You, With The Unibrow, Put Some Clothes On

Last week my son is running around my backyard naked.  COMPLETELY nude-y-pants.  He suddenly jumps in to our plastic red wagon and says: I want to go on a WALK.

He doesn’t even know that we, as human beings, don’t do a lot of naked walks.  And I wonder: When do we become conscious of our bodies?  When will E realize that he’s NAKED and can’t let anyone but his family see him this way?

Yesterday, I’m at the pool with my sister, Aunt K.  She offhandedly comments: I’m sucking it in. And I respond: You and everyone else at the pool.

And I wonder: When will E and N start sucking it in?  When will they cross from conscious to self-conscious?  And why do I have to watch them cross this line?

The idea breaks my heart.

I remember, as a sixth grader, overhearing two girls discuss unibrows.  And it wasn’t a WISH I HAD A UNIBROW conversation.  I reached up to the hair above my nose bridge and thought: Oh. This hair is bad. And I’ve waxed ever since.

I don’t blame those girls.  Everyone would be making fun of me if I had one eyebrow.  I don’t WANT one eyebrow.  But I don’t want my children to feel like they need to change themselves for anyone or anything.  Even though I change myself all the time.  I pluck and shave and support and hold.  Even though I can’t be the example of someone who doesn’t care at all.  I care.  Not as much as some.  I leave the house without make-up.  I find showering to be VERY overrated.

I spent my junior year of high school NOT shaving my legs.  Even as a summer camp counselor — IN SHORTS.  And I felt so liberated.  I HATE SHAVING.  But I also had an older male counselor say: You would be more attractive if you shaved your legs. I responded: Good thing I’m not trying to attract you. But inside?  I couldn’t even understand why he cared.  And I couldn’t understand why I cared. But he and everyone else did.  There were rumors that I was a SUPER DUPER SWIMMER preparing for a BIG MEET.  When in reality, I went out for swim team my freshman year of high school and lasted ONE WEEK.  And I eventually shaved my legs for a big cross-country race my senior year.

And today I shave.  When I must.  But must is skirts and shorts and capri pants (well not usually in capri pants. who looks at my ankles?)  Does it make me a bad role model?  How important are social norms to success in life?  To confidence?

My husband is not a fan of make-up.  For our first year of together, he gave me a hard time EVERY TIME I wore make-up.  (Even the sparkly silver eyeshadow that RULED.)  And I explained that I wear makeup for me.  I like how it looks.  And he dropped it (eventually).  Today, I feel like I wear makeup because I look better with eyeliner, but seven years ago that wasn’t the case.  I just liked it when I liked it.

I am all over the place with acceptable and not acceptable.  With feeling good about growing old and with missing my youthful figure.  I wish that I knew how lovely I was as a teenager. But I know that I will think the same thing in fifteen years when I lay eyes on pictures of my thirty-one year old body.

So is it better than when I dyed my stomach hair blonde one summer?  Yes. I don’t find my Italian side so offensive anymore.  But I still care.

Maybe that’s what happens.  We cross the line into self-conscious and we cringe and beg to be exactly like the models of the magazines or at least like everyone else or how about just NOT LIKE ME.  But then we come back to not caring so much.  We throw on our sweatpants and get down in the mud.  And not to make our skin beautiful.  To make our lives more than our appearance, naked or made up.

Perhaps I won’t be the most consistent example when it comes to cultural norms and beauty standards.  But I promise to be as excited when my daughter starts to shave her legs as when she stops.  And to help shave my son’s head one season and braid his shoulder-length locks the next.  And maybe that’s what we all need.  Someone to say: You look wonderful today, sweetie.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

25 thoughts to “You, With The Unibrow, Put Some Clothes On”

  1. That.is.Just.So.Me.
    I wear makeup when I want to,when i feel good about it.Showering IS overrated.Ha!Agree with everything you say here 🙂 🙂
    And thats what we need.. To be muddy,sweaty in the ugliest,baggiest but comfiest sweat shirts and yet be told *you look beautiful today,hun* 🙂

    I love your blog here!You just so write from the heart! Your wonderful comments on my blog made me day! yaay! 🙂 🙂

    Cheers!
    -Sweta

  2. Aww.. thanks!! Your comment makes MY DAY 🙂

    And we might be the smelly ladies, but think of all we are accomplishing by not wasting time showering!

