I've very casually slipped that fact that I have to pencil in my eyebrows at least a few times, like here, and over here... and lots of ladies everywhere require the aid of a pencil or a little powder to just fill in our brows so they'll appear more full or more even. Some people have fair complexions. Some people overplucked during the
80's 90's uh-oh's their youth, and need to correct matters, otherwise they look like they're in a constant state of surprise. Gives a whole new meaning to the term high brow. (By the way, unless you're a Marlene Dietrich impersonator, this is probably a bad look for you.)
My friend, and fellow Urban Mom Nancy inquired about this in the comment section of a recent post, saying, "Can I just mention that you are officially the only person I have ever been friends with who draws on her eyebrows, you don't smell like mothballs and wear tent dresses... please explain." (I love her.) And I will now oblige you all... here we go.
I am not a war-era film star, nor did I ever get over-zealous with my tweezers back in the day. No - I pulled the hairs out with my own two hands.
Sometime during my mid-twenties as I set up house with my then-boyfriend (now husband) and was embarking on a new chapter in my life, I woefully discovered something... weird. I noticed lots and lots of hair on the back of the couch where I'd been sitting, watching TV or reading. I mean, lots. As if I'd been shedding, only I didn't have any recollection of being the culprit myself. As it came to Martin's horrified attention, I thought it best to look into what was suddenly up with me. I looked up "hair-pulling" and Google spit back something like this:
trich·o·til·lo·ma·ni·a: compulsive hair pulling. An impulse control disorder characterized by the repeated urge to scalp hair, eyelashes, eyebrows, or other body hair. Symptoms usually appear before age 17, though age 13 on average. Affects roughly 1% of the population, and more common in girls than boys.
Holy crap. That's me.
I'd had to fill in round bald spots in my eyebrows with pencil before, and I lost eyelashes in the middle sections all the time, but I didn't pay it a lot of attention, really. I'd just try to gloss over it with makeup, telling myself I'd been picking at a small pimple in my brow, or managing an irritation that got out of hand. I just rubbed my eyes too hard... I'd tell my mother in years past when she'd notice how bald my lash line was.
Upon closer investigation and much deeper research, I discovered that I'd been pulling my own hair out, on and off, since I started middle school: the hardest two years of my life.
For me, those years were tough when I changed schools - my parents moved me to a better school in a better area of town, rather than have me enter the feeder school from my our district. It was a good move, but I went from a large school to a much smaller one, with maybe 50 kids in each of the seventh and eighth grades. And this school was predominantly whiter than the school I'd come from, which was decidedly more international.
This was not necessarily a problem, but it was the close ties these new kids had with each other that was - these kids had known each other since their infancy, it seemed. They'd grown up next door to each other, and their parents were friends. They all went to the same sleep-away camps together, for prior. They took ski lessons. Some rode horses. Some had older brother and sisters who hung out together, so they were already alumnae for cool-kid parties and things.
They were blonde and preppy and monied and handsome, and they went shopping at week-ends to places like Roots and Beaver Canoe and bought Treetorn sneakers and Swatches, and went to WHAM concerts, and had sleep-over birthday parties that not everyone could possibly be invited to, but really that just meant everyone but me... (That can't really be true, but it certainly felt that way at the time.)
And never mind that whole part about trying to have a boyfriend, ohmygod. Just... no. That was NOT happening.
Socially I was having a bear of a time. I couldn't crack the tight bonds of these girls - about twenty or so with which to make friends in my grade - and I just floundered, miserably. They weren't mean girls - not really... they just weren't as inclusive as I had wanted or needed. My schoolwork totally came second to all this social-stuff, which drove my father completely crazy. I sat through a million we-came-here-so-you-could-have-a-better-life speeches when I brought home near-failing grades. And it didn't help that my main teacher that year seemed pretty sure I was an idiot - he tried to console my parents once by saying, "She's a fast runner... an excellent athlete, really... maybe she'll get a scholarship to school?" My father nearly had a stroke, I'm so sure.
I cried a lot that year.
And I think sometime during the eighth grade, I plucked out almost all my eyelashes, and under the makeup, I had two neat, bald-to-the-skin circles in the thickest part of eyebrows. Then I started on two favourite spots on my scalp, but I had hair enough to hide them in those days.
Things improved for me incrementally by the ninth grade, when we all moved on to high school, but this time I could cast a much wider net with which to find friendships - and many of the friends I made then remain close in my heart to this day. I flat-out refused to go into the gifted programme, as I should have - I just couldn't bear the idea of being the black kid AND the smart kid. And after my father didn't have a stroke over that either, I found I wasn't as plagued by anxiety during those years as in the ones prior. By that, I mean my issues with hair-pulling came and went, but socially I was much happier. It peaked again after I moved cities and moved away from a life that was safe and familiar when I was in my twenties. Among other things, I was lonely again.
Loneliness can be a terrible thing... inclusion is better.
I was severely stressed. And it was manifesting itself all over the back of my couch. As I researched and became more aware of my issues, I made changes in my life to calm myself, and try to control the compulsions, which often become habit-forming. It's like an itch that only feels better once scratched... tough, but not impossible to overcome. Over time, I've become much better. I very rarely pull anymore.
But here's a thing about eyelashes and eyebrows: eventually they stop growing back. They're not completely gone, but I feel the need to fill them in before leaving the house. Seriously. Thank goodness for excellent makeup, and my steady hand with a pencil and an angled brush. Well, I've had years of practice after all.
Now when I feel a familiar tingling in my scalp (in two specific places on my head) I think carefully about what's going on in my life. I think about it rather than try to push it away or drive it out of my mind. But I'm better at this now, because I know the patterns. I'm forty, not fourteen. I usually "get" what's up with me, before I run into serious problems, and I can be cool. Everything is going to be okay, just relax.
So, that's my story. *waggles eyebrows* I'm not shy about talking about it anymore... any questions?