From the moment I enter the tiny reception area of the day spa, I feel an immediate calm from the soft lighting and the wonderful flow of water spilling into itself. I smile at the receptionist and give her my name, then sit down and gaze at a large vase of flowers: Tall stocks of red gladiolas—a deep cherry burgundy—little yellow stamen protruding from their center. Gladiolas surrounded by blushed alstroemeria with their familiar bird track markings on only a few of their petals.
As I sit there waiting, enjoying the calm, I think to my very first eyebrow appointment when I was in my twenties. I worked in a flower shop and my boss was an older sort of tomboy; I somewhere in between. She suggested that I have my brows done, so I thought sure, they are rather full, a little clean up wont hurt. I went to a woman who worked out of her home. She had rooms setup just for her business. What I remember most is asking her, “Is it going to hurt?” And she said, “It really depends on how you interpret pain,” or something to that effect. She continued, “Everyone experiences pain differently.” Yes, I thought…I trailed off in my own thoughts and thought more about that and all the different sorts of physical pains and our individual reactions, responses. I suppose some might have more nerve endings and some may have a certain type of pain that they have become used to, so that other types of pain become more manageable.
Angel, the aesthetician, wakes me from my reverie. We go back to one of the small rooms. There is yet another water fountain and soothing music; the lighting is even lower, like at dusk. I lie down on the table that is lined in white sheets and a white towel at the end so that my feet can rest without disturbing the sheets. It is as though I have settled into a cloud. I don’t have to say anything to Angel, not like with a haircut, and plus she’s worked on me before. I like to go to her because she does a meticulous job, and by now she knows: Keep my brows full; I like them that way. Please just clean them up. I don’t like razor thin lines for brows, nor do I like the arched looked; keep me natural and tidy.
Which reminds me of the aesthetician I used to go to. She did excellent work, but she always took off more than I wanted, even when I reminded her. And then there was the time I went to another day spa and the gal did a horrible job. I wasn’t happy, but I couldn’t bring myself to say anything and knew I wouldn’t be back. I don’t go as often as the aesthetician would like. I think they recommend every three to four weeks, but I wait months. I like letting them grow fully back; it seems to make a better canvas, than one that is sparse.
There really is an art to the shaping of a pair of eyebrows and finding an aesthetician that listens and has a good sense of nature and symmetry. Now, don’t get me wrong: Asymmetry most certainly has its place, but not in this case.
I’m settled in, quiet with my thoughts, trying to use the space to breathe and fall into a meditative state. It is dark behind closed lids. Bright light from the lamp, the smell of talcum powder.
I am aware of the sounds: Harp and water flowing together as my body melts into the music and the pampering moment. I anticipate the hot wax and then my skin feels it being painted on, along the upper brow line, and then below. One, then the other. Angel gently pats along where she has just placed the wax, checks for readiness, then she begins lifting up an edge of the cooled wax, and then with a quick motion, rips it up and away. There is a tingling prick of needled pain, my body tenses and then releases. And then she does the other side.
Once that part is done, the bright light is turned on, brought right up to the face, like a high beam. Even through closed eyes, I am blinded with piercing bright gold. She begins plucking away, tilts my head to the right to get a good angle as she plucks tiny hairs. She then goes to the other side.
The bright light goes off leaving a kaleidoscope of black color; the light goes off and blackness turns a deep purple, like an iris splayed to infinity with a crochet of gold patterned lace and I soar, enjoying that moment, trying not to adjust my closed eyes, trying not to not lose this beautiful nightscape that is held there in my field of vision.
When Angel is done, she brings my head to the center, checks her work, a few more plucks and—symmetry. She hands me the mirror and is very happy with her work. “They are perfect. Do you like them?” she asks, in what sounds like a French accent. “Very nice. Thank you,” I say, as I hand back the mirror. It’s always odd looking at yourself in the mirror from this position, but I can see enough to know that she has done her usual thorough job, still leaving me with my basic shape; they are less full, but it still looks like me.