In college, I plucked every morning, and every night before hitting the bars. “What is she even doing?” my roommate would say, already sequin-topped, lip-glossed, hair straightened, ready to go out and catch the boys. “Plucking away,” our friend said, taking a pregame shot. I’ve been plucking since I moved to America from Sri Lanka. I smiled wide at the sea of white, tight faces on the first day of eighth grade homeroom, and they stared back until my smile fell. On TV, Indians (always only Indians), had unibrows and accents you could make fun of; they smelled like curry. Did I smell like the curry my mother cooked every day? I smelled like curry, I was sure of it; I had a hint of an accent — my “W”s sounded like “V”s and I mispronounced words I’d only ever read in books and the kids laughed and laughed so I plucked away. My eyebrows were wide and feathery, sloping toward each other until they met in the middle. I didn’t make any friends in eighth grade. No boys admitted to liking me. I plucked just between my eyes at first. In America, girls wore platform flip-flops and listened to white boy bands, and plucked their eyebrows thin like Gwen Stefani. I couldn’t make my eyebrows that thin. The hair grew back in the night. Cosmopolitan taught me to line up a ruler with my nose and the corners of my eyes to show how far my brows should go. I began to pluck more: under, on the sides, snipped off the tops without mercy. I plucked away into high school where I made a few friends and plucked up a few white boys, plucked through college, plucked more boys. At what point did my eyebrows stop growing? I’m fifteen years from college now. I plucked a white boy to marry before I realized I didn’t want white boys anymore. I made my mother teach me how to make curry, I eat it every day, but the damage is done. Now, Cosmopolitan gushes over bushy eyebrows on new white It girls — probably; I don’t read that shit anymore. “You have to stop plucking. How can I shape this? Brows frame the face,” an Indian aunty scolds me at the salon. She and I stare at my frameless face in the mirror. “I don’t pluck anymore,” I plead. “They just won’t grow back.”
Di Jayawickrema is a Sri Lankan New Yorker currently living in Washington, DC. She teaches creative writing to youth and organizes for migrant justice. Her work is forthcoming or has appeared in wildness, matchbook, Pithead Chapel, Entropy, Burning House Press, and elsewhere. She is a reader at The Offing. Find her on Twitter @onpapercuts
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