A friend in my cancer support group suggested a call to Look Good Feel Better when I arrived at lunch looking bad and feeling worse. The program had given her eyebrows. Eyebrows, I thought, would be good. Eyebrows seem like something it might be reasonable to want.
I am not the sort of person who would ordinarily sign up for this sort of two-hour workshop. Although I have always admired cosmetically creative women, I made peace with my face by just trying to look presentable — a short haircut and maybe a little blush or eyeliner. After diagnosis, it seemed sensible to relinquish makeup as I took off my jewelry like a penitent embarked on rigorous rounds of self-mortification. With the weight loss resulting from operations and chemotherapy, the precious rings might slip off and get lost.
But even penitents have eyebrows. Maybe eyebrows seem trivial to you. Probably given the grand scheme of things, they should be to me. Yet it feels somehow vacant to have a face without eyebrows. So I made the call.
Still, I was wary. The volunteers in the absolutely free Look Good program at the cancer community center might assume that I comprehend matters of femininity about which I remain profoundly ignorant. I misunderstood the only question when I signed up. The receptionist on the phone asked, “Light or medium or dark?” I thought she wanted to know whether I wore very little or a lot of makeup. Now I realize that she was inquiring about my complexion.
I arrived at the center to find two teachers and just one other patient, Nora, a young woman from Puerto Rico with colon cancer. She was clearly as nervous as I. We were given a tote of stuff and told to take out each item and place it in a specific order: cleansing cloths, moisturizer, concealer, foundation, powder, blush, eyebrow pencil, eye shadow, eyeliner, mascara, lip liner and lipstick, all donated by their manufacturers.
How amazing that the tactful instructors in this program could deal with an eccentric like me, I thought as I left with the full tote and what looked like eyebrows on my forehead — maybe the wrong color, but still eyebrows.
My husband greeted me, and of course I asked, “How do I look?” He said, “You always look good.” “Oh,” said I. “Don’t you see a difference?”
He nodded. “You look more defined.” It was sad washing the eyebrows off that evening, but I was determined to retrace them in the morning. Unfortunately, I ended up a wee clownish. Still, they were eyebrows, and maybe, just maybe, I will retrieve the anniversary bands and put them back on my finger.