My dad has them. My grandfather had them. Most of my uncles had them, too.
The Weeks eyebrows. Brambly, thick, wiry, and unruly.
They are my inheritance, a small piece of land, overgrown with brush, vines, and wild raspberries.
Tending my “real estate”, as it were, has become a job. Whereas my eyebrows started as little patches of peachy fuzz and then morphed into lovely and silken brown caterpillars in my youth, proudly crawling across the mantle of my face, they threaten to overtake me in my middle age.
Like kudzu, they have a life and will of their own.
I’ve started to see my eyebrows as separate from me. They’re intimately connected to me, for sure, but they have declared their independence from me as an autonomous state. They resist being controlled. They crave freedom, and in this particular time where my attention is directed elsewhere, they have waged a most formidable insurrection.
“Just lie low,” I can hear them say in their plotting and scheming. “Better to be quiet and insidious than loud and obnoxious. He tends to punish the wild ones, the iconoclasts, and those that stand out.”
I can be benevolent. I can be kind. I can be forgiving. Mowing them all down for the sake of proving a political point would just make me look bad.
Still, I hate it when I am taunted and mocked. At the moment when the work of the revolution interferes with my ability to be presentable, run my life with some degree of efficiency and beauty, and show that I am a man of comportment, authority, and control, I feel like I must take action.
As with most dictatorial regimes, I fight the guerrilla forces. I have sent in troops to quell their ambitions, brutally and painfully. I have cut off the young brazen ones in their prime. I have plucked out the zealots when I felt I had no choice. Occasionally, in a fit of authoritarian violence, I have even targeted the small and soft ones, as well as the old gray ones that seem to multiply in force by the day. Young and old, they are both cause for trouble and unrest.
As the governor of my own body, sometimes I feel like I am losing.
I look to those who came before me. Each generation deals with the rebels differently.
My grandfather, Earl, was a small farmer, both in stature and land holdings. He knew me, but I didn’t know him because he died after my first birthday. When I see photos of him, his eyebrows present a physics problem. How did such a slight man balance such massive eyebrows without doing a face plant into the earth he so lovingly and industriously tilled? He was the Dolly Parton of eyebrows, though I think he had other concerns than physics or beauty.
My dad, like his dad, seems to have made peace with his eyebrows. He runs things these days with a fairly velvet fist. His eyebrows do pretty much what they want. They are a free nation. Many years ago, I remember when he would conscript them into service, along with his flared nostrils and a reddened bald head, to inspire fear in the hearts of many…or at least four of us.
Now, they have gone out to pasture. Untended, natural, open, and free, superintending over kind brown eyes and the face of someone I love. I see his eyebrows, and I know the future. I hope that the next time I feel the need to spit-smooth that brow, I’ll resist and give comfort and let him know that he’s okay just the way he is.
We are all born with burdens and privileges.
Many a great and prominent person has been defined by their eyebrows. Leonid Brezhnev. Andy Rooney. Ernest Hemingway. Mariel Hemingway. Brooke Shields. Penelope Cruz. Bert and Ernie. Eugene Levy. Kumail Nanjiani. Sophia Loren. Joan Crawford. Frida Kahlo.
Maybe I should give up the fight. I’m in good company.
With negotiation, surrender to the small battles, and a mind toward liberation, we may all win.
I was out for a walk last week with a friend. We needed some air. We needed to feel the grass beneath our feet. We craved some connection with things that are still growing, unfettered, without much concern for the weightiness and despair that currently keep us humble and scared.
In the urban woods, we saw vines, bramble, undergrowth, poison oak, raspberries, calla lilies, nasturtiums run amok, and wildflowers of all kinds.
The woods reminded me of the last time I took LSD. I wandered around in places that I’d never seen, though they should have been familiar. I took a walk around where I had previously been forbidden — an intimate journey through a beard, mustache, ears…and eyebrows. It was magnificent, weird, and wondrous, all at the same time. Like a jaunt through the forest. Maybe it’s not seemly. Still, it was exhilarating to get to know the world up close, without filters. I had a sense of what it is like to traipse through eyebrows like mine.
We are wiser when we recognize our histories and legacies, amidst all the tangle and unrestrained growth. What does it mean to be “well-groomed”, anyway? Are we interfering? Perhaps we should let things be.
Next time you see me, in this time where thriving and nurturing are uncertain, take a look at my eyebrows. Maybe I’ll have tamed them. I may have let them go where they need to go. They are my yard, my garden, my inheritance. I’ll care for them, wild and stubborn though they are.