My Unibrow and I

There is no easy way to say it: when I was younger, I had a monster unibrow. I was teased so much that I was driven to start plucking the area in fourth grade, an act of fitting in that my mother quickly put a stop to.

“Madeline,” she would say in a loving voice, “you will be so THANKFUL for your dark, beautiful eyebrows someday.”

I could not believe the lie that she was telling me, but I usually chalked it up to the fact that since she was older she didn’t have what 9-10 year old Madeline would call “style” (bell bottoms, a crop top and “The Rachel” haircut).  Undeterred by my stubbornness, my mother worked hard to make me like my eyebrows.

“You have Brooke Shields eyebrows!” she would say.

At that age I had no idea who Brooke Shields was but when I finally saw a picture of her I had to agree with my mom: Brooke and I both had hideous eyebrows. But Brooke was allowed to wear a full face of makeup, and in my eyes, the rainbow of eighties hues sprayed across her face did a lot to redeem the unsightly situation below her forehead.  Meanwhile I remained makeup-less with just two shades of color on my face: “inky” (my eyebrows) and “Elmer’s Glue” (my skin).  Like a walking black and white photo.

See how the makeup totally takes the focus off of Andrew Garfield’s eyebrows?

I guess a small part of me was relieved that a celebrity had similar eyebrows, but it did little to change my mind about how ugly they were.  I went to drastic measures in the fifth grade when I attempted to skirt my mom’s “no plucking your eyebrows!” rule by applying Nair to the area in between my eyebrows.  The plan worked well; so well, in fact, that in addition to my unibrow I removed a decent amount of skin.  That’s right, I gave myself a chemical burn – oh, the price of beauty!  My mom must have felt bad for me because the eyebrow plucking prohibition was unofficially repealed.

Now my only problem were the two caterpillars above my eyes, a situation that I was too lazy and clueless to do anything about until I was fourteen.  At the end of 8th grade, on the night before a very important family event with lots of pictures, my older cousin dragged me into the bathroom and plucked my eyebrows for me. An hour or so later my face was transformed – the extreme thinness and noticeable “groomed look” of my new brows made me feel older and sophisticated.  The dozens of pictures from the event, however,  serve as historical records of the truth: I had a great time that day and there were sperm-shaped patches of hair above my eyes.

Thankfully, their shape has gradually improved over the years and just like my mom said, I’ve grown to really like my eyebrows.  I even get the occasional compliment on them, almost always prefaced with “this is going to sound weird but…” and said with the same hesitation as with a compliment to someone’s elbow or knee.

So I just want to say this once and for all: my eyebrows and potential unibrow couldn’t grow faster if I applied Rogaine to the area every night.  I spend a lot of time weed wacking these things so FEEL FREE to commend me for it.  I will happily accept each compliment because even though it’s completely superficial, the validation that I no longer look like Frida Kahlo is still nice to hear.

Give me a month though… it’s all the time my unibrow would need to come back with a vengeance.

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The stirrup pants that changed everything

I was in third grade. My teacher called my class to the front for “carpet time.” You know, where you sat for what seemed like forever and talked about a book / spelling words / “What is soil?” / the “guess and check” method / “everyone put what you know about Christopher Columbus in the “K” column!” / “Here is a video about staying away from strangers” / “Friends, we really need to discuss who poured all the glue on the lizard cage.”  I distinctly remember my outfit:

  • An oversized white t shirt, probably from some vacation I didn’t even go on (thanks a lot family hand-me-downs)
  • White mountain clogs that gave me an extra two inches so I was able to tower over short teachers in addition to my entire grade
  • Forest green pleated stirrup pants

Unfortunately I can not find a picture of myself in the stirrups but Old Gold Vintage has kindly let me use a photo of a similar pair that recently sold in her Etsy store. So... imagine something like this on a freakishly tall 8 year old.

I looked down in my lap and noticed that my cotton forest green stirrup pants had begun to pill. Sweet, something to do during boring carpet time. I began to pull the little fluff balls off my pants.  I looked around the room, curious if any other girl was doing the same thing.

Huh, that’s weird. No one else is wearing anything but jeans today.

Wait.

Am I the only one that still wears these?

Shit.

I was suddenly so embarrassed.  How could I not have noticed the sea of blue denim surrounding the Island of Overgrown Moss that was my stirrup pants??  I couldn’t even remember the last time I had seen a pair of stirrup pants that wasn’t on a rerun of Clarissa Explains it All.  I had this horrible feeling that everyone in my class had been laughing at my pants for a long time. Oh god… I wear these like twice a week!

For the rest of the day, I felt like my stirrup pants were the pleated forest green elephant in the room.  I hid my ankles as well as I could but it wasn’t easy, given that my clogs basically provided a stage for them.

Even though no one ever said anything mean to me about those pants or even looked at them funny,  I never wore them again.  My love for them dissolved as quickly as you could say “Oh no, I’m standing out.”  Which is pretty dumb, isn’t it?  A kid that young should just wear what they want, right?  They shouldn’t have to care. Isn’t it kinda sad that I stopped wearing those stirrup pants that I loved so much just because no one else did?

