I'm sick of plucking my eyebrows. It's been coming on for a while now, ever since we moved house and the position of my bathroom mirror changed. In our previous cavelike dwelling my mirror was in a shady corner where I would squint to see what havoc I was making with the bronzer. But now, the mirror is right next to a big window, which gets beautiful, error revealing sunshine sparkling through menacingly every morning. And by god my eyebrows have been the worst of the revelations. Suddenly I see that despite a whole evening spent hacking and pruning the devils, I wake up the next morning to newly sprung buds of brow.
When I was about thirteen and in a plight to secure my identity as a woman I insisted that my mother let me pluck my eyebrows. Quite rightly, my mother was cautious about me and hair removal ever since at four years old I secretly took her nail scissors and chopped my cute schoolgirl bob into a radical genre-breaking pixie cut. So rather than surrender the equipment and hope for the best she said she would pluck my eyebrows for me. I would sit on the end of her bed every week and she would carefully pluck the stragglers from the edges of my brow. This ritual, despite the pain, was one of those mother-child passages that make you realise the true meaning of unconditional love. Plucking the brows of a vain teenage girl who keeps twitching her one mobile eyebrow (for some reason I can't raise both) is a truly saintly act.
But here I am, fourteen years later, alone at my mirror, faced with these long, fine, impervious eyebrow hairs. I wish I had given up on the whole regime when I'd left home and it was no longer a collaborative activity. And it's got me thinking a question, that when I was in the dark and thought my eyebrows were quite tidy, had never crossed my mind: Why on earth do we pluck our eyebrows? It is painful, it requires constant maintenance, like weeding flowerbeds. And does it really make any difference?
What happened to a no fuss uni-brow being the purest form of beauty? I'm afraid it died along with the Romans. My very own heroine Elizabeth I made the barely there brow a staple for the female Tudor elite and ever since the sculpting of eyebrows has been a necessary beauty task for us all. After her came the pillars of recent brow history; Clara Bow, Lauren Bacall, Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Madonna and Cara Delevingne. All varying in style but all have consumed our beauty resources.
But I just look at my partner, a man who is certainly on the hairier end of the testosterone spectrum (his 5 o'clock shadow normally appears around 10.30am...) and he doesn't even consider his eyebrows as a thing he needs to manage. The man would walk around with a monobrow to shame Bert and Ernie, unless I noticed the warning signs and reached for the tweezers. That's right, I'm not just caring for my own but I'm looking after four eyebrows! What will happen if I have daughters!? I could end up managing the cultivation of over 10 eyebrows. And as you can probably tell, I'm not very good at it.
I have to say, apart from models in magazines, and my face in the hideously bright mirror, I don't tend to notice eyebrow tidiness. Of my closest friends, I can't tell you whether or not they are great brow caretakers. I certainly have never looked at any of them and thought, 'Look at that forest growing on her forehead!' And we can be sure that if we don't notice each other's eyebrow shape then you can be certain our partners don't.
The only eyebrows I ever take note of are those of elderly men whose eyebrow length is out of control and hangs in twists over their eyes. But often this is partnered with extravagant grey nose and ear hair that just makes the whole thing fabulous and characterful. I don't judge those eyebrows, they are brows that have seen it all and are full of verve and swagger. To think, if we go on plucking like this, we will never get the chance to have brows with such qualities.
I'm at a loss. To pluck or not to pluck? I'm going to embrace my untidiness. There really should be more enjoyment around our eyebrows. They're expressive and majestic and should not be clipped out of extinction nor drawn on like an Etch-a-Sketch. Give your brows a chance and see how they grow.