Low Brow? How about No Brow?!

I have enough eyebrow stories to write a blog series … which is precisely what I am about to do!

Now before you cringe and skip this entry having convinced yourself that I am about to spout Beauty Advice, please note that these stories contain the customary amounts of humiliation  that you have grown to love and expect.

The first story takes place in the summer before grade 8, long before I even understood that eyebrow care was a thing.

My eyebrows were on my face. They grew and did not connect in the middle. They weren’t massive or practically non-existent. They were just there and that was all I needed to know.

At least until that fateful day …

I was 13 and had decided to try Nair for the first time. For anyone who doesn’t know (Does anyone not know what Nair is? Or is Nair even still a thing?) Nair is a horrible chemical that removes body hair and smells like burning rubber. But none of that mattered because I was oh so very grown up and had seen a commercial on TV about this amazing product that removed hair without any mess or fuss (LIES!) and just knew I needed to try it for myself.

So there I was, hidden in the bathroom on a sweltering August day liberally applying hair-be-gone to my legs and sweating profusely in the heat. Finally after coating each leg in twice as much of the recommended dose (assuming that twice as much would make it last twice as long) I stood up and wiped the sweat off my brow, beginning the countdown until I could wash the crap off.

That was when the burning started.

I felt as though I had fallen into an ant’s nest and not even the nice kind that’s just after sugar. No, this was the burning of a fire ant nest, angry and hungry and unbelievably painful. The bottle had said nothing about burning!

I hopped from foot to foot trying to last another few minutes so I could finish what I had started.

And then the burning started on my face.

That fateful brow wipe had distributed Nair directly across my right eyebrow. I rushed to the tap as fast as I could and tried to wash away the lotion as it burned my face, desperate to minimize the damage.

I wasn’t fast enough.

Three weeks before the start of Grade 8 and most of my right eyebrow was gone.

It was not pretty.

It was, in fact, pretty awful.

In a fit of misguided decisiveness I tried to remove some of the left eyebrow to make them more even, as if that would improve things.

It didn’t.

Instead I was left with two oddly shaped and barely-there eyebrows that took months to grow back in. I was teased mercilessly and managed to spend the first few months of my Junior High career looking perpetually surprised and as though I had a very large forehead.

Thus began the start of my eyebrow paranoia, something I carry with me even now.

Post Script: Dear Reader, of course there are pictures of this incident, but the pain is still too fresh to share them. It’s amazing how different a face looks without eyebrows …

Valentine’s Day: A Story of Love and Humiliation

My all-time, number-one favourite Valentine’s Day Memory also happens to be one of the most humiliating memories of my life. (Yes, I know that’s weird.)

This memory lacks the deliberately awful jabs that were so evident in my baseball encounter but it still has all the hallmarks of a terrible experience. Crowds of people? Check. Unnecessary (albeit unintentional) cruelty? Check. Feeling vulnerable? Check.

So prepare yourself dear reader, this is going to get good.

This Valentine’s Day, in the lovely and not nearly futuristic enough year 2015, marks the 10 Year Anniversary since ‘it’ happened and I am actually rather fond of retelling the story. I’ve told it hundreds of times and have really turned it into a near perfect performance. I know the best moments to pause and I have the sad yet nostalgic smile down to an art. Heck, I even know the exact second to let a tear quiver in the corner of my eye. (Alas, knowing this hasn’t helped me to produce the tear. I have unfortunately never been able to cry on command.)

I just wish I could go back and tell my 17 year old self how great this memory would become because at the time I certainly didn’t see any humour in the situation.

Let me paint the picture for you, dear reader. I am 17 years old and in my final year of high school. My three closest friends are all lovey dovey and annoyingly happy with their significant others who they have been dating for ages and were totally going to marry and love forever and ever. Everyone else in my social group is with someone whether seriously or ‘just having fun’.

I am the only one who is single.

Still, that didn’t bother me overly much. Sure I felt awkward being the fifth (or sometimes seventh) wheel on our super awesome Friday Night Movie Nights but I’ve always possessed enough self-deprecation that it’s never been hard to laugh at myself and brush the worst of it aside.

Until Valentine’s Day.

Unbeknownst to me my darling besties were all quite concerned about my single state. Imagine, being alone on Valentine’s Day. Alone. Unloved. Unwanted. It was a serious tragedy.

