“Did you see her eyebrows?!” I gushed to my husband, sitting next to me in the SUV we were about to test drive. He was fiddling with dials on the dashboard, half listening.
He’s been answering this question the same way for years. I, however, couldn’t stop staring at the saleswoman’s brows, fanned out like tiny fringe on a baby peacock.
After strapping our daughter into her car seat, we drove around the block. “I really like the car,” I told the brow-endowed saleswoman. She nodded and smiled. What I wanted to say was, “But I really love your eyebrows.”
I once had brows to rival a Kardashian’s: lush, thick, dark as midnight. In my twenties, when I began to have them shaped and waxed, my grandmother begged me not to mess with them too much. I promised I wouldn’t, but I loved my monthly trips to the aesthetician and the super-slim arcs that were so popular in the late ’90s. Maria, my brow maven, readily slashed my brows in half at every treatment, wielding strips of wax so hot I always flinched.
About ten years later, hair began disappearing from my arms and legs. I didn’t think much about it until the tails of my beloved brows began to fall out as if caterpillars were munching on them. I panicked. My dermatologist tested my thyroid (normal), and suggested biotin, a B vitamin that promotes hair growth. It didn't help. I was in my late 30s, newly married, living in Los Angeles, working in a media job that rotated my hours every week. For three years, flip-flopped shifts and long weeks of broken sleep cycles ruled my life. Maybe my disappearing brows were a sign of how off balance my body had become.
When I left that job, I was still using a standard eyebrow pencil to fill in what was left of my brows. But they were vanishing fast. A new dermatologist diagnosed me with alopecia areata — patchy hair loss that is usually stress-induced — and injected cortisone at the brow line to jumpstart growth. He also prescribed powerful anti-inflammatory creams that I rubbed into my sparse brows, turning them into inflamed half-moons, hot to the touch. I spent hundreds on Latisse (an FDA-approved eyelash enhancer), downed gigantic flaxseed pills, and massaged my brows with castor oil nightly to cajole them into sprouting seedlings. Nothing worked.
In March of 2012, newly pregnant, I stopped all medication, had my stylist cut bangs, and focused on my unborn daughter. When Olive arrived, my heart was full but the space above my eyes was completely empty.