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Defending the Unibrow

It's happened again. One of those makeover shows... And one of the first things they do is banish that glorious strip of hair some of us have been blessed with between the eyes. "Unibrow!? The Stone Age ended 12,000 years ago. Wax it."

A white-hot glob of paraffin is smeared over the offending patch. It cools to an opaque chunk. And then... r-r-r-rip!

The unibrow. Featured prominently on ancient Pompeiian frescos. Worn proudly by Randolph Scott, the Black Dahlia, Brooke Shields, Frida Kahlo, and yours truly.

Both before and after September 11, it has led the uninitiated to peg me, incorrectly, as Arab, East Indian, or Hispanic. In an especially nasty case of the latter misidenification, I was surrounded by five squad cars, a paddy wagon, and multiple officers with guns drawn, because they thought I had stolen the Fiero I was driving (I had owned it for 16 years at the time).

It's cost me at least one job. Twenty years ago, I was sitting in the office of what would have been my future boss after a slam-dunk second interview. She liked my portfolio; we agreed on salary and benefits. All that was left was filling out the withholding forms and being poked and prodded for the company physical. She excused herself to go out to the cubicle area, and I heard her asking my potential co-workers what they thought of me. "He seems nice", chirped one Midwestern valley girl. "But, like, oh my God, his eyebrows go all the way across his face!" After a short period of laughter, her office mates murmured their assent. The boss came back in, her face a granite mask. "We'll keep your name on file", she mumbled as she escorted me out the door. When I called her the next week, she said that the company had decided to "eliminate" that position. Mmm-HMMM.

Up to that time, I had never even realized that unibrows were held in such low esteem. I certainly never caught any flack for mine in grammar school and high school. Of course, being artistic, unathletic, a bookworm and a choir member provided more than enough material for our class comedians.

But then, even our comedians were living in glass houses. A quick look through the guys' portraits in my pre-MTV-era high-school yearbook provides a laugh-inducing assortment of sideburns, cowlicks, up-flipped bangs, flat-on-one side bed hair and foot-high, foot-wide Afros (both kinky and Harpo Marx).

There are also many more caveman eyebrows than I remembered. It was a non-issue. This was the south side of Chicago in the 70's. A "makeover" was when the captain of the varsity football team wore his first pair of bell-bottoms to school with black wingtips; he was razzed mercilessly. A guy who would dare to show up with his formerly ragged eyebrows shaped, tweezed and waxed? I don't think they even HAD alternative schools back then.

Even in these enlightened times, there are thinking men and women whose grooming ritual would not be complete without banishing any trace of that nasty patch of hair. After all, Kyan has spoken from on high, right? Wake up, people!

The purpose of the damn things is to keep perspiration out of your eyes. When you start shaving, waxing and tweezing them to fit some anal-retentive idea of "fashion", you defeat their very function.

The above example, owned by yours truly, has never been shaved, plucked, waxed or lasered. It will always have a home, keeping company with hundreds of freckles, several moles, a motley assortment of 30-year-old dermatitis blotches, a blue spot where a high-school classmate jabbed a sharpened pencil into my shin, and a small but nasty-looking keloid on the back of my right shoulder, the result of sleeping on a too-warm electric heating pad.

If they want my unibrow, they're going to have to wax it from between my cold, dead eyes.

NEXT: Defending the Bunion. Podiatrists, beware!