Which is why in their love for me they decided to cheer me up in what I am sure seemed like a good idea at the time. (You know, kinda like how it seems like a good idea at the time to tie a rope around your waist, stand on a skateboard, and have your friend drive you around the neighbourhood really fast. Road rash may not last forever but the YouTube video certainly will.)

So here I was on Valentine’s Day, single and ok with it, working my afterschool job at Taco Time with another good friend (who also happened to be in a relationship). The restaurant was completely full, busy with all of the couples clamoring for their tacos (no euphemism intended). And then in walks my friends, boyfriends in tow.

The six-some stood right up next to the counter, edging between tables of people to get as close as possible and presented me with the ugliest stuffed heart pillow (purple and pink and red and just plain hideous) and then all looked at me with identically pitying glances.

Just to give you an idea, this is kind of what the pillow looked like, only uglier ... So. Much. Uglier.

Just to give you an idea this is kind of what the pillow looked like, only uglier … So. Much. Uglier.

My best friend at the time took the lead, offering me a sad smile. “Sarah, we wanted to let you know that just because no guy loves you doesn’t mean that we don’t love you. Thank you for being you!”

I promise you, dear reader, with no word of exaggeration that the entire restaurant went quiet as she spoke, her voice carrying in the silence. All eyes turned on me as I blushed furiously and accepted the Heart Pillow. Then the snickers started. Then laughter took over. Even my co-worker had to run into the back room laughing so hard she almost peed herself.

I was humiliated and left to stand there at the counter helping customers as people at their tables sat and pointed or just stared, the same pitying expression in their eyes that my friends had carried with them. My friends all left, eager to get their dates started now that their errand was complete.

I went home and cried that night huddled alone in my room watching ‘Titanic’ and cuddling my dog, still burning with humiliation. It was awful.

It’s been 10 years and the memory is now coloured with humour and fondness instead of the dread that it used to inspire. It is still so fresh and vivid in my mind.

Dear reader, you could not pay me to be young again.

Disclaimer: I spoke to my friends the next day and they were all genuinely horrified to find out my reaction to what they had honestly thought to be a kind gesture. What can I say? The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

Oh, Titanic. Has there ever been a more romantic movie? You know ... aside from the whole tragedy of the sinking boat and all of the people who died.

Oh, Titanic. Has there ever been a more romantic movie? You know … aside from the whole tragedy of the sinking boat and all of the people who died.

Of Love and Christmas Lights

My first love was a boy named Theo. We were best friends as children and I loved him before I even knew what the word meant.

But that’s not who this story is about.

No, this story is about a much, much later love. Jesse. Jesse was a boy I shared a class with in Middle School who I was absolutely obsessed with. He was blonde, which goes against my type, but somehow I still adored him.

Back in the day (and even now, I suppose) I always discussed things with my Dad, so of course he knew about my love of Jesse. Dad and I would sit together every Wednesday night in front of ‘Gilmore Girls’ and I would gush poetically about Jesse while my Dad would ask sensible questions like “Well, did you actually talk to him today?” and “How can you possibly be in love with someone you are afraid to talk to?”

(Sensible questions are the worst.)

My Dad and I talked about everything from the quick and witty exchanges Jesse and I had in my head, to the actual stilted and awkward conversations we shared in class where I stared intensely in what I thought back then was my best “flirtatious face” but have since realized makes me look a bit like Charles Manson. These were great times.

Still, I loved these talks with my Dad as they instilled a confidence in me that always lasted until the moment I came face to face with Jesse in the hallway.

When Christmas Break came about I was both relieved for the break from school and also despondent at my lack of Jesse time. I’m sure I whined about this a fair bit in the way that 14 year old girls always whine. But at least there were plenty of distractions over the holidays.

After the first week my whining died down a bit and on Boxing Day I went to my best friend’s annual Boxing Day Party which was delightful and distracting and at the end of the day my Dad came and picked me up.

He was in a jolly mood and suggested we drive around to look at the Christmas Lights in the area and I agreed excitedly, always happy to have Daddy-Daughter time.

I chatted away to my Dad about the party, completely self-absorbed and lost so much in my own head that I didn’t notice the way he intently looked at street names and actually drove in the opposite direction of some of the best light displays.

And then he stopped the car.

“Dad?” I asked curiously, mid-monologue.

“This is his house!” My Dad exclaimed excitedly.