Well…no.  You really have no idea what those things looked like in person.  Yeah, that moment on the carpet sticks out as the first time I felt pressure to be like everyone else. But more importantly, it was also the moment I began to suspect how unflattering stirrup pants truly are.


Waking up early for no reason or, “Unearned Pride: How to Acquire it”

I have always loved the idea of getting up early on days when I don’t have to and joining the exclusive (yet completely imaginary) club of early risers.  This false sense of accomplishment probably came from the summers that my cousins and I would spend at our grandparent’s beach house. During these visits, I would always strive to be one of the first to wake up because I enjoyed the solitude…. it also meant that I had first choice of breakfast cereal and got to decide what to watch on TV.

Because come on, there’s just nothing like that feeling of superiority you get when you’ve been up for awhile and you’re just hanging out, watching TV, and your family member/friend groggily walks down the stairs squinting and with hair that looks like they just stepped out of a wind tunnel. And you’re just there feeling fresh and enjoying your eyesight that has long adjusted to the light and you’re just like “Oh, hey, what’s up?  By the way there’s no more Lucky Charms, I finished them.  Nana said there is plenty of store brand shredded wheat left, though.  It’s in the box with the two years past expiration date. I hope you like the Cosby Show!”


A dream inspired by Barbie, finally fulfilled

About a month ago, I quit my serving job at a popular mexican chain restaurant.  I had always wanted to be a waitress, a fantasy that began when I five and owned a toy that was apparently a joint venture between Pizza Hut and Mattel.

I realize now that this was not a “Pizza Hut Waitress Skipper!” doll. This was just a regular old Skipper who invited some friends (Courtney and Kevin if I’m not mistaken) over for pizza, and, feeling a little festive that evening, decided to wear a Pizza Hut polka dot crop top because…why not? Mattel did promise that this would be “Everything for a complete pizza party!”

For whatever reason, when I was younger I had it in my mind that Skipper was a waitress. Bitch probably got half off that food with her employee discount! So from then on my thinking was this: being a waitress means you are really cool and you look like a model and you have really attractive friends and you serve the most delicious food!  Pretty dumb, especially the part about Pizza Hut being “delicious.” Well, maybe it was fifteen years ago. Anyway.

When my post-graduation summer job ended and I found myself without full time work, I decided to finally fulfill my dream of waitressing, or “serving” as it’s now called. It ended up not being the right gig for me but I’m still glad I had a chance to try it. Because the funny thing is, the parts of serving that I thought I would like were almost exactly like I pictured it. I had to say goodbye to all these wonderful things and it was slightly soul-crushing.

Goodbye to cash at the end of every shift.  Sometimes pretty measly amounts, but better than the money I made at my unpaid internship, which happened to be a negative number thanks to the exorbitant parking fees. There really aren’t many legal, non-clothing-optional jobs that let you walk out each night with cash. Well except for babysitting, which I still do and plan to continue doing well through my sixties.

Goodbye to the customers, most of whom were actually very nice. In fact I feel sort of ripped off that I don’t have an “evil customer” story to exaggerate. Well once there was this woman that got angry when her plate had refried beans on it instead of black beans. And I was like “Oh, I’m so sorry I will go get your beans right now.” And she was like “Thank you, take your time, it’s not a big deal at all.” Then she smiled. God, some people!

Goodbye fun co-workers, half of whom were high school/college students and the other half of whom were single mothers. I never fit in either group and can you guess why? You’re correct, it’s because I am a single father.  

All throughout high school and college I worked in places that were sort of uncommon for someone my age – doctor’s offices, the “Narrative” department at Nordstrom, (your grandmother owns clothes from this department, I guarantee it) more doctor’s offices. Most of my coworkers at these jobs were at least twenty years older than me. I got used to the dynamic that this creates, which is why it isn’t that surprising that the coworker I liked best was a mom in her thirties. If I really was a single father we definitely would have had a Brady Bunch situation on our hands.

Goodbye smell of corn! I left each shift smelling like I just marinated in corn oil. I’m talking about a smell that saturated every item of clothing I wore to work, including my socks and bra (and no I was not secretly storing chips in my shirt).  This was one thing I was happy to say goodbye to! Unfortunately I can’t because I swear some of my clothes still smell like corn. Although this is slightly annoying, it’s sort of nice to have a reminder of the time I finally fulfilled my lifelong dream of waitressing  serving  waitressing.


Everything I needed to know about being a teenager I learned from Full House

I caught a rerun of Full House today. The crazy adventures of the Tanner gang were as enjoyable as always but it reminded me of something: as much as I loved Full House when I was younger, the damn show used to stress me out tremendously. Let me explain.
Continue Reading “Everything I Needed to Know…”


Another entry from my sixth grade diary (with footnotes!)

Here is another entry from the diary I kept when I was eleven, with footnotes of my commentary today.  If you’d like, you can read an earlier entry from my diary to get some context, although this will probably only make you proud of what a cool 6th grader you were.  Ugh…oh my god, like, whatever!

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Bad math

When I was young I would ask my father, pretty much on a weekly basis, what was “the highest number that scientists had discovered.” Each time my father would explain as patiently as possible that this was not exactly how things worked in the mathematical community.

But that didn’t stop me from wondering, even these days.  I want. to. know. the smallest and biggest things in the universe.

I hate the concept of infinity.