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first person

First Person is a daily personal piece submitted by readers. Have a story to tell? See our guidelines at tgam.ca/essayguide.

Illustration by April Dela Noche Milne

I was nervous. But I had just had a milestone birthday. What the heck. I deserved to be happy. I spent months researching the procedure.

This was my list of Things to Consider before microblading:

Lifestyle? Busy.

How much time is available for taming? Little to none preferred.

Grooming? Ditto.

Colour? Definitely chocolate brown.

How do I want them to look? Bold. No, playful. Hmm … curious? I like … ferocious.

Cost? Stick to the old adage: you get what you pay for.

I went through multiple online searches, sifted through endless photos. Even asked my friends what they thought. Once you commit, they told me, there’s no going back. No regrets.

I knew they were right. So I set a budget and took the plunge.

I got my brows done.

What is it about aging that makes everything suddenly clear? What was I waiting for? What took me so long to notice the unkempt real estate that seemed to be developing on my forehead with every passing year, right before (or, on top of) my eyes? What had blinded me to the fact that perfectly defined swooshes à la Nike (a.k.a., Winged Goddess of Victory) were as integral to my face as smoulder is to Daniel Craig’s gaze, and bounce is to Dolly Parton’s … hair?

Upon entry into the one-room salon, a delicate, gloved hand holding a pair of tweezers genteelly offered me not a blue or white, but a sleek black face mask. Oooh. I like this. I felt like a secret agent about to be briefed on a secret mission. Would Tom Cruise suddenly descend, skydiving style, from the ceiling, suspended on cable wires? If he did, I’m glad my eyebrows – framing an impenetrable, operative-worthy gaze – would soon be up to snuff to greet him.

When my technician, Sarah, first looked at me, she frowned. Yikes. Were they that bad? Judging by the ethereal arches gliding over her wing-lined peepers framed by lush falsies, I can only imagine that to her, mine looked like what Scarlett O’Hara saw when she returned to Tara after the Yankees invaded.

Should I show her the 101 images of brows I’d collected on my phone? The ones illustrating all manner of brows – from the wide-eyed, face-framing species evocative of youthful innocence to the sky-streaking Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon style that screamed: “I’m a certain milestone birthday old and yes, I own these puppies!”

But before I could impress her with my research prowess, she sat me down on the stretcher thing (was that a bad omen?) and said with mildly disturbing solemnity, “I’m going to brow-map you.”

“Of course,” I blurted like any self-respecting beauty diva would. “What the …?” is what I was thinking.

Mapping? Were my brows so out of whack that they needed to be charted and brought back on course? Or so obscure that she needed co-ordinates to find them?

I watched her wrap a black string around her thumbs and two index fingers. I let her wave her hands mysteriously in front of my face, one end of the black string anchored to my chin while the other end swung side to side like a windshield wiper. I felt my eyes crossing each other as they followed her movements, and I wondered if I looked like my father-in-law, trying to figure how to double click on a mouse.

Next, she drew on my forehead with a crayon. When she was done, she handed me a mirror. “This is what they’ll look like. What do you think?”

I’d already paid my non-refundable deposit, albeit a discounted one: the “apprentice” special. I’d always been a bargain hunter, but didn’t buyer’s remorse always come after the purchase?

What I saw were two hollow cigars sitting high – and I mean high – like, are these brows or the start of a new hairline high – above my natural brow line. Was she serious?

“I know they look high …”

“And thick,” I added, trying not to let my tone betray the outright panic that was setting in. Instincts told me not to offend the person who held my deposit as well as the fate of my face in her hands.

“And thick,” she conceded. “But trust me. They will fade and shrink after they heal. And remember the actual brow is going inside the line.”

Well, duh.

I generally have a good handle on most life decisions. I bought real estate in a bear market, regularly pay my Visa bills in full, married an honest man and raised sensible children. But I was at a rare loss. What did I know about eyebrows? That’s why I was there. Postwar Tara needed help. How bad could it be? I mean – just like hair grows back after a bad haircut, eyebrow tattoos also fade, right?

I always believed in jumping in with both feet. Let the artist do their work.

“I trust you,” I said, voice quivering with bravado.

For the next two hours, I felt the equivalent of a million tiny pinpricks across my tender brow bone. At times, the sensation was barely noticeable; at times, the stinging was more intense as she hit the sensitive bony parts. Just when I’d settled into a comfortable lull by the needle’s steady vibrations, I was seized by sudden panic: my sister. She’d had her brows done a few years prior and all I could think of were the two, blacker than black, one-dimensional question marks over her sorry eyes that screamed Sharpie-accident.

“You need to remain still, please,” the technician urged gently. “Are you in pain?”

“No. Sorry.”

When the hand-held mirror was finally presented to me, I have to say that the effect was … striking. I had brows. Bold? Yes. Playful? Not so much. Curious? Only when I chose to be. Ferocious? I’d say.

I knew it would take me a while to get used to having eyebrows. I mean, real ones – like Brooke Shields real.

So does getting my brows tattooed officially make me one of those old ladies who do that kind of thing? Will Botox and neck lifts and tummy tucks be next?

Hmm … I’m thinking these brows are about as much as I can handle on this particular milestone birthday.

Meanwhile, I’m going to go buy some of those sleek, black masks. They look sick with these puppies!

Carol C.Y. Lee lives in Aurora, Ont.

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