childhood

My Eyebrows & Me: On Growing Up, Growing Out, & Giving Up

Has over-plucking your eyebrows ever really been in? 

When I was a young tween and started reading magazines like Seventeen and TeenVogue, the in eyebrow seemed to be the heavily plucked, but still plus, brow with a heavy, intense arm. Not bushy by any means, but not over-plucked. Every few years, a new celebrity with intense brows would emerge and teen magazines would encourage some kind of "au-natural" brow look, but it never seemed to really catch on. Even now, in the days of Cara Delevingne, the plucked, arched, filled, and gelled into place brow is in. 

The first time I plucked my eyebrows, I cried. I've always had thick, very dark eyebrows, two little caterpillars plopped right above my eyes. I hated them when I was younger. Mostly, I just wanted to avoid any kind of unibrow situation, which is what lead to me, at the age of 13, stealing an old pair of my mom's tweezers (sorry, mom) and sitting on my bathroom counter, alternatively crying at the fact that I didn't know what to do and the shockingly horrible pain of plucking teeny, tiny hairs out of my face. 

The very first thing I did, was pluck each eyebrow a little too far past the bridge of my nose. We all make this mistake and it is one I have continued to struggle with in the past 13 years of brow plucking. Throughout the rest of middle school and high school, I would painstakingly pluck between my brows and under them, essentially just cleaning up what was already a decent brow shape. 

As time passed, magazines suggested to me that I was supposed to be undertaking some kind of... shaping effort. I should be thinning my brows, or getting a good arch, or something. I didn't get it. Other magazine tutorials suggested that I needed some kind of teeny brush and scissors set to trim the brow hairs. I have always been nervous about messing too much with the things on my face that I can't change. Just as I can't change my face shape or my chubby cheekbones or my blotchy skin, I can't do a lot about my eyebrows, at least from my perspective. Jet black, thick, and lush: those are my eyebrows. 

I ignored the advice to dye them a light shade (terrifying), trim them (equally terrifying), and/or wax them off and just pencil them on (thank goodness). I undertook a serious effort to begin shaping my brows, plucking a good bit from underneath them to thin them out just a little bit (or that's what I told myself). 

This is when I boarded the eyebrow struggle bus and never really got off of it. Since then, I have struggled to make my eyebrows even or even look remotely the same. I stare at them in the mirror. Is it my imagination? Am I crazy? Or do they just not match? I shortened them. I over-plucked one and covered it with my bangs until I could salvage it. I would vow to not pluck for two months, only to find myself, a week later, tweezers in hand, getting rid of all the teeny, tiny baby hairs that I hated. 

This continued on for a while until senior year, when my poor eyebrows were so plucked beyond belief (not over-plucked, not really, just tortured) that I didn't really get stray baby hairs anymore. I left them alone mostly, plucking when I had to, but otherwise ignoring them and pretending that my eyebrows looked fine, just fine, not severe or anything. 

Post-college, my eyebrows had returned to a somewhat decent shape, forgiving the mistakes of my high-spirited youth. I started plucking again, carefully and deliberately, not making any attempts to change what was already there. 

Then, overnight it seemed, eyebrows were in. Your eyebrows had to be "on fleek" (what does it mean?); you need an eyebrow pencil, eyebrow powder, a special concealer brush. You need to pluck and trim and have a perfect arch and stare into cameras looking like a strangely realistic version of Maleficent. My eyebrows couldn't just be simple and clean anymore. I needed to do things with them on a daily basis. 

I couldn't deny the truth: my eyebrows had suffered some mistreatment over the years. I'd plucked in places that were unnecessary and ignored places that desperately needed assistance. I'd never trimmed my eyebrows in my life, something that most people agree is a good idea, if only for keeping your eyebrows in place all day. 

I decided to put down the tweezers and back away, seriously, for a few months. Partly, this was spurred on by being pregnant; my skin is sensitive enough in the best of times, but during pregnancy, every plucked hair was essentially like stabbing myself in the face. It hurt worse than it ever had before and left my skin puffy, red, and itchy. Plucking would have to wait. 

