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Inking up for Beauty

Recently my mum suggested I get a tattoo. On my face.

Now if you’ve read a few of my columns you might have a picture of my mother. She’s not exactly a tattoo on your face kind of lady. She’s more the active wear/coffee with the girls type; less rock n’ roll, more Missy Higgins.

So you can imagine my surprise when, upon mentioning I didn’t like the shape of my eyebrows, she suggested I get them tattooed into a shape I’m happy with.  

Now, I know this isn’t the same as getting a skull on my forehead or a teardrop down my cheek. I know this is a fairly common beauty practice and it isn’t likely to hinder your job search or disappoint your grandmother. But still. I couldn’t help but notice a certain amount of hypocrisy.

This, coming from a woman who burst into inconsolable hysterical tears when I carefully inquired about getting a tongue piercing at aged 14. A woman who’s been adamantly against any of her children being tattooed anywhere on their bodies. A woman who’s always taught me that being happy with how you look comes from the inside.

She couldn’t help but laugh when I pointed all this out. She hadn’t really thought about it that way. To her, it just didn't seem like that much of an extreme thing to do.

We do have some strange double standards in the way we look at beauty. Tattoos seem to be one. Piercings are another. A potential tongue piercing caused my mum to burst into tears (‘Oh, it’s awful. How could you think of doing that to your pretty face?’), but she took me to get my belly button pierced at 15.  

As well as this, the very idea of tattooing your eyebrows says a lot about the immense pressure placed on women to look perfect. We’re all used to the routines we go through in order to keep ourselves presentable: the shaving and waxing and makeup applying, the hair straightening and acrylic nails and fake tan. These completely unnatural things have become not just acceptable but somehow ‘necessary’ in our lives. But what lengths will we go to to look good? Permanently tattooing eyebrows onto our faces just because our hair doesn’t grow in the shape that’s fashionable at the time seems to go a bit too far. Surely that’s a little extreme. Surely that’s a little… vain.  

Since this conversation with mum I’ve spent a few weeks growing my eyebrows out (why is that person looking at me strangely? They’re looking at my eyebrows, aren’t they? Aren’t they??), and now I’m much happier with their shape and I didn’t even need to pay someone to stab me just above my eyes with a needle full of ink.

But now I’ve got her. If I ever want a little love heart on my cheekbone or MUM tattooed across my chin, she won’t be able to say much about it. I’ll just have to keep the tissues handy when I tell her.