For years, I walked around with my eyebrows on caterpillar: furry, wild and seemingly creeping across my face. I didn’t start going for manicures and pedicures regularly until I was 20, so part of the reason was I just never realized having your brows arched was a thing. The other part, the more relevant part, is that I had watched too many women have theirs waxed and was certain the pain wasn’t worth it.
Then one day, I went with a friend who’d been badgering me to have my brows waxed for years. “You got nice brows naturally, so I know when you get them waxed, it’ll set it off.” Well, a compliment will motivate, so I finally decided to do it.
I sat down in the chair and tried to play it cool. I’d watched many women having theirs done and they didn’t cry or indicate they were in pain, so it couldn’t be that bad, right? Wrong. THAT SHIT HURT!
Each time she slathered that hot wax on my brows and gently pressed down the strips, I frowned up my face. “You have to relax, baby,” she said. I would relax and she would yank it off, quickly pressing her finger on the place where she’d just ripped the hair from its roots. After six rounds of wax and rip, she used a brush to smooth out my brows and I loosened my clenched butt cheeks because it was finally over.
Or was it? She then used tweezers to pluck away those stubborn, wayward hairs that the wax didn’t catch. Though it wasn’t as painful as the waxing, each hair pulled annoyed me and had me wondering if this shit would ever end.
Finally, she brushed each brow once more, sat down the brush and picked up a mirror. She held it in front of me and said, “You like?” I opened my eyes to examine her work. I finally understood why women tolerate the pain of waxing because that short procedure was like cosmetic surgery. My brows were perfect and I looked gorgeous. From that day, I was in that chair at least once a month, every three weeks if necessary.
Just a few months later, leaving the salon after having my brows arched – looking and feeling especially pretty – a man approached me in the parking lot. “You are so gorgeous,” he said. I typically would’ve thanked him and rushed to my car, but today, his compliment affirmed me and he wasn’t bad on the eyes, so I smiled and said, “Am I?” He chuckled and sparked a conversation that ended with us exchanging numbers.
We began dating quickly and each time I’d get my brows done, he’d gush over how gorgeous I looked. He was usually complimentary anyway, but those times when I’d see him right after an appointment, he made me feel like the most beautiful woman in the world. It was blissful.
And then it wasn’t. Just three months into our relationship, he said something to annoy me, and I began playing on my phone ignoring him. “LaSha, you don’t hear me talking to you?” he asked with the kind of base in his voice that told me he believed I owed him a response. I continued ignoring him as he ranted about being disrespected. Before I knew it, he was standing over me.
It was threatening, so I attempted to stand up from the couch when he immediately pushed me back down and started choking me. I only remember punching at him to get him to stop because I couldn’t breathe. He let up after maybe 10 seconds, but I didn’t. I couldn’t believe this man had just choked me. I kept punching him and he grabbed both hands. I wiggled loose and headed straight for my kitchen to find a knife to stab him because I couldn’t beat him, but he was going to learn. He ran out of my front door before I could come back and leave him with a permanent reminder of why he could never put his hands on me again.
A few days passed with no communication. I didn’t tell anyone, not my mother or any of my friends. I was embarrassed and hurt. But more than anything, I was mourning the loss of what I thought would be true love.
On the fifth day, he called me. I ignored the call but hurriedly listened to the voicemail he left apologizing. “Please, baby,” he ended his plea. I listened to the message a dozen times. His seeming loving appeal to me to give him another chance and understand that he would never make that mistake again incinerated the anger and hurt I’d been consumed with since the fight.
And after a couple more calls begging, I took him back. For three weeks, it was once again blissful. I had all but forgotten the manic look in his eyes as he stood over me constricting my air way, violently squeezing my throat. We were back where we started.
Then one day, we had an argument in Target. I had driven my car, so I angrily left to walk to my car, leaving my full basket. He followed behind me saying nothing. We got in the car and I drove off in silence. I turned on the music. He began talking about how I didn’t have to storm out and I turned up the music to max volume to tune him out. He reached over and turned down the music and told me I was being disrespectful. I told him not to touch shit in my car and turned the music back to the max. He then ejected my CD and threw it out of the window. I pulled over and told him to get out and we had a full fight in my car.
He eventually exited my vehicle and I drove home trembling with anger. And days passed. More days than the first time. Then he called again and began the same song. This time I didn’t answer for days because I was done. But by the second week when the calls went from several per day to one a day, I answered. I forgave and we were right back to dating. It felt like before.
The cycle continued. At first we would fight and breakup every month or so. Then every two weeks. And the reconciliation was the same almost every time.
One day right after we had made up from a fight that ended with him taking and throwing my house keys in the woods, he accompanied me to have my brows waxed. There was a sister there having a manicure. She and I began chatting and she said, “I don’t know how y’all take that,” as the tech was applying the third coat of wax.” I replied, “Girl, I used to be like that, too, but I got used to the pain. It’s not so bad now. Plus I get so many compliments for weeks after I get them waxed.”
And a light bulb went off in that salon. And when I was done, I looked at that nigga who came with me to have my brows wax a few days after he had disregarded my safety and peace of mind for the 10th time, and I wanted to vomit. After I was done, I asked him to run down the liquor store and buy me a scratch ticket. When he was out of view, I crept to my car pulled off and blocked his number.
I couldn’t stop running through my mind how for years before I couldn’t imagine the pain of enduring eyebrow waxing much like I could never have imagined laying in bed with a man who physically abused me. I pondered how much like I began to crave the pain of having my brows waxed because I knew after I would love how I looked, I began to crave the next time he would hit me because I knew that a week or so later he would be on best behavior to win me back. I loved how the compliments strangers heaped on me when my brows were fresh made me feel much like I loved how this man’s begging me to take him back after he’d choked or slapped me, or destroyed some piece of my property made me feel. I was willing, eager even, to take the pain of both because I needed what was on the other side.
But unlike how freely I discussed my eyebrows and the process I went through to bring them to their perfectly arched glory, I never told a soul about the abuse I suffered in order to have a boyfriend who doted on and pedestaled me publicly. I alway fought that motherfucker back. I had bloodied his lip, bitten him, pulled back his finger until it screamed for me to let it go, threw shit at him, and physically defended myself from a man. I was not a victim because I protected myself. And being a victim was something to be ashamed of, so I massaged my ego and lulled myself with he knowledge that I didn’t just let him beat my ass. I came from strong women. How could I tell them that I’d been weak enough to not only not stab that nigga the first time like I was taught, but also keep letting him come back to abuse me more and more?
And until this very moment, I hadn’t told of the abuse in this relationship. I just told those who knew we were together that I tired of him. Once he realized I’d left him, he called me 40 times. He left so many messages that it filled my voicemail. I never listened. I was done. Now I’m done with being ashamed about it. I’m as strong as any woman I know, but strength ain’t a vaccine. Any of us can fall victim but rise survivor.
But unlike that relationship that I abandoned once I realized what I was giving up for a two or three weeks of what I believed was happiness, I ain’t giving up my brow waxing. That pain is necessary, a minor inconvenience which produces results far outweighing its cost. And besides, I probably owe my life to these brows because that epiphany from the waxing chair quite possibly saved my life.