Last night in my dreams, for reasons initially unclear, I accidentally shaved off one of my eyebrows. This brought on a palpable pang of horror—as when someone dies in my sleepy world and I wake up worrying that it actually happened. The entire dream became a whirlwind of me trying to come to terms with the new flaw on my face, suddenly acutely aware of how important my eyebrows are to my self-worth—a minor beauty feature I rarely think about, until, apparently they’re gone. It was as if, without that one furry brushstroke resting atop my right eye, I was nobody—not a woman worth looking at or speaking to. It was all my insecurities manifested as some sort of Dali-esque nightmare…the makings of a surrealist film that Women’s Studies majors would go to town with.
I woke up at 6AM, briefly, a queasy little ball nervously clutching at her eyebrows to make sure they were still there. Realizing that all was in place, I felt warm, the initial tension released quickly from my body so that I could confidently return to the land of nod. The absurdity of this particular dream’s content dawned on me briefly but I was too exhausted to really shake it out and explore it. Instead I fell back asleep, proud to be back in the category of worthy and eye-browed women.
But now awake for good (or at least, the length of this Sunday), the dream is replaying itself in my head like an important message that I need to decode. What truths can I unearth from this gem, other than the blatant self-loathing and the effect of gendered ideals on my own self-worth? Perhaps it was nothing more than a reminder of those things—a reason to check myself, and all the frivolous nuts and bolts that comprise my ego. Perhaps I am too used to women supposedly ‘needing’ certain things—a sculpted ass, toned thighs, a button nose, bright eyes, silky hair—that those examples wouldn’t be successful in relaying the message. I fight those things with the same fervor that I let them wash over me, buying into the exact narrative I’m attempting to work against. I stare them in the face—a challenge—and yet I myself can’t look away.
Is that what this dream was trying to tell me? That my own beliefs—regardless of who’s to ‘blame’ for them—are absurd, on the level of a runaway eyebrow. That I’m not fighting against stereotypes at my full weight, because I would never allow there to be much weight to box with in the first place. Well, yes, these things are true—realities which spend most of their time in the back of my brain, lying in a coma, the slow-purr of their presence easily ignored and covered up by things more pressing. It’s too tragic to face myself in all her hypocritical, conflicted glory. Instead it must come to me in nightmare-ish dreams, like a needy child who can’t comprehend the word “no” and won’t give up the fight until she finally gets what she wants.