Today, I went to get my eyebrows threaded. I love having clean, nicely arched eyebrows. But I dread going to the eyebrow salon. I dread it for the same reason I dread going to the barber shop. Because the conversation with the person grooming me very quickly becomes uncomfortable.
Today, as soon as I sat in the chair, this woman said to me, “How many kids you have?” In my head, I said, “Fuck your gender politics. I’m not answering that question.” But my other self gave her the “pleasantries-with-strangers” benefit of the doubt. And so I said, “None. I don’t have any.”
Her next question: “Are you married?” In my head, I said, “Fuck your gender politics. No. And until 2 months ago, I couldn’t legally get married even if I wanted to. Now stop asking me stupid shit.” But out loud, I said, “No, I’m not married.”
And then, “How old are you?” In my head, I said, “Why you all in my business?!” Out loud, I said, “I’m 30.” Sigh. I should have said I was 22, because then…
“You don’t want kids?” In my head, I said, “Damn. For real? You’re just gonna double down on that patriarchy on me like that? C’mon, girl.” But out loud I said, “I don’t know. Maybe. Or maybe I’ll just spend my life traveling.” To which she replied, “Everybody’s always traveling.” And I could feel the judgment and dismay. I immediately felt the need to explain or somehow justify why my life is what it is. I said, “I was in school for a while and I’ve been working, so…you know.”
She said, “You work every day?”
“So you make a lot of money, ” she said.
I laughed and said, “I wish.” If I could rewind this whole scene, I would have said, “I don’t make a lot, but I make enough. And I’m really grateful to have a job.” But my brain was in that 4:15-on-a-Friday slump.
I long for the day when I can walk into a salon or shop without immediately being assessed against these narrow and antiquated ideals of womanhood. The reality is that, in many cases, women with husbands and children are still deemed more socially respectable, valuable, and legitimate. And that’s a shame. Because, while partners and children can certainly be a great part of our lives, they are not the sum total of who we are in the world. We are so much more. I would love for the next threader/barber/whoever to ask me:
What do you think about Austin?
What kind of music do you like?
What’s the last good movie you saw?
What are you doing this weekend?
Do you like to travel?
What do you think about Facebook?
And leave space for my whole and genuine self: A queer woman with a partner, a dog, a cool job, and lots of dynamic interests. Not just the self they expect or think I should be: a straight woman with a husband and 3 kids. But really, this isn’t just about my queer Black self with no kids. It’s also about the women who are happily single by choice, or don’t believe in marriage, or are polyamorous, or are going through a rough divorce, or are having fertility challenges, or just lost their only child, or desperately want to be married but can’t find a partner, or are trapped in an unhappy marriage. It’s about all the complexity and diverse experiences of being a woman.
Is that so hard to get? Maybe I need to learn to thread my own eyebrows.