Have any other parents and grandparents noticed that their teenage girls’ eyebrows, previously positioned to the north of their eyes, have taken on a life of their own? Yes, eyebrows are big these days – there was a two-page article in the paper recently devoted to them which said that Cara Delevigne, whoever she is, has been dubbed Her Eyebrowness by Vogue no less. Well, hey, Ms Delevigne, step aside, granddaughter 2 is on the scene and she’s a force to be reckoned with. I arrived at theirs recently and as she came up to welcome me, god in heaven, there they were – two big black furry things confronting each other across her forehead. ‘Gosh,’ I blurted out, ‘What’s with the eyebrows?’ I should’ve known better – she’s very experimental. But she just gave me a big hug and smiled one of those enigmatic smiles of hers.
And what about granddaughter 3? Had she been similarly transformèd? I have to report that her pre-teen eyebrows are as yet au naturel, praise be. But, oh help, I thought, I hope it’s not a ritual for passing into teenhood? You see, for some time she’s been into Youtube hair plaiting tutorials big time and, according to the newspaper article mentioned above, there are more than 500,000 eyebrow care tutorials on Youtube and one has been viewed more than three million times. No, I’m not going to tell her.
I consulted granddaughter 1, the doyenne of cool, and, though she spends a long time in the bathroom sometimes, she emerges looking much the same as when she went in. ‘What’s the position of your eyebrows?’ I enquired. ‘No, sorry, I mean what’s your position on eyebrows?’ Well, brace yourself, her answer started with the effects of technological advances on beauty culture and self-image, e.g.: ‘Have you heard of HD brows, gran?’ she asked. Cor blimey, no, of course I haven’t. She continued: ‘They’ve been popular since HD television arrived.’ She went into more detail about this and then moved onto the concept of the Male Gaze: ‘… men don’t concentrate on eyebrows,’ she said. ‘It’s more about peer pressure.’ Then on she went to cultural appropriation: ‘…but that’s a difficult concept since it’s so subjective’ – TBH I was well out of my depth so I brought things down to my level. ‘What do you do with your eyebrows?’ I asked. ‘Oh, I pluck them to keep them in order when the mood takes me,’ she said, casually, ‘and sometimes I pencil them in.’ And she ended up saying that celebs need to take responsibility for influencing younger people with their images. Gosh.
But this is not just a girl thing – I’ve begun to fear for grandson too. On Eastenders that spooky Andy the Builder who threatened Ronnie, though he’s long gone now, well, his brows reminded me of those brown furry caterpillars I used to catch as a child and kept in a shoebox with holes in the lid – oh yes, he had to go. But Hello, BBC Make-up people, hands off the lovely Kush – his brows have been looking like one of those experiments we did with iron filings and a magnet in the third form back in the day. And on the XFactor, hunky contestant Matt said last week before the first Live Show: ‘One minute I was taking people’s food orders and the next I was having my eyebrows done.’ God help us all, is this now considered the pinnacle of human existence? What’s it all about, Alfie? Can it be a diversionary tactic from the difficult times we’re living in? But Alfie can’t answer as he and Kat won the lottery and left Eastenders too.
No, I’m not going to moan on that it’s all to do with today’s world which searches for more and more bits of us to make us feel insecure about so they can sell us more stuff to improve them. You see I went online and there’s evidence showing eyebrows have been part of the beauty routine since the mists of time: wall paintings in Egyptian tombs show people walking like Egyptians (obvs), as the Bangles sang back in the 1980s, but also with eyes and brows drawn in in exotic shapes. And, bloody nora, the Ancient Romans made false brows out of goat hair and fixed them on with tree resin. And in 12th century Japan, women shaved them off and drew them in higher up on their foreheads so must’ve looked perpetually surprised. Skipping a few centuries, Marlene Dietrich, in the 1930s and 40s shaved hers off too and drew them in as thin lines. This was so fashionable that my ex mother-in-law shaved hers off and every day for the rest of her life she drew them in again – let that be a warning to you. Oh god, maybe I should tell granddaughter 2 about it. She’s got form in this direction – when she was younger she cut off her fringe and insisted on wearing a hairband over the shorn bit until the hair grew long again.
Yes, I am becoming totally obsessed and now when I gaze in the mirror at my own dark unruly eyebrows, lurking below my wispy grey and white hair, oh, the horror! they look like a cross between Alistair Darling’s and Denis Healey’s, if anyone knows who they were these days. Note to self: Enough already, woman, pull yourself together – you need to get out more.
*Granny on the frontline is Jill Garner, grandmother of six.