As a teenager in the naughties, thick bushy eyebrows were sort of the bane of my existence. I hated them, them and my acne – between them, they rendered me totally and utterly undateable.
For years and months on end, I would do all that I could to yield perfectly thin, shapely eyebrows like my peers. I tried plucking them, but the hairs were really thick and it hurt. I tried waxing them, and that hurt even more. I got them threaded and I was sure the beautician and her assistant were giggling at me and I vowed never to return again. Defeated and self-conscious, I ignored all of the cautions on the box and did the unthinkable.. I slathered my bushy brows in Veet hair removal cream.
If I hadn’t drawn attention to myself before, then the best, worst way to get myself noticed now was to take the damn things off completely. Naturally, the cream that I’d been using on my legs was far too strong for my face, and it burned. My eyebrows weren’t a problem anymore, but the red, swollen patches on my face were a concern.
For several days, I had no eyebrows at all. My face was extremely sore, and I couldn’t even bear to draw on a couple of brown lines on it with an eyeliner. For the best part of a month, I looked like the Mona Lisa – the real-life, modern version at least.
When my eyebrows did eventually grow back, they grew back in patches. A tuft of hair here and a scraggly hair there, the peach fuzz underneath was the first part to return. Even as they did grow back, they grew back exactly the same way as they’d been before, the same dark, thick, bushy eyebrows that I had in the first place.
It wasn’t until my father told me about my uncle that I come to realise where my eyebrows came from. They’d had a irreparable breakdown in relations, and my Dad delivered the coup de grace by reminding my uncle that “everytime you look in the mirror, you’ll see me”. That was the last I ever saw of my uncle, at least until my father’s passing.
It was cutting at first, but then it happened to me. I’d look in the mirror, and I’d see parts of my Dad in me. My eyes, my eyebrow, my smile – I really could see him in me, and I was honoured!
Even in spite of his spat with his brother, my Dad was known as the “cool Dad”. He pulled pranks, he made people laugh and he embarrassed people who said they couldn’t be embarrassed. He taught me a lot about coping with anxiety, and when I challenging him on the “magic milkshake” that he swore would heal holes from my childhood vaccines, he laughed and said “it worked though, didn’t it? You stopped crying afterwards.” I suppose he had a point.
I’ve lost count of how many people now who have told me that I look like my father. “You have your Dad’s eyes!” they tell me, or the volunteer co-ordinator who bounded up to me enthusiastically and said “Oh, are you Helen? You really do look like your Dad!”. I look like my Dad, I thought like my Dad, I’m a woman of few words until I have something to say – just like my father.
Once I started to embrace my “Dadness” and “Dad-isms” , I became more confident and secure in who I was, and what I looked like. I had a cool Dad, and I am the daughter of two wonderful, loving parents. They may not have always got it right and they knew that, but they damn well tried. I left school with good grades and both my brother and I are known for being kind and caring people, so my parents should be proud of the way that they raised us. My eyebrows were no longer something that I wanted to change. For me, they became a badge of honour.
Now that he has passed, I really am reminded of my father every time I look in the mirror. My eyebrows are a part of him, a part of me, and a reminder that I am his legacy. Instead of being ashamed of the thick clumps of hair that used to bother me every day, I now wear them with pride.
If you struggle with your body, please remember that little thing- genetics. My Dad suffered with acne and my Mum was flat-chested until she had children, guess who has been clumped with both? Don’t be ashamed of your body, own, it, rock it. Be proud of your history, and be proud of who you are.