Hair Confession #4: Framing the Windows of the Soul

One writer's true tale of woe and liberation.

by Susan Straight
blue eyes mascara image

As a 10-year-old, I was already reading fashion and beauty magazines, and they taught me two vital lessons: 1) Moisturize—I always have—and 2) Long, dark eyelashes are essential to sex appeal.

I believe those things still.

Back in the seventh grade, Babette Martinez strode confidently from the locker room showers, applying a towel to her eyes as if pressing her eyeballs into her skull. When I stared, she said, superior and dismissive, “I’m curling my eyelashes, stupid.”

 I tried it immediately, and she laughed so loudly that girls gathered around. “You don’t have eyelashes,” she pronounced.

“I do,” I said. “But they’re blonde.”

She laughed again. “Then they don’t count.”

She was right. I had lush, long lashes, but they were invisible, and my mother forbade me to wear makeup until I was 16.

Did I apply mascara in the high school bathroom and take it off before coming home? Heck, yeah. I have blue eyes and fair skin; my darkened lashes seemed to define my whole face. I decided I would never be without that dark fringe, which seemed the most important thing in the world to a 14-year-old who wanted boys to notice her.

I met my future husband not long after. He liked to look soulfully into my eyes, although he admitted later that he always did prefer looking at female posteriors, including mine. We went to different colleges, and while men admired me, they tended to say things like, “How come you don’t enter the best-butt competition?” I wanted someone to say, “You have the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen.”

At 19, I went to Cambridge for summer school, and I discovered lash dye. It was legal in England, and I used it in the dorm bathroom. My lashes were now thick and dark even when I woke up. But on outings to London, what men noticed was my blonde hair or my American jeans.

I came home and, at 22, married that childhood boyfriend. I had bought enough dye to last for years, but then I had three daughters.

Taking care of them, working, folding laundry next to my husband on the couch, I seemed to fade away. Once I took a beauty day, giving myself a facial, conditioning my hair and tinting my lashes with the last of the kit from England.

“You look different,” my husband said.

“It’s my lashes,” I said. “I dyed them.”

“You did what?” he said. “That’s really weird.”

After I divorced, when the youngest was only two, I gave up on mascara. As a single mother, I had so little free time that I blow-dried my hair by sticking my head out the window of the van.

Then, two years ago, we went to England for a vacation, and there I saw it. Lash dye.

My girls snorted. “Who cares about your eyelashes, Mom? Please.”

Back in California, I considered that for a long time. I was 45. My hair: still blonde, thanks to lemon juice, but not very exciting. Eyebrows: brown, doing that thing where they disappear at the temples. Face: ordinary.

Men don’t notice eyelashes. I know this now. But I do. So I mixed the dye and wielded the brush. To myself, I looked younger and less tired, and because I moved my eyes differently, I seemed sexier.

I was who I wanted to be.

Photo courtesy of originalpunkt/

Want MORE? Read Hair Confession #5: Winning the Hair Wars

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First Published December 22, 2011

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