bald patches and had done a pretty good job of following the natural brow line. After the swelling and redness went away, I felt pretty good about what I had done.

For awhile.

Because sometime later (though I’m not sure how much later it was), I realized that the vanquished caterpillars had left behind, not lovely angles and elegant arches, but horizontal commas. My face was punctuated. Which, all things considered, was still an improvement. Later, when I was an English major, I found it kind of amusingly appropriate to have face commas. Kind of.


This was from my second round of rodeo queen. After tweezing. Face commas.

But the original problem was still there. I looked in the mirror or photos and EYEBROWS. Dark commas that were thick in some spots and sparse in others, most notably on the outer edges where I have scars from a childhood operation. Eyebrows that won’t grow how I want them too. Notice how I switched the present-tense there? It’s because I still have face commas that won’t comply with my wishes, and typically won’t stay nicely in place either.

Cut to recently, when I realized with a cartoonish epiphany (think lightbulb above the head) that women trim their eyebrows to make them behave. Or some women do, anyway. And I began thinking about if maybe I should trim my eyebrows. But since I’m not fifteen anymore, I took my time thinking about it. And then I found out that, due to damaged corneas, I have to imprison my face in glasses for the time being, and I started looking up makeup tips for glasses wearers on the interwebs. And the beauty bloggers (who all look way better in their glasses than I do, so I think they’re cheating somehow) all had slightly different opinions about eyeshadow and liner and whatnot, but every one of them emphasized how important it was to keep your brows well-groomed because glasses draw attention to them.


Me in my fancy new glasses. And eyebrows. And Spur.

And so I stood there in the bathroom looking at my wild face commas and tried to decide what to do. I could go to a professional and have them worked on. But what if the pro did a terrible job and then I had to live with awful eyebrows that I paid for? NO! So back to the interwebs I flew to find out about DIY eyebrow grooming. It’s easy, the bloggers assured me, and proceeded to give tips on how to trim your brows to make them tame. So, tentatively, I got a little pair of eyebrow scissors. And more tentatively, I followed the tips, trimming just a little. And then the next day, I trimmed a little more. And then a little more, until gradually my commas (were still commas, but) were a little less wild. And then I somehow managed to trim a little too close on one of the sparse outer edges near the scar and ended up with a little bald patch. Like someone erased a tiny bit of the comma in the middle.

So now I’m learning more about filling in bald and sparse patches with brown eyeshadow. Which always feels like a dangerous gamble because I have to put on makeup without my glasses, so I’m more likely to be heavy handed than I normally would because I can’t really see my facial features. And there’s always a moment after I put my glasses on when all I can see are my now (somewhat) neatly-trimmed and cosmetically enhanced EYEBROWS. On the upside, I can use the eyeshadow to make them look slightly less like commas. And later in the day I look in the mirror and give myself a Fonzie-esque “Aaaay” because the brows, they’re not so bad.

And that, my friends, is the tale of how I tame[d] my wild caterpillar face commas.


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