An Indian Adoptee Reclaims His Voice in the Desi Diaspora
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The Awkwardness of Male Eyebrow Threading

May 16, 2015

I thread my eyebrows. Yes, I admit it. Now it is out in the open for all to read. I am not ashamed and I fully embrace it.

My eyebrows resemble furry caterpillars when grown without attention. They look awful. Sasmita, along with other women throughout my life has told me so. I began threading my eyebrows about seven years ago.

If you have not threaded before, I highly recommend it. I’ve been told it is more hygienic than waxing, but I cannot speak from experience.

However, this post is not about threading advocacy, I want to explain how awkward the situation is for me, as a man, particularly an Indian one.

Full disclosure, I get my eyebrows done at an open-air kiosks inside of Union Station in Washington, D.C. There is nothing remotely private about it. I recline in a chair and a woman painstakingly removes hair from my face using thread.

Union Station is always bustling with people. Plenty of tourists stop and gawk at people receiving threading because they have never seen it done. In addition, I have definitely heard guys, especially older men, wondering why HE is doing that. However, I pay them no mind.

Threading my eyebrows costs me ten dollars and with beard shaping, they tack on another $10. For me, it is a good deal, even with tip included. Union Station is metro accessible, adding a secondary bonus of no driving required.

I try to go on Friday afternoons or immediately after work on weekdays. Usually, I show up, and the line has between two to five women. I would say the majority is South Asian, but I have seen varying ethnicities.

Not once, however, have I been in line with another guy, nor have I seen a man coming or going alone.

Newcomers to the line usually assume I am waiting for my significant other to finish her threading and cut in front of me. Then I am forced to verbally acknowledge that I am ‘in line’, and was ahead of them. Sometimes multiple people do this, and I must stake my claim repeatedly.

Even though we are in public, often I feel I’ve violated the women’s safe space. Sometimes, as I enter the line there is a fun, friendly vibe, the women engaged in small talk. When I join them, the conversation dies immediately. An intruder is in their midst.

This is precisely the reason I refuse going to a salon. I think the feeling of being an outsider is exponentially greater. In a brick and mortar store, escaping is more difficult.

I’ve asked the Nepalese women, doing the eyebrow threading if I am the only male customer. Repeatedly, they say ‘oh no, we get quite a few gentlemen.’ I do not believe them.

To continue the narrative: I am in the chair, having my brows sculpted, but not in an overly dramatic way, just enough to get rid of the unibrow visible since my last visit. Meanwhile, the women in line either pretend not to look at me or actively glance, because they are shocked to see a man getting his eyebrows threaded.

I feel self-conscious about threading, and I know it looks slightly weird. I can almost hear what they are thinking, ‘you better not be there for more than 10 minutes, you are a guy, and you do not belong here.’

My hope is the woman does not thread faster than normal because I am male, but I never know. Truthfully, I want to be done with the affair and go home. Nevertheless, at the same time, I am a paying customer and expect a good job. My feelings are torn.

Finally, the woman finishes, handing me a mirror to check her handiwork. It is always exactly what’s needed. I rise from the chair, walking to the register to pay. I feel the daggers from the waiting women’s eyes drilling into my back.

One time, as I left a woman said to me. ‘You’re a brave guy; I wish my husband would come here.’ I looked at her and smiled, thinking to myself, ‘bring him, maybe we will bond over the discomfort of this experience together.’

1 Comment
hannah
July 25, 2015 at 8:20 pm

Hi AJ,
Great blog post!

I'd love to hear your thoughts!