It all started with “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” (hereinafter “RHNJ”). I watched the last season from start to finish; it was an unusually relaxing form of anthropological study of a culture in which the kitchen midden would reveal Gucci leopard print baby clothes, wine bottles and hair extensions. My husband gritted his teeth through every episode (particularly since it was on at the same time as Anthony Bourdain) and reminded me that it was the fakest “reality” show in the history of such artistic renderings. I reminded him that we could watch Anthony the next day via “On Demand,” and tried (in vain) to engage him in deep conversation about Danielle’s true motives, Theresa’s bankruptcy and spending habits, and why Dina had really left the show.
On the first part of the RHNJ Reunion Show, in which dirt was dished, hosts were shoved and names were called, something caught my attention. Caroline Manzo, the relatively sane matriarch of the show, was asked about whether or not she really shaved her face to keep her skin smooth. She allowed as how she did, not to remove hair (!) but as a form of exfoliation. This sounded promising. I had a razor. My skin was not really as translucent, glowing and youthful as one might hope, and this was a beautification project that did not involve spending a penny. It wasn’t like getting a free MAC lipstick or finding a bottle of Chanel 19 on my dresser, but it was very, very close.
The next morning in the shower, I lathered up my face and shaved it all over. It felt a little weird to be shaving my face, and I felt a little tugging at one point, but the promise of pinkly radiant skin trumped everything. As I did the necessary post-shower work the mirror finally de-fogged enough for me to take a look at my fine work. Where my right eyebrow had once been, there was nothing left but a half inch rectangle of hair above the inner corner of the eye. I looked half furious, and totally ridiculous. There was a moment of shock (had I suddenly developed Alopecia in the shower?) followed by the dull thud of understanding that the “tug” I felt had been my eyebrow being mowed by a Schick Hydro. Automatically, my hand flew to the hairless spot. It was admirably smooth, but really, really bare.
I drew in an eyebrow, and after a few tries, it looked pretty good. I figured that I’d just have to draw it in every morning until the real eyebrow grew back, and I took it as an artistic challenge. Yesterday morning I drew it on before heading to work, where I made 112 servings of baked ziti and enough brownies to feed the Mongol hordes. After passing out briefly (we call it “reading” at my house) I woke up and made soup for dinner. At 6:22, Sam asked whether I was going to the Middle School Open House. I inquired in a calm and pleasant maternal tone about the time of the Open House, about which I had heard precisely nothing; he said it was at 7:00. At speeds truly impressive given my age and physical condition, I changed out of my dirty work-and-nap-togs, fixed my hair, brushed my teeth, and looked in the mirror to see that the eyebrow was gone again. Hours in a hot kitchen, leaning over gigantic pots of boiling water and wiping the sweat from my face had obliterated my faux-brow. There might also be some on my pillow.
I thought of the bemused, searching looks I had received as I left work hours earlier. Those people hadn’t been concerned that I was exhausted from my labor; they were trying to figure out what the hell happened to my face, or if I was really mad at them. I imagined, with a shudder, that I had been one glance in the mirror away from meeting all of my son’s new teachers looking like an angry and insane person. (Sometimes I am an angry and insane person, but rarely in public).
After the Open House, shaking my virtual fist at Caroline Manzo, the Bravo network and the entire state of New Jersey, I drove across town to buy a waterproof eyebrow pencil. I hoped, as I went from Maybelline to Revlon looking for what I needed, that, at the very least, someone in Walgreen’s might be captivated by my smooth, radiant and youthful skin………