Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Eye(brow)s Have It

Something strange has been happening for the past year or so: when I get my hair cut, as the process draws to a close, the barber—male or female—will lean close and whisper, “Would you like me to trim your eyebrows?”

Now, I have been having my hair cut—on two continents—for a number of years, and never before have I been asked that question, except during these past few months. I can assure you that my eyebrows have not become suddenly shaggier (okay, they are a little unkempt at times, but it’s nothing a stiff brush and a garden rake can’t handle) I have to conclude that, at their annual conference last year, the Grand Barber must have given a rousing speech on the new and exciting styling possibilities waiting to be exploited within their customer’s eyebrows.

My eyebrows do NOT look like this!
Since we have already established that it is not my eyebrows, then it has to be that, or some obscure ordinance demanding that barbers offer retired people the option of having their eyebrows mowed along with their haircuts, as a sort of OAP perk. It could be this, as the question began to be posed to me after I admitted that I had recently retired. I told them that because, when I started showing up on weekdays instead of weekends to have my hair shortened and they asked if I had the day off, “retired” sounded better than confessing I had been made redundant and couldn’t be arsed to look for a new job.

Naturally, I have never considered saying, “Yes” to this question, for a number of reasons.

First, there is the manner in which they ask it, the way they lean in and furtively enquire, as if the state of my eyebrows and the possible shearing of them should be kept secret; something intimate to be shared between a barber and his patient that the rest of the shop does not need to be privy to. This is how I would imagine they might ask the more traditional “Something for the weekend, sir?” question, which they never have. Not to me, anyway. (For my American friends, “Something for the weekend, sir” is supposedly what barbers would ask gentlemen who were having their hair cut as a way of offering them condoms. Apparently, this custom died out about the time Boots began setting condoms out on the display racks so they stopped asking it long before I reached these shores. Or perhaps they just assumed I was the sort of guy who simply wouldn’t benefit from condoms. Just as well; if they had asked, I probably would have said, “A couple of tickets to Lego Land would be nice!”)

This is what they are planning on doing, I just know it!
Secondly, there is the matter of a friend of mine who once treated herself to a luxury make-over, part of which included waxing and tweaking her eyebrows. Long story short, an over-enthusiastic exfoliator-in-training removed half of her left eyebrow, leaving her with a permanently quizzical look. She tried to paint it in with eyebrow pencil and we all told her you could hardly notice it, but of course we were lying.

After deflecting one of the more approachable female barber’s offer of weed-whacking my eyebrows, I related that story to her. Surprisingly, she took umbrage at it, apparently believing I was suggesting—had I allowed her near the ridge of my brow with a set of lively clippers—that the results might be similar, which, of course, was exactly what I was implying. But now that I have so alerted her, I am certainly not going to let her touch my eyebrows for fear that she will (“Oops, I am soooo sorry. Not.”) shave them off in a fit of pique.

The real reason I will not allow my eyebrows to be fiddled with, however, is due to my secret shame, something I will not even confess in the sanctity of my barber/patient relationship: most of my eyebrows are not there.

No, it’s true: from the middle of my eyebrows outward, I am practically bald, and I use the vigorous growth of the other half as a sort of eyebrow comb-over. If I let my barber shorten my external eye-hairs, I am going to look as quizzical as my aforementioned friend, but on both sides.

God in heaven! These are eyebrow shapers...for MEN!

Just why my eyebrows have disappeared is a mystery. I did ask Dr. Google about it and—as you might expect—discovered a number of possible reasons encompassing an alarming range of outcomes, including death. (Seriously, I don’t know why everyone in the world isn’t a hypochondriac by now; the internet makes it so easy to inflate an infected hangnail into a symptom of bubonic plague or Ebola poisoning.)

I am choosing to believe my pattern eyebrow-baldness is at the lower, non-lethal, end of the hair-loss spectrum, which is merely “a natural condition of aging” because Hypothyroidism—which Doc Google puts forward as the most likely candidate—has a host of nasty side effects and complications (including premature failure of the ovaries) but which, happily, has a array of symptoms I have yet to experience, such as memory loss, fluid retention and irregular menstrual cycles.

Therefore, I think it is safe to assume that my eyebrow thinning is non-lethal, but I plan to hang on to as much of my comb-over as I can, so I steadfastly refuse the kind offers of my barbers to hack a path through my eyebrows with a machete and continue with my own brow-hair maintenance regime, as long as I can remember where I put the wire brush and the garden rake.


  1. Mrs Baum11:30 AM

    This really made me laugh. I've just scrutinized the photo on your profile and your eyebrows look pretty normal to me, but maybe you've been employing that fine surgeon Dr Photoshop...? How old is that photo? Glad to hear your ovaries are fine though, and you haven't experienced an irregular menstrual cycle. Very pleased for you.

    I'm a bit worried about your brow comb-over though. What happens in windy conditions? They could obstruct your vision, and possibly cause an accident. I think you need to be very careful and possibly reconsider your stance. A hair transplant might be an option??

    As eyebrow grooming is pretty much obligatory for females, I've been plucking mine myself since I was about 14 (and no, it doesn't hurt at all, or maybe I'm just used to it), and the grooming routine also involves a little trim of any eyebrow hairs I consider to be past the regulation length. I think I do a good job, but my husband still won't let me near his brows with a pair of scissors, let alone tweezers (they could do with just a little tidy up). Any advice or suggestions for persuading him would be gratefully received. Or perhaps a sleeping tablet might work...

    1. My profile photos are pretty old -- like me ;) I do need to get some new ones taken. My eyebrows haven't changed a lot, though. As for suggestions about your husband's eyebrows: leave 'em be;)