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As a blonde, I must admit to sometimes being lazy when it comes to certain grooming habits practiced more faithfully by my darker-haired friends. In a word, eyebrows. I never pluck them. They are scarcely visible as it is; why go through the pain? In spite of this, for the last few years I have been considering having them done. I eye other people’s, notice attractive shapes. Should I?

I was over at Mona’s the other day, helping her study for her upcoming final in an ESL class she’s taking at the local community college. The talk turned to her plans to open a restaurant and her life in Iraq, and she told me how she was also considering opening a salon. “I love to do hair, and henna, and eyebrows,” she told me, grabbed a spool of white thread and began somehow looping it back and forth. She offered to do my eyebrows. I muttered something about how it had been a while (I didn’t want to tell her it’s probably been about 20 years) and let her at it.

She sat me down in a kitchen chair, had me hold the skin taut. I closed my eyes. Mona was very fast and proficient and 5 minutes later, my eyebrows were cleaner than they’d been in years.

The threading is very strange and difficult to describe; I have had to search on youtube as words have failed me. It sort of whispers against my skin. The woman in the video says it doesn’t hurt—I wouldn’t go that far, but it doesn’t hurt very much.

Mona asked me how often I have to do my upper lip. I shrugged, raised my newly-shaped eyebrows. I have no hair on my upper lip, just a fuzz only discernible in strong light. Mona tells me she has to do hers at least twice a month. I don’t even shave my legs that often, I admit to her.

I glance at her forearms. Sure enough, they are hairless. I remember Mauritanian women offering to help me remove my own arm hair with their own special concoction—coke left in the sun until it’s a syrupy, sticky paste, smeared on the skin and then ripped off! Just the thought of doing this makes me curl into fetal position, whimpering. I share this thought with Mona, who laughs at me and tells me she does the same thing. Sigh.

Although Arab women seem to want to be as hairless as possible, the opposite is true for the men. Donn was once out with a friend and they spotted a man with a huge Saddam-Hussein mustache getting out of a Mercedes. “Women love a mustache like that,” the friend told Donn. “And you know what else they love? Hairy backs. Women really go for that!” “Are you sure?” said Donn, but his friend reassured him. “I think maybe American women are different,” said Donn, but the friend was not convinced.

And last week, Donn learned a new Arab proverb. “A man without a mustache is like an egg without salt.”

I must admit that I am fascinated with my new eyebrows. I am constantly quirking them at myself in mirrors. And, as soon as Ramadan is over, we’re going back for a henna party!

August 2011

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