In the past few months, my eyebrows have successfully grown back to the way they looked pre-plucking. They are decidedly ok and just how I remember them: jet black, thick, and pretty lush. I'm lucky to have good hair and good eyebrows, so there is not much to complain about. They have almost no natural arch and essentially look like cartoon eyebrows you would draw on a stick figure. They are decidedly OK, even if they drive me a little nuts. 

Everyday, I fill in any less-lush spots with an eyebrow pencil from NYX and I brush them into place with a teeny, tiny brush. That seems to do as far as eyebrow maintenance is concerned. It's really not as if I was spending hours on plucking my eyebrows every week, but it's surprising how changing one part in your routine seems to free up time for other things (like coating myself in layers of Burt's Bee Mama Butter). 

I recently entertained the notion of going to an Eyebrow Professional and having my eyebrows done. Having someone else fret over putting an arch in these bad boys and worry about if they are too far apart or don't match. I quickly decided that was a no-go: it would require upkeep. I'd either have to go back or start the process of trying to do it myself all over again (a prospect that, given my current situation, seems a bit daunting).

Even if I haven't embraced my short legs, chubby thighs, or round face, I've managed to embrace my eyebrows. And that's at least one step in the right direction. 

Happy Halloween

Homemade chocolate cupcakes with homemade salted caramel cream cheese frosting, topped with sugar skulls and harvest nonpareils. 

Homemade chocolate cupcakes with homemade salted caramel cream cheese frosting, topped with sugar skulls and harvest nonpareils. 

I love Halloween. I always have. 

The first Halloween I remember is hazy: I remember dressing as Minnie Mouse, tiny red-and-white polka dot bow adorned ears on a headband that hurt my head (as all headbands do). I was maybe 4, but not much older. I remember being in a car, looking out the window into the dark, and feeling that particular Autumn magic: the feeling of dustiness, of being able to stay up later than usual, the cold of early nights, how oppressively dark it seemed after an entire Summer. The approaching Winter seems closer than ever on Halloween. 

My next Halloween memory is my friend Noelle's birthday party, held at Lone Pine Farm, a Eugene, OR tradition most known for its haunted corn maze. It was Noelle's 7th (or maybe 8th) birthday. We always celebrated our birthdays in tandem: me on October 20, her on November 4. It was a novelty to have birthdays so close together, when so many in our class were March or June babies. I don't remember much of the birthday party. But I remember my mother carrying me out of the pumpkin patch. It was dark out -- maybe twilight, but I remember it dark -- and I held the child "swag bag" I'd received: a green and black flat plastic bag printed with a witch's image, warty nose and gnarled teeth, but smiling and cartoonish, full of cheap goodies and candy. 

As I got older, Halloween got more complicated (as all things do), but it always retained that magical feeling of coziness and changing seasons. It was constant. Every year, October 31 and Halloween came no matter what else was going on in my life, no matter where I was or what job I was working. Halloween was a easily measurable space of time, a period of 24 hours where I felt like the world was different. 


I've always been a big fan of a specific and easily identifiable aesthetic. The set designs of movies I saw when I was a kid impacted me greatly -- especially Hocus Pocus, with the dusty Sanderson Sister cottage covered in spider webs, lighters pushed into the wall, wrought iron ornaments and old hardwood floors -- but also steampunk-y elements, like the design of Tarzan's Treehouse in Disneyland. (I only recently, when visiting Disneyland with my husband, realized the influence of this little-spoken-of treehouse on my appreciation of steampunk, old typewriters, futuristic and yet retro lamps, and mahogany desks.) I've always wanted to live, or even just visit, a haunted Victorian mansion. Most of all, however, I've always referred to my design taste as ink-stained, retro, and Halloween-y. 

There is a coziness in what is old: dusty book covers, desks covered in years of fingerprints built up into a grime, typewriters with keys missing their letters from use, flickering candles in windows. There is something magical and mysterious about it, something beautiful and yet decrepit in the combination of dark colors (black, brown, burgundy) and warm (gold, yellow, orange, bronze). 

I love Halloween. I love the movies, the colors, the sets, the pumpkins, the lights, everything. It's the day where it's ok to be a kid again (and always), the day where the veil between living and dead is thin. It's a day to celebrate, to drink, to look back, to eat as much candy as possible, to appreciate the world we live in (full of rust-colored leaves and vibrant orange pumpkins), to remain thankful that we are here and nowhere else.