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Today I had my eyebrows waxed. Over the years my ebony arches have received many compliments and I have chosen to believe them. Who would lie about a specific facial detail? It’s not like they’re saying, unconditionally and flat out: You are absolutely gorgeous!  No, void of shameless solicitation they are zooming in on something nice to say that’s true, or mostly true, about a single facial feature.

My father once told me that, taken independently, my physical features were not outstanding, but somehow the overall effect of them combined to make me—on balance—attractive, admonishing me in the next breath to never rely solely on my looks.  I think I was about 30.

It makes sense that I metabolized that comment in two ways:  One, as a personal challenge to develop my mettle as a person of substance.  And two, the need to optimize and safeguard my physical assets. After all, we are only as strong as our weakest link. God forbid I allow one of my links to atrophy.

For some time I’ve noticed my eyebrow hair is thinning, the outer edges slowly receding. Every time I see Nicole, the best eyebrow esthetician in town, she asks me if I have a thyroid condition and every time I tell her no.  I worry if she takes so much as a Benadryl the application of hot wax could get sloppy and I might end up looking like Hello Kitty. Grasping for control and ashamed of my condescension, I tell her to be extra careful. Unfazed, she proceeds to sell me a product called Hair Veil, a brush-on powder for receding hair areas like brows and the part in your scalp.  $24.95 later I felt smug knowing I had a prosthesis in my purse that would soon join the other stop-gap solutions in my ever-expanding holster of cosmetics and anti-aging skincare. And the best part:  unlike Ron Popeil’s hair-in-a-can, Hair Veil is waterproof!

I would like to just leave me alone.  It’s always something:  My breasts are getting longer; my waist, shorter; the spider veins on my thighs like a street map of Rome; the toenail on my left foot’s second toe shrunken and bony, presenting a challenge for the pedicurist (last time when I cajoled her to create an optical illusion she rattled off something in Vietnamese to her counterpart at the next station).

It doesn’t help that when I’m in a salon the reading material serves to reinforce my insecurity. Flipping through the pages of Vogue is bad enough, but often when perusing magazines targeted to middle-aged women I’ll be reading an article about someone like Maya Angelou or Hillary Clinton or Christine Lagarde then BOOM!  With a flip of the page I’m affronted with a Kim Kardashian look-alike pimping Victoria’s Secret’s new line of transparent bras.  Order up:  neck brace and a boob job, please.

All this gets to the larger issue of how our commercial media constantly pelts women  with unrealistic body images from the time we are old enough to peek at our first issue of Seventeen Magazine (as a girl the most frequent messenger was Twiggy, unwitting pied piper of anorexics).  There has been so much toilet water under the bridge since then, so much inundation of youthful images selling us new and improved ways to be new and improved, that just about the time we are coming into our ripeness we feel loosed from the tree and over the hill, unseen and devalued.

Sarah Silverman points out:  “Mother Teresa didn’t walk around complaining about her thighs—she had shit to do.”

Listen up Peaches:  We may be losing our fuzz, but we’re more colorful and tastier than we ever were.  Our pits are known to us:  solid and centered and deep. Our pulp is juicier from the pain, joy, wisdom, and full-hearted love we’ve given with reckless abandon, the creations we’ve birthed, and the kitten heels we’ve replaced with comfy flats in order to move freely into the space we deserve—not from the products sold to us by glossy magazines or television spots or paid placements embedded in romantic movies or our dermatologists and groomers, but from the real lives we have designed, link by link, into our very own mighty mighty brick houses.  Let’s crank it, girlfriends.

Brick House, Commodores. From the Album Commodores

Brick House, Commodores. From the Album Commodores


 She’s a brick house,

She’s mighty mighty

Just lettin’ it all hang out

She’s a brick house

Like lady’s stacked and that’s the fact

Ain’t holding nothing back

–The Commodores

Holly Smith-Berry
Holly Smith-Berry
Like you, I’m a shape shifter, living as many roles as an umbrella has spokes: marketing exec, entrepreneur, parent, daughter, friend, sister, yogi, writer. Most of my career I’ve worked in the Housewares Industry developing new products. Sometimes I’ve taken them all the way from the gleam in an inventor’s eye to America’s kitchens.
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