Golden Gates

Once in a while, I repost my blog posts on Open Salon as a way to drum up business here. A while back, I saw their Open Call for submissions titled “I was bullied,” (or something similar). In it, poignant blog posts talk about the pain of being bullied as a child, with some people interviewing their childhood bullies to boot.

It made me think back to when I was in middle school, navigating tweendom and trying to fit in. Thankfully, I don’t have any horrid stories about being bullied, but I do remember being teased. Mercilessly.

The teasing was done by a group of three boys in junior high. I don’t remember their names, but could probably point them out in a yearbook. We weren’t friend, and didn’t really associate with one another except in class. We—along with a few other kids—shared a long table in art class. I was in seventh grade, and they were in eighth, pretty much giving them god-like power over us, their younger peers.

At some point during the trimester-long class, they stopped using my name and started calling me “Golden Gates.”

Huh? I laughed it off, because to be honest, I had no idea—nada, zip, zilch!—as to why they chose to nickname me after one of the world’s most recognized monuments.

Until finally, pretty much at the end of the trimester, it dawned on me: they were teasing me because of my unibrow.

I was ashamed for a variety of reasons. Yes, I sported a unibrow, but I had optimistically convinced myself that it was invisible to anyone but me. You mean you can see it, too? The shock! The horror! I was also rather upset for not getting the joke for so long. I considered myself a pretty smart kid, but apparently, not a very witty one.

And I was upset that I couldn’t laugh it off anymore. Once I finally got it, every time they called me Golden Gates I would feel my face burn with shame and start sweating. Just what every tween girl dreams of doing in school.

I’ve only known of two people who could totally rock a unibrow: Frieda Kahlo (of course!) and a girl in high school who bravely kept hers all four years. She was popular, on student body council, and on various sports teams. And she was incredibly friendly, with a great bubbly personality. From what I can glean on her Facebook page, she now has some of the best looking eyebrows around (the best revenge!).

These days, I look back and chuckle at the nickname, and the sophistication level of the eighth grade boys who came up with it. And in my internal dialogue with those boys, I say, “Yes, shocker, Iranian women are hairy. Get over it.” Apparently, even after 20 years I don’t have a snappy comeback for them.

But I worry about P. Poor kid, the daughter of an Iranian and an Italian will keep her aesthetician’s kids in private school for many years. Maybe even through college.

When I was pregnant and before I found out we’d have a daughter, I confided to a friend that I was hoping for a boy. The biggest reason? I just didn’t want a daughter to have to deal with all the shaving and plucking and tweezing and waxing that goes along with being a Middle Eastern woman. I have vivid memories of my mom and aunt having threading sessions (that’s right, threading was popular in the Middle East way before it became the hot thing to do in malls across the country), grooming mixed with gossip and hot cups of tea.

The kids were always in the periphery, in awe of what the adults were combining in front of the mirror.

But the fact is that the whole grooming thing is all just so exhausting, and so unlike the “we like short shorts!” commercials for hair-removal cream. Who likes to sing and prance around as they use hair-removal cream? Oh that’s right: no one.

I actually have a hair-removal cream horror story. I mean, those gals look like they have so much fun with it! Why not try it?

I had just started shaving my legs (I don’t remember how old I was), and thought the whole shaving thing to be so laborious—I still do. So I tried the hair-removal cream. I didn’t really read the directions very well, and didn’t rinse off as much as I should have.

I was in a hurry, since I was heading out to play tennis with my dad and sister. I hadn’t told anyone of my adventures with Nair, and just ran out of the house so we could start playing as scheduled. Just in case you didn’t know what chemical that melt your hair do to your skin when not washed off: they melt your skin. Yup.

I started having horrible looking welts on the front of my legs. The entire time we were supposed to be playing, I was on the sidelines with some ice (thankfully we always took a lot of water), rubbing my legs. The first and last time hair-removal cream and I ever crossed paths.

Anyway, back to P. A told me not to worry, that we’d start an electrolysis fund alongside her college savings. P’s almost two now, and her college funds are looking healthy, but her electrolysis funds definitely need a boost.

It’s already a given that my sweet P will have a unibrow when she’s in school. She will very likely be teased for it. I hope that she grows up to be a teen who has enough gumption and confidence to rock it like my friend in high school.

The boys in her art class may call her Frieda in art class, but hopefully for completley different reasons.

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