Brow beaten

News — By on September 14, 2009 at 8:14 am

By Kate M. Jackson-Boston Globe Correspondent

When I was in the eighth grade, a friend arrived at school hiding her face behind a loose-leaf binder. Earlier that morning, she’d plastered her teased bangs with Aqua Net, lit a cigarette, and – poof! – burned her eyebrows off.

Though she tried to fill in her singed arches with a brow pencil, she still looked like a completely different person. Too much hairspray and the ill-timed flick of a lighter had rendered her totally expressionless. It was eerie.

Unless you’re a Thai monk, going browless is almost always unintentional, the result of overplucking, a mishap with a gas grill, or drunken high jinks. The browless person is usually held up with a sense of foreboding, a reminder to keep your wits about you at parties or a harsh lesson in thermodynamics. The saving grace comes in knowing it’s a temporary exile. Hair grows back. In the meantime, step away from the tweezers.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year, I prepared myself for the inevitable hair loss from chemotherapy. I bought colorful scarves, a new Red Sox cap, and a few choice wigs from Dorothy’s Boutique on Mass. Ave. I was so focused on mitigating baldness that I was woefully unprepared when I lost my eyebrows. Within a week, I went from bald woman to bald extra on “Star Trek.’’

The eyebrows are the tools of expression; they impart character and humor. Without them, I felt unnatural, alien, sick.
I tried to draw them on. For weeks, I labored over my arches, practicing techniques I’d found online, but I still ended up looking like an eccentric aunt who wore cat suits in the 1970s. For me, there was no substitute for the real thing.

Needless to say, I was horrified to read that shaving off or bleaching one’s eyebrows is all the rage right now, showing up on high-fashion runways, magazine covers, and in advertisements.

I wish I had eyebrows now because I would raise them at this trend. Why would anyone ever do this intentionally?
The Balenciaga and Prada fall fashion shows featured browless models, a pageant of listless automatons, parading down the runway. A current advertisement for Givenchy shows a group of grim-faced models lounging impassively – sans eyebrows – in a French chateau. Similarly browless creatures have appeared in recent ads for Valentino and Longchamp, as well.
In reports on the browless trend, The New York Times and Britain’s The Guardian quote makeup artist Pat McGrath, who conjured the severe looks for the Balenciaga and Prada shows. McGrath suggests the look is a kind of minimalist chic for the recession, an artistic way to make a statement on the economy – or just an inexpensive way to make a statement.

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