Dread settled deep in my belly as I realized my colossal mistake. I had told Dad Jesse’s last name which he had then looked up in the phonebook.

“Oh God.” I slunk deeply into the seat and begged my Dad to drive away before anyone saw us. It was one thing to stare creepily at someone in school, but to park outside their house? Now that was a weird reputation I would never recover from.

“No, no, I’ve got it all worked out.” My Dad then proceeded to explain his plan to me. I was to go and knock on the door, pretending complete surprise when Jesse opened it. I would tell him that we had been driving around looking at Christmas lights and I had to use the washroom and this was the first house we had stopped at. He would let me inside, believing the encounter to be fate, and we would live happily ever after with lots of babies.

You see, dear reader, I come by my crazy naturally.

I hissed at my Dad, literally hissed at him and after another minute of sitting parked outside my love’s house we drove off, my Dad calling me a wuss and me calling him nuts.

Still, I suppose my Dad gets points for trying.

For the sake of full disclosure: Jesse never did find out we parked outside his house, and we never did get together. Apparently it’s hard to date a girl who stammers every time she looks at you.

Happy Birthday, Dad

Today, September 23rd, is my Dad’s 66th Birthday.

(Happy Birthday, Dad.)

To mark this special occasion I decided to write a post dedicated to my Dad and, I have to tell you, it has been a struggle. In the last few weeks I have written several stories that I can’t wait to share on the internet. Stories of disappearing bus stops and clueless humiliations, of drive by crushes and of dating applications. They are all great, wonderful memories from my childhood that make me laugh even to this day. The problem? They’re all a little mean.

As I am sure you have noticed, dear reader, I really enjoy picking on my Dad and I have 27 years of memories that provide fodder to this hobby. It’s quite convenient.

But for his birthday I can’t bring myself to tell a mean story. Childhood traumas are hilarious and my Dad certainly has a thick enough skin to read the love behind my hyperbolic retellings. But on his birthday? I just can’t do it.

So instead I bring to you, dear reader, a rare event. A heartwarming story dedicated to my Dad.

Every year the elementary schools of School District 62 got together for a large track meet involving students from grades 4 and up. It was supposed to be a fun event meant to encourage healthy lifestyles and a light but competitive drive in the students. Now, despite my current obsession with board games, I have never been a competitive person (remind me to tell you the story of the time I joined a soccer team) so I was completely out of place. Still, I was selected to run 100 metres as part of a relay team and I was really proud of this. (In the interest of full disclosure I was only chosen because pretty much every kid was chosen to compete in at least one event.)

The girls on my team were all part of the “A Team” (pretty, popular, and generally unpleasant) and I desperately wanted to be one of them. I went to every practice running my heart out knowing that if only we could win they would finally accept me into their ranks. My eagerness was creepy and I was just shy of having our “Best Friend” pendants picked out.

The day of the track meet finally came and I was nervous as all hell. I was meant to be running in the third position and I was terrified that the baton would slip from my sweaty fingers when it finally came to me. My stomach hurt and my legs wobbled all through class.

And that’s where my Dad comes in.

Dad had taken the day off work so he could come and see the track meet and cheer me on. He knew all about my “A Team Ambitions” and he knew how nervous I was. Dad smiled from the sidelines and I caught his eye before the baton came to me becoming instantly calm knowing that he was there.

I didn’t drop the baton and I actually did rather well. Still, our relay team came in dead last and, despite the fact that I had been tied for first with two other girls before passing the baton on to our final runner, the loss of the race was blamed on me.

I was devastated and ashamed when I left my teammates (more than a little glad that I hadn’t braided those friendship bracelets) and found my Dad who was grinning from ear to ear. He put his arm around me and told me what a great job I had done. Then he took me for ice cream (Ice Cream: the insta-cure) and we spent the rest of the afternoon having a wonderful time.

Those moments with my Dad are the only reason I can look back on that experience with any degree of fondness. He knew exactly what to say and exactly how to act, and my self-esteem was restored.

You see, dear reader, despite my endless stories to the contrary my Dad is actually pretty amazingly good at comforting me. Without him I would not be the cool, well-adjusted person I am today. (Or, at the very least, without him I would not be able to laugh at myself.)

Which is why on his birthday I can’t bring myself to say anything but Thank You. Thank you, Dad, for being you and for teaching me to be me.

Happy Birthday.

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The Coolest of Cats