May 27, 2024
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May 27, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

I have been blessed, or cursed, with an extremely sharp memory. I used to be able to walk into a room and know exactly what was out of place, could remember where a sentence was written on a page in a book, and was very familiar with the smell of my teacher in nursery and what she ate for lunch (coleslaw!). But as I’ve aged, I’m becoming a little rusty, unbecoming my former Cam Jansen self, and even though this rattles me, I also feel somewhat relieved that I can finally forget.

It seems that the stronger memories, the ones I am unable to shed, are the ones that embrace feelings of pain or shame, the trauma and humiliation whittling a ravine in my brain, one that cannot be smoothed by a tidal wave of age. There they are, the four rivers that lead to the Nile, comprised of the critical comments of my peers on my physical appearance, their words, in my youth, the arrows that first pierced into my own self-worth, the bloodletting of my childish ego. I remember their utterances, the moments where I stood, where the comments were said, and even to this day, it’s too difficult for me to type them, to admit that I felt ugly, flawed, and had enormously unruly eyebrow(s).

I didn’t ever realize that something was “not so pretty” about me until someone else pointed it out, announcing it often in jest, to put me down and lift herself up. Sometimes all it takes is one single comment; even more enhanced and impactful if it’s said in front of an audience, so more people can scrutinize your appearance, their eyes boring into your perceived flaw, unflinching, so you will never unfeel their snickering glances at your pimple, the Harry Potter scar on your face, or that low falling hairline that resembles an ape.

And that’s it. Poof. You’re forever changed, forever insecure, forever on a quest to rectify the imperfection, going to extreme lengths to fix it. You go from being at the forefront, the star of the show to a shadow that slinks in the background, feeling safer shrouded in the dark. You may never be able to smile again because you’ve now been alerted to the fact that your teeth are a dingy yellow or one corner of your lip droops.

Maybe you’re not like this — maybe you’re incredibly strong and would let these comments roll off your back. But as a kid I wasn’t, and even now as an adult, I’m still not that successful all the time, often letting comments weigh me down. Be mindful of the things you tell people, of the judgments that slip from your head and spill from your lips, because they can forever ruin someone who once ran free.

I sought ways to fix the things that could be fixed, often submitting to painful sessions of electrolysis to permanently rid myself of my unruly brows. Thin would be in forever, as I would never ever find beauty in a prominent brow, their manliness a disgrace to my desired femininity. The permanence of the procedure appealed to me, and I even remember my mother asking me, “Are you sure you want to do this? What if the style changes later in life?” I assured her my style would always be a tiny arched line, as I would never be able to erase the voices that had made me feel bad. This would be my forever.

But “forever” is usually not. And I often advise my single clients who come to me and say “I’m dating someone who will never do xyz,” that never is just in this moment, in this mindset, and truly might change, because the world is not consistent and as our surroundings adapt, so do our affiliations, our opinions and our desires. “I’ll never want more than one kid,” might become two later in life. “I’ll never stop eating meat” but then they get sick and need a dietary change. “I’ll never leave Brooklyn.” One never knows.

Most things are not forever. Not a diamond, not an eyebrow style, not even a memory of what once was. Not a marriage, not a job, not a home or our levels of religious devotion, which often fluctuate. Maybe only the eternal bond between us and God, the essence of our souls emanating from Him, is forever. But everything else on a physical plane can simply evaporate. Even our self-loathing.

I wish the young me had understood this advice. I wish I knew the power in waiting, in pushing through, in enduring the shifting and quaking plates of the earth shuffling us around. I wish I could have been patient. Because the things we despise, the pains we once felt, the memories of the blood that crept into our faces when the sharp comments were thrown, can actually change on their own, without us having to submit to painful electrolysis, torturous fad diets or injections. And maybe it’s less painful to learn to love and accept ourselves, despite what other people perceive.

I find myself this year, on a table getting a brow lamination, a procedure to fluff up the eyebrows, making them look fuller and bushier, something I would have never in my life thought I would desire. As my mom had predicted, full brows are in, and even though the memories of my self-loathing days are vivid, those memories have changed in my eyes, becoming something insignificant and withered, entirely irrelevant, because I have changed. I have learned to care less, to be unbothered by what other people, who are not an extension of me, have to say.

“After 42 years, big eyebrows have once again become trendy. I can finally embrace who I am,” I texted my mother. If only I had been patient.

As the memories begin to fade, the thousands of hours of my life that scroll in my head, like a never-ending movie, I am sometimes reluctant to let them go, for they are the pillars on which I have been built, the legs that define who I am. I know I will soon forget some of the chapters of my story, the anthology of life simplifying to Cliff Notes, perhaps eliminating the difficult ones, and the life-altering comments that once made me feel ugly, now opening the door to becoming the crown jewel of my beauty.


Sarah Abenaim is a writer, life coach and journaling workshop curator who lives with her husband and kids. For questions or comments, you are encouraged to reach out to her at www.sarahabenaim.com, or via email, [email protected].

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