Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Unabrow: Searching For My Heritage (Half-Assedly on Wikipedia)*

(This is excerpted from an essay I'm working on, because I'm elbow-deep in a Project Runway recap* I have to finish.

*I was going to say elbow deep in Heidi Klum, but most of you are just now having your coffee and I don't want to throw out any fisting jokes until at least after lunch -- you are welcome.


So here's something I discovered on the magical Internet: having a unibrow is actually a medical condition called synophrys. Isn’t that cute? I even thought of calling this post Synophrabulous! but I didn’t think people would get it. Anyway, there’s not much about synophrys on the worldwide web—if you can believe it, no one has ever thought to write a cultural history of unibrows. Most of the entries say things like:
The unibrow conventionally has negative associations in western [sic] culture, and is the reason why many people remove excess hair between the eyebrows.[citation needed]
Oh, Wikipedia. The citation you’re looking for, I believe, is "No shit, Sherlock." Here’s another one:
In Western perception, a unibrow may make a person seem ugly, fierce, grumpy, or over-serious… Among Western women, the region between the brows is often plucked, waxed, shaved, or treated with electrolysis or other forms of depilation.
OK, first of all, ladies, do not shave your eyebrows. I say that from experience. But more importantly, what about women in other cultures? Surely there must be somewhere that unibrows are coveted. Aha!
…In some non-Western cultures this facial hair does not have a stigma, and may even be seen as a sign of feminine beauty, as in Caucasus or in Iran, where connected eyebrows are a sign of virginity and being unmarried.
That’s interesting. Jeff is third-generation Armenian—part of the Caucasus! (Which he had to inform me of, sadly, as I am worthless at geography). While I didn’t have a unibrow when we met, maybe he could sense it there, like a phantom limb, and heard the voices of his ancestors whisper “This is the virgin for you.” Unfortunately, I suspect, the correlation between synophrys and celibacy is one of cause and effect.

The general Internet consensus on unibrows seems to be that no one has ever done a scientific study on them (except when they are the byproduct of a disease like Cornelia de Lange syndrome) because everyone hates them and that is a known fact. From what I can glean, the first official vilification of monobrows came courtesy of a guy named Cesare Lombroso (1836-1909). Called “the father of modern criminology,” Lombroso was convinced that you could identify a criminal by certain physical traits, including projecting ears, left-handedness, weak eyes, and—you guessed it—joined eyebrows. Actually, even just being extra hairy was suspect to Lombroso, whose sketches of criminals kind of resembled Early Man. (As Lombroso was Italian, I cannot believe he wasn’t used to extra body hair.) Apart from Lombroso’s reports, however, according to the Uncyclopedia (yes, all of my research materials are this trustworthy--why do you ask?), “there have been no serious scientific studies of the unibrow in culture or whether certain ethnic groups are more prone to developing a unibrow or not, though it is likely caused by an excess of testosterone.”

Quite frankly, if I have too much testosterone, that would explain a lot more than my eyebrows (and, increasingly as I grow older, hair in other dismaying places). It would shed some light on why I chopped off my curls and insisted on playing with He-Man figures as a child, or why I was the only girl in my preschool class to cross heteronormative lines on Halloween by dressing as Peter Pan. Sadly, nothing can explain the Donnie Whalberg doll I purchased circa 1990, at the height of NKOTB mania. If I am really a man, I must be gay.

*Obviously, the title of my forthcoming memoir


  1. I'm surprised that nobody has done a doctoral dissertation on the unibrow.

  2. Cause and effect, yes I think that's true, though I've been plucking my unibrow since I was 13 and still very much a virgin.

    It's funny, when I read the line about "an excess of testosterone.." I said aloud "well that explains a lot." Haha! I have a hot temper.

  3. haha i always get my eyebrows waxed when i get a pedicure. Asians aren't afraid to rip it all off.

  4. Sassy you are way hotter than Bert or Ernie. And there seems to be no visible evidence of said unibrow. So do not despair!


  5. "Lombroso was convinced that you could identify a criminal by certain physical traits, including projecting ears, left-handedness, weak eyes, and—you guessed it—joined eyebrows." I'm dying laughing right now, this is classic

  6. "Unfortunately, I suspect, the correlation between synophrys and celibacy is one of cause and effect."

    My laugh for the morning! So true. I'm half Persian... and I never heard any of my relatives say that uni-brows were sexy or sign of virginity... all the ladies were plucking them and all the men seem to have them.

    Good luck on your essay!

  7. This is so so funny.

    I was Peter Pan too as a young 20 something in NYC. I found myself in the Village where I fit right in.

  8. Well, hell. Was there a scale? Like if you had 2 out of 4, you are only given to slightly criminal behavior like speeding or running the occasional red light? If I have to have criminal physical traits, I guess I'll take being lefthanded and having weak eyes. Now I'm going to dance around the office for the rest of the day singing, "You've been hit by, you've been struck by a smooth criminal. Whoo!"

  9. If I were a man I'd be gay too.

    Oh damn I am a man.

    My wife's going to kill me when she finds out.


  10. intresting post didnt know its a medical condition

  11. so frickin funny. thank you for that.

  12. Unibrowism a sign of virginity? I'm going with this. Look at Liz Taylor. Her eyebrows are 2/3 of a triangle, and that woman was never a virgin. Similarly, I have Liz browage and I've also been married a time or three, and I can't remember ever being a virgin. I think I've made your point, yes?

  13. Some people have a unibrow; others have hair all over. I think you'll find that the body-hair-equals-virgin-till-too-fricking-late ratio is a lot higher than you'd have guessed...

  14. From Fisting to Freakish Facial hair, as always you cover all the bases.

  15. Oh, Una. Have you ever seen the movie Adam & Steve? If you haven't, well you should. Primero, because it's one of the most hilarious movies ever made. Segundo because Parker Posey plays a severely amateur comedian who derives all of her content on her being overweight, despite that fact that she lost all of said weight several years ago. Sound familiar :-P. Anyway... this post and having recently watched made me draw the connection. Keep it up and watch that film!


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