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Serious eyebrow game

Tuesday 3rd December 2013

So, I’m pretty gay. I’ve been with girlfriend for five years. We just adopted a cat. Sometimes my girlfriend Snapchats pictures of the cat to my mum. There’s no way to mince words here; it’s a pretty gay situation.

I just used the word ‘gay’ but I haven’t really settled on the best word to describe myself. Not that everybody needs a word or anything – I just like having a convenient way of describing myself as being Not Straight for the purposes of online bios and funding applications. For the first 20 years of my life, I pretty much only slept with cisgender dudes but now I can’t imagine wanting to do that again anytime soon.

Sometimes Ally's girlfriend Snapchats pictures of her cat to Ally's mum. True romance

Other words, like ‘lesbian’ and ‘bisexual’, don’t feel right for me because of how closely they’re linked to super rigid ideas of gender. Lately, I’ve been trying out the word ‘queer’. It feels a bit little peculiar in my mouth, kinda like the first time I tried halva or pandan: good, but really new at the same time.

Some of the queer people I know have always known they were Not Straight. Some fell in love with their best friend when they were eight, and some came out to their careers teachers in high school. For me, realising that I’m Not Straight was very much tied to meeting and getting together with my girlfriend when I was 20. I went from being straight to decidedly Not Straight over the space of a summer. It was amazing and confusing.

I turned up to summer school covered in hickeys every single day because we couldn’t keep our hands off each other. I had to explain to everyone I knew that I was suddenly seeing a woman. Suddenly, I was frustrated by the way shop assistants would ask if the gift I was buying was for my boyfriend, or the way everyone would ask “oh, what does he do?” when I mentioned my partner. I had to come up with a new way of describing myself and my sexuality, and it’s something I’m still working on five years later.

One of the best parts of realising that I’m Not Straight has been embracing the idea of being a femme. Femme is a way of identifying in queer community; a way of celebrating the feminine. Not all feminine queer people identify as femme, and being femme doesn’t mean that you automatically want to seek out butch/femme relationships. The blog Bossy Femme does a brilliant job of explaining what it can mean to be femme here:

Femme is intentionality. When you compliment my outfit, you are appreciating my taste, my resourcefulness, my creativity, my sense of adventure, my liberal application of glitter, my choice to wear sequins with sequins.Femme is sharing. When my friends text me to tell me where there is a sale on cute underwear. When you show me how to shorten a hemline. Our conversations in front of a bathroom mirror when you borrow my lipgloss. All the things we have time to discuss when we get ready for a party together & show up three hours late, with the tallest hair and the most eyeliner. … Femme is a refusal of the pressure to be thinner, whiter, pimple-free, wrinkle-free, smaller, quieter. Femme says that we’ll take the short skirts but you can keep the catcalls to yourself.

I’ve always loved the trappings of traditional femininity like makeup and cleavage and nail polish, pretty much to the point where I can’t read a chapter of The Beauty Myth without wanting to go and get a manicure. I know it isn’t a coincidence that I love these things – I’ve grown up in a culture that tells girls they should be beautiful, and I live in a patriarchy that values women based on their appearance.

The flipside of this is that then we punish women for playing into this game – we tease women who’ve had plastic surgery and we make fun of duckface selfies. We expect women to be effortlessly beautiful. We’re damned if we do, and we’re damned if we don’t.

A selfie of Ally
Seriously on point eyebrow game

For me, being a femme is about doing the makeup and cleavage and nail polish things on my own terms. I’m performing my femininity deliberately, and I’m celebrating what people often think of as silly and superficial. I’m not using eyebrow pencil or cleavage to get a man, or to look good for men. I’m doing it for me. When I go out into the world with lipstick on and I kiss my girlfriend, it’s about queer femme visibility, because so often people seem to think there is one way to be queer, and that all queer women look the same. Femme feels like an intrinsic part of me.

As a femme, one of the things I get asked about all the time are my eyebrows. Now I’m going to be real with you here, I’m not going to try and pretend I haven’t got good eyebrows or anything. What I am going to tell you is that they haven’t always been this way.

My mum loves to tell the story of how when I was born the nurse put me on her tummy, naked and squirming, and the first thing Mum said upon seeing her firstborn was, “But Nurse, where are her eyebrows?” The nurse told Mum to give me some time.

What she really should have said was to give me some time, and then to give me a freaking eyebrow pencil, because what has really helped me here are products. These are products you can use if you too want to start drawing on your own face, and I’m going to tell you about them.

Before you draw, you might want to tidy up your brows a little bit first. Or maybe not: they’re your brows and you should do what you want with them. Sometimes brows look the best when they’re growing all over your face, like xoVain beauty blogger Annie. You could go and see someone to wax or thread the hairs that you have deemed unnecessary but trust me, you can totally do it yourself. You know your face and you know your style. For eyebrow shaping, I really like this video by Jane Marie, published over on The Hairpin.

When your eyebrows are the shape you want, you’re gonna want to add some products. If you have naturally thick, dark and delicious brows you might just want to comb them in place and fix with a little brow gel or hairspray. My own brows have only darkened up a little bit since birth so I always draw over them, filling them out and shaping as I go. I use a MAC eyebrow crayon in Spiked and my relationship with this crayon is longer than the relationship I’ve had with my girlfriend. I love this crayon, is what I’m saying.

I first bought this from the store in Beverly Hills from a gentleman who was also Not Straight. He was camp and gorgeous and he told me that the trick to doing beautiful brows is to keep your wrist and hand as soft as possible. So now whenever I do my eyebrows I try to keep my wrist as fluid as he was. 

Some days when I want a stronger look I’ll use Brow Zings by Benefit, in ‘Dark’. I use the wax in the kit to groom my little face hairs into place, and then I use the same fluttery motions to dab the powder on to define the shape of the brow. You could do the same, if you wanted.

Whatever you do, step back from the mirror occasionally to check out the masterpiece that is your own face. It’s easy to make your brows darker than you meant to, so keep checking in.

Stop only when you look formidable.

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