Sticks and Stones and Eyebrows, Noses

eyebrows clafouti

My daughter came home looking worried the other day after school.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“Some kids ran past me on the playground and yelled that I had evil eyebrows,” she said. “They said, ‘Evil eyebrows girl, you have evil eyebrows!’”

My first instinct: justice.

“Who were they?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she said. “They were older.”

“You have beautiful eyebrows,” I said. “They’re not evil at all. Besides, eyebrows can’t be evil.”

“I…know…” she said. But I could sense that thing knocking around inside her, that little thing that happens when someone says something shocking or mean or silly or random and we wonder how much weight to give it. Adults are generally more cordial with each other and don’t yell out stupid remarks just because they have a slight urge to do so. Kids have less of a filter.

“If that happens again,” I said, “Say, ‘Why are you running away, chickens? If you care so much about my eyebrows, let’s all go talk about them with the teacher.’” In a perfect world where comebacks come out in time, that would be a decent one, I think, to lob at the Pony Express Eyebrow Dissers.

“Kids used to make fun of my eyebrows when I was little,” I recalled,

Her eyes widened. “They did?”

“Yup. “But then grownups would say that I was lucky to have them, because they were like Brooke Shields’ eyebrows. Brooke Shields was a famous actress with very thick eyebrows.”

I also remember a red-haired boy on the school bus who turned around apropos of nothing and scornfully told me my lips were too big. As if he were the arbiter of middle school facial feature size. He had his own issues, but maybe he thought if he told me first, I wouldn’t wise off about his big white Chicklet teeth.

I related this eyebrow story to female friends my age and they all recalled some feature of theirs that had been ridiculed, although it tended to be their favorite feature as adults. We were sitting around a table in our thirties and forties, couldn’t remember piles of things from childhood, but the Thing We Got Picked On For, that popped right up to the surface in half a second. Susie remembered being called “Miss Piggy” because of her upturned nose. “And I love my nose now. It’s so youthful.”

I can’t control what fool thing comes out of someone’s mouth on the playground–I can’t even control what things come out of my kids’ mouths, although I can respond to what they say in a way that I hope guides them and teaches them about what effect it might have on others.

And, I can say, “I love your eyebrows. You are beautiful. I love you,” channel Tina Fey, and feed her some good response zingers for the next time the Pony Express Fill-in-the-Blank Dissers gallop through town.

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This entry was posted
on Friday, October 30th, 2009 at 9:02 pm and is filed under mama on the spot, stranger than fiction.
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4 thoughts on “Sticks and Stones and Eyebrows, Noses”

  1. Your daughter has beautiful eyebrows. They are perfect. I can’t believe kids are even noticing things like that (it’s hard for me not to get mad and want to shake them. You handled it sooo well). My oldest, who has been teased a lot about her ears (they stick out) and her name (it’s unusual) is very Zen about it now. She says the boys who tease her are the ones that like her and it’s their way of noticing her. I wish I felt that way when I was little. In any case, thanks for sharing this story, and the beautiful picture of your daughter.

  2. I know–I did want to shake them, of course. I just didn’t know who the heck they were : ) It brought up what we need to do as adults (and what we can teach our kids) about those drive-by offloadings of nastiness from anyone from the boy on the playground, to someone random stranger who threw his giant Sonic orange soda at me when I was riding my bike a few months ago. Get Teflon about it as MUCH as possible, while also moving through the feelings so they don’t get stuck inside.

  3. I can’t believe someone threw an orange soda at you Candace. In Santa Fe. I’ve had a couple of bad biking experiences lately. Some guys in their 20s in a truck stuck a gun out the window at me, screaming. It turned out to be a water gun but it was scary and so dangerous. Then my husband had some men pull beside him while he was biking and actually attack him–they slapped him on the back as hard as they could–for no reason at all. In both incidents we called the police but nothing was done. It’s sad. We live in a “safe,” supposedly progressive town. Our misdeed was BIKING IN THE BIKE LANE and this provoked violence for some unfathomable reason…

  4. It is so weird the way mere bicycling provokes such hostile responses. I facebooked about the orange soda thing and someone responded that someone threw A JAR OF PENNIES at her head (luckily, they missed). Or was it a can of pennies? Either way, *shakes head*

    Loving the eyebrows thread count thing….!! So witty, Laura.

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