My left eyebrow is normally higher than my right eyebrow. The difference is particularly pronounced when I raise them — it gives me a skeptical expression. And this wasn’t something I realized that I appreciated about myself until it was gone. I couldn’t access that look anymore. When I raised my eyebrows, the circumflex was the same on both sides.
Technically speaking, this symmetry made me more attractive. In her 2019 tour de force about “Instagram Face,” Jia Tolentino, in The New Yorker, asked plastic surgeons about the “single, cyborgian” visage that seemed to dominate Hollywood and online influencer land. “It’s a young face, of course, with poreless skin and plump, high cheekbones. It has catlike eyes and long, cartoonish lashes; it has a small, neat nose and full, lush lips,” Tolentino explained. One plastic surgeon, Jason Diamond, told her that while no single look would work for everyone, “there are constants,” adding: “Symmetry, proportion, harmony. We are always trying to create balance in the face.”
But what if the imbalance, that asymmetry, is where the interest — even the humanity — is?
My jacked up eyebrows used to bother me. Someone once told me I looked like Dora Maar, the surrealist photographer and Pablo Picasso muse. At the time, I took it as an insult because I couldn’t tell if the reference was to the woman herself, or her 1937 portrait, in which her eyes are misaligned and looking in different directions.
After my Botox experience, though, I reconsidered the comparison, and thought of it more as a compliment. My face will never be normatively beautiful, but it could light a spark. I was surprised to find myself happy when, after about six months, the injections faded and my eyebrows went back to their old tricks.
I worry that this hard-won point of view is under siege, as facial uniformity becomes ever more dominant with the ubiquity of injections and heavily filtered images online. In October, for The Cut, Daisy Schofield wrote about teenagers who are already focused on anti-aging skin care. “The beauty standard is to stay young, and I do try to fit the beauty standard,” one 15-year-old told her. In 2021, for The Times, Jessica Schiffer wrote about 20- and 30-somethings getting “baby Botox” to combat an “all-consuming anxiety” about aging.