    And your microfiction was AWESOME!!

  3. Add smelly me to your list. So funny I was thinking of this whole topic yesterday too as I went to pick my son up from school and realized I had not showered and my hair was gross. I had to pull out the baseball cap. Ah, but to be 31 again!! I am sure you're gorgeous. I know what you mean about going back and forth. Inevitably our priorities change when we become mothers (well, for many of us), though when my son turned 3 I did go through this phase where I tried to be fashionable and hip. It didn't last long. I am back to no make up and no bra and no shaving unless it's over 80 degrees out.

  4. You've inspired me. I'm going to say “You look wonderful today, sweetie” to at least FIVE people (in addition to my husband and children).

  5. So, embrace it NOW. God knows, I too long for my teenage body…but I long just as much for my 31 year old body. And you're right; I'm sure 10 years from now, I'll long for this body of today. It's all relative.
    We are healthy and vibrant and beautiful. Even when we don't shave our legs.

  6. Ooh, I totally went through the fashionable phase around E turning three! But I may be too far gone — I think that I'd need my own personal stylist (I'm looking at you, N ;))
    And there is plenty of room in the smelly club. Come on over (unless you've showered today — then stay over there.)

  7. I have a very distinct memory of the first time I “sucked it in”. I was in 4th grade, and that memory makes me so sad now. An 8 year old girl has no need to suck it in, ever.

    I am much more comfortable with my body now, at 30 years old and after having had a child, than I was at 17 years old, although I agree that I wish I'd known how great I looked then. Still, I feel that my body now is the body of a woman, and that I've earned it. Because of that, I feel infinitely more beautiful now than I did then. I hope that in 10 years from now I feel the same way.

  8. Awww.. I love your comment. The idea, of having “earned” the bodies that we have, is such a powerful way to see ourselves. Thank you.

  9. I think you'll be a great role model, because you don't NEED to shave your legs and wear makeup to feel good, so your kids will pick up on that–that it's ok to alter yourself a bit, but you don't HAVE to. At least, that's what I hope as an occasional-shaving, not much makeup-wearing person who doesn't always shower! And I didn't pluck my eyebrows until residency, but I still made it to residency, so social grooming norms are surely overrated. Although I do feel better without the extra hair on my forehead.

  10. This reminds me of my grandmom, who had 8 kids. After the first 7, she went back to her tiny pre-pregnancy body, but after the 8th, she decided she had earned her belly roll, and kept it that way. She said she wanted people to know she had had all those kids–just like you said, she felt she had earned it.

  11. Thanks!
    It's funny that the same beauty routines that we loathe can also be the ones that makes us feel prettier. Maybe it's the practice of taking the time on ourselves which makes something like plucking, while not always enjoyable, feel good, too.

  12. This is such a great post. As hard as it is to spend the day with toddlers, you remind me of how hard it's going to be as they get older. A friend of mine told me that the thing to remember is that now, while they're young, you can fix everything. But when they're older…well, good luck.

    I had a no-shaving-legs period in college. I shave now, but just wish I had never started. Then my hair would look a hell of a lot more natural. At some point, I gave up the fight.

  13. I agree. That's a wonderful way of looking at our bodies. I'm at that “10 years later” point now and while the feelings aren't nearly as strong, I'm revisiting “body image” issues that I thought I had gotten rid of when I was 17. Only back then I thought I looked too much like a little girl and now I am wishing I had the body of a younger gal. But now it's not so much vanity as it is a nagging reminder that I am not doing enough to exercise and take care of myself, which then turns into guilt because I really want to stick around to see and run around with my grandkids…

  14. My mom always told me not to start shaving — that I'd regret it. BUT WHAT DO MOMS KNOW?? Hahaha… I secretly began shaving in my closet in sixth grade. REBEL!!

  15. All day after reading this I've been singing the song “When they really get to know you they will run” by Pedro the Lion (listen here: http://tinyurl.com/yc5zv5f). Favorite lines: Husbands in winter, they know the truth, but what can they do… (I actually played this song to you on our second sorta date, surely to show you how “in touch” and feminist I was. Didn't work, instead you realized early on that you would have to love me for something other than my music taste 😉 Luckily for me there is lot about you to love, including your writing. Keep it the great stuff coming.

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