As she scanned my overgrown eyebrows, tweezers in hand, the beautician berated me for my laziness. ‘You should have come back here weeks ago. You’ve left it too long, and now it’s going to hurt.’
Before I came to live in Gaza I paid no attention to my eyebrows. They grew wild and free, and I never thought of plucking them. But after a few months in Gaza I realized that all the women here have immaculate eyebrows, plucked into thin delicate arches that compliment their dark eyes. They looked very good, especially compared to my own ragged brows. So I trotted off to my local beauty salon and got myself plucked too. It hurt, and my eyebrows were red and slightly swollen for an hour – but afterwards I was a convert: I had eyebrows to be proud of!
Preening is a big part of most cultures, and Gaza no exception: the streets are full of stalls selling cosmetics, hair-dyes, glittery accessories, and creams, including the dubious face-whitening cream that is still so popular, especially for young brides. Brown skin is beautiful, but many young women want to be pasted pale for their wedding day, because it apparently looks more attractive. Hmmmm… I personally think it makes them look like they are clinically dead.
Anyway, I was in Jabalia in the north of Gaza last week, breaking the Ramadan fast with some friends. I was telling one of them, Adham, about my recent trip to the beautician, where she’d berated me for recently neglecting my eyebrows. Adham nodded knowingly. ‘You have to get them plucked regularly’ he said. ‘I get mine done whenever I get my hair cut.’
‘Really – you pluck too?’ I was surprised. Gaza is such a macho culture, it had never occurred to me that men preened their brows. But when I looked carefully, Adham had perfectly shaped eye-brows that any man would be proud of. ‘We all get our eyebrows done’ said his friend, Mustafa. ‘It’s ardi (usual) for men to do this at the hairdresser.’
I told them that in Britain a man getting his eyebrows plucked would often be seen as effeminate, or gay. They thought this was a bit stupid. Mind you, if a man in Britain kisses or even touches another man many people might immediately assume he’s gay. So much for open liberal British culture - here in Gaza, men hug and kiss each other, link arms in the street, and pluck, and no-one thinks anything of it. Having carefully examined the sculpted brows of my male friends, I definitely think men in Britain and Europe should also go and get themselves plucked.