My daughter Gladiola is sitting and staring at nothing. Poor heart. Her senior year just started and I know she has plenty on her mind: Will she do good on her tests? How will we pay for college? What will she do with the rest of her life …
I ask what’s the matter and she breaks down in tears. Uh-oh. Must be worse than I thought. Drugs? P.G.? What? Do I need a slug of cooking sherry before I hear this?
She wails, “It’s my eyebrows!”
“I got prom. I got graduation. I got Senior Day. I can’t go through that with these eyebrows,” she says.
I blurt out, “Eyebrows, schmybrows. You got boobs.” For this I get a “Motherrr” and she stomps off to her bedroom.
I reach for the sherry.
The thing is, Gladiola is gorgeous. I got no idea how it happened. Now, I ain’t so ugly I scare little children and neither was her daddy, my late husband Lout. But on our best day, neither of us would have won no Pontchartrain Beach Heartthrob Contest. Gladiola could win that title hands down with no makeup. She ain’t never going to be picked to be anybody’s bridesmaid.
She also gets good grades, has friends out the wazoo and can crack a joke as fast as I can snap my fingers.
But obviously that ain’t enough. She got imperfect eyebrows.
Why are girls like that? When my son Gargoyle was that age, I don’t think he knew he had eyebrows. And if I told him he stunk like a pig, he would chew a mouthful of Altoids and spray his armpits with Glade. Then he considered himself just fine.
Life is simple if you’re a man.
I am spouting off about this to my friend Awlette, and she asks why am I so hard on Gladiola. Don’t I remember the eyebrow crisis I had myself all those years ago?
If only I could forget. I had just graduated from Celibacy Academy, and I was now a woman of the world, so I took up cigarette smoking. I wasn’t too good at it. One day I decided to light up from the gas stove. I turned the flame high, bent down and whoosh – there went my right eyebrow. (And also my cigarette habit.)
Thing was, this was a week before both myself and Awlette and six other bridesmaids were supposed to stand in our friend Boopsy’s wedding at The Roosevelt Hotel. Boopsy was rich and Protestant, so she was allowed to get married at night in a hotel. Us Catholics had to get married in church, and in the morning.
Boopsy had planned it all perfectly – matching hairpieces, nails and dresses in a shade of puke green that gave us all the complexion of zombies. She wanted to be sure she wasn’t outshone by her bridesmaids. (To take the curse off this dress, I bought a push-up miraculous bra, X-treme version. I might look like a zombie, but at least a zombie with a bosom.)
But she didn’t plan on me having one eyebrow bandaged, and I was afraid to tell her. If I could’ve found matching puke band aids for us all to wear over our right eyebrows she might have gone along, but I didn’t have the heart.
To make it worse, I had asked my new boyfriend Lout (this was before he was my late husband, naturally) as my date.
Awlette came up with an idea. She had cats, so we gathered up some fur and combed it and trimmed it and shaped it into an eyebrow. We pressed it onto Saran Wrap, sprayed it with hair spray and stuck it over my eye with Vaseline.
But when I showed my mama, she yanked it off and stomped it to death on the floor. She said she thought it was a buck moth caterpillar.
So forget that. The next day, Awlette found a copy of Seventeen Magazine with a whole section on eyebrow grooming. We propped it up and followed the directions; we plucked out most of my left eyebrow, then we drew both of them on to match. She found some dark shadow for my eyelids, and white make-up to rub in above and below each eyebrow to make them look dimensional. It turned out so good, she decided to do the same thing to her own eyebrows, leaving out the part about setting one of them on fire, of course.
Boopsy’s wedding was short and sweet, and everything went great – until the reception. We were sitting at a little table across from Awlette and her date when the lights went low. I glanced at Awlette, and then I looked again. Her eyebrows were glowing in the dark. She looked back at me, and them eyebrows shot up and then we excused ourselves and tore off to the ladies room together.
We both had glow-in-the-dark eyebrows. Turns out she borrowed the eye makeup kit without asking from her sister, who dressed as a werewolf last Halloween. We tried to wash it off, but it didn’t come off. We found out later it’s guaranteed to last 12 hours.
All we could do was keep our heads down and hope nobody noticed. But they did. The old lady relatives pointed at us and muttered to each other, and every one of the other bridesmaids came over to whisper little comments and snicker. At least Lout was polite and kept his eyes down whenever he looked at me.
Finally, it was over. Boopsy threw her bouquet to some bridesmaid who didn’t have lit-up eyebrows, and we all went home.
At the door, I thanked Lout for being a perfect gentleman and ignoring my eyebrow problem. He gave me a blank look.
“What eyebrows?” he said, with his eyes down. I realized he was looking at my chest.
Life is simple if you’re a man.