19 Eyelashes

Not a flattering pic of me at 16 with only 19 eyelashes

A life with 19 eyelashes is no picnic. 19 eyelashes in aggregate which accounts for all the things that flew into my eyes: I had no line of first defense.

The thought of possessing a mere 19 eyelashes never crossed my mind until I was sixteen. Grace to Mom.

Seated at the kitchen table, Mom focused on my kid sister, seven years my junior. "Oh my, Sveya! I never realized before how beautiful your eyelashes are! They're so long and thick."

Under her appreciative gaze, my sister preened. Then, Mom's head swiveled towards me. My stomach dropped: it was my turn. She believed in giving equal attention and dispensing similar compliments to both her daughters. After several minutes struggling for something to say, she choked out, "Your eyelashes are so... black."

Taken aback, I muttered, "Black?"

"And long."

"Long? This is all that you can come up with? Work with me, Mom!"

"Well," she hesitated. With tact and diplomacy, she stated, "They are rather sparse."

"Sparse?" This was news to me.

Peering closer, she noted, "That's weird. You've only nineteen eyelashes!" The woman actually counted them!

Aghast, I wailed, "Nineteen?"

As a diversionary tactic, Mom brought up my wardrobe, a chronic thorn in her side. She was once a fashion designer and blanched each time she saw my outfits. I didn't outgrow the hippie style of clothing which meant only two pairs of jeans, home-made blouses with badly stitched embroidered flowers, a dog collar around my neck and shit-kicker boots.

"Why can't you wear nice clothes like your sister?"

Again, my sister preened. She was already a fashion maven with a pile of the latest designs amassed in the center of our shared bedroom.

Before I could get a word in, Mom continued. "Please, Maura, that dog collar has got to go. Give it back to Foogee." Foogee was our miniature schnauzer. "He misses it." Sure, enough, that damn dog sat right next to me, whining.

At once, I realized this was THE opportune situation where I can take advantage of Mom's half-assed compliment before she felt better or forgot with that selective memory she perfected. One thing I wanted more than anything else was to get my ears pierced.

"Can I get my ears pierced?"


"Why not?" I whined, louder than the dog next to me.

"It's barbaric!" she replied.

"But all my friends have them."

"And if all your friends jump off a cliff, will you jump as well?"

Logic aside, I knew she wouldn't budge by persistent nagging, so I decided to use another strategy. Over dinner that night, I brought up a new topic. My father sat to my left and had the weirdest habit: he stole my napkin at every meal.

I begged my brother for years, "Let's switch seats so you can sit next to Dad."

"Why, so he can swipe my napkin?"

Nothing went past my brother. As long as I lived in that house and every time I visited, I never had a napkin. To this day, I don't know why my father did it, but man, it chafed me.

I turned around and said, "Dad, I'd like to get a tattoo."

He almost choked on his steak. "What the hell? A tattoo?"

"Yes, a tattoo. I know exactly what design I want!"

He stared at my mother seated across the table. "Where does she get these ideas?"

"Ignore her," stated my mother.

Dad pointed at me with his knife and said, "You're Jewish. You can't get a tattoo. You'll never be buried in a Jewish cemetery."

"What does it matter if I'm already dead?" I snottily responded.

My brother piped up. "What about all those Holocaust survivors? They were tattooed."

"Do we have to discuss this at dinner?" hollered my father.

Mom glared at me. "See what you did? You disrupted our meal and upset your father."

Dad sat there steaming hot in anger. He really wanted to enjoy his meal in peace and quiet.

In defense, I said, "I just asked -"

Mom yelled, "I know what you're up to. You want to get your ears pierced so you're gonna ask for something worse to make ear piercing seem a better choice."

Thwarted, I sat, shoulders slumped, dejectedly tossing my food around on the plate with the fork tines.

With kindness, Dad asked me, "Do you really want your ears pierced?"


He and my mother exchanged glances. "Judy, let her get it done. Anything's better than listening to tattoos or other nonsense during dinnertime. I want to have a peaceful meal!"

That weekend, Mom dragged me to an ear-piercing place and I had it done in a mere two seconds.

"Ow, it hurts!" I complained as we left. The pain finally hit me.

She looked down at me. "Good. Just keep it clean."

Later that evening, my sister saw my new pierced ears. "I want that!" she yelled.

Mom whirled around and glared at me. "See what you started!"

"But Mom, she's nine. She has to wait till she's sixteen! You know, it's only FAIR. After all, she does have eyelashes." Mom caught my subtle undertone.

The following week, my sister had her ears pierced. "You know, Mom didn't have to take me there. It's really easy to do," she confided in our shared bedroom. "I pierce all my girlfriend's ears. And it doesn't hurt one bit."

Captivated, I asked, "How do you do it?"

"I clean a sewing needle with alcohol and push it through."

"Wanna make another hole in both ears?" My parents were at the other side of the house in the den and I knew the coast was clear for a while.


She ran into my mother's bedroom and emerged with a needle. Before me, she swabbed it down with alcohol. Then, she marked a dot on both ears with a pen. The moment she pushed the needle into my right ear, I howled.

At the same time, the three dogs, asleep on the living room sofa jumped up and down while barking insanely. In seconds, my parents ran into my bedroom with the dogs at their heels.

"What's going on here?" yelled my mother.

Blood shot out of my punctured earlobe. "Sveya was piercing my ears -"

My dad bellowed, "You mean to tell me you weren't satisfied with just one hole in each ear? How about a hole in the head?"

Mom snuck away and returned with a bag of frozen peas. "Put that on your ear. Sveya, finish it up and no more discussion on this topic. And no more holes."

Behind her, Dad screamed, "Holes in her ears! What else?"

In the doorway to my bedroom, my parents watched my sister puncture the bleeding ear lobe. Dad yelled, "I think I'm going to throw up." Before turning away to make a swift getaway, he said to the dogs, "C'mon boys, you don't want to see this, you may get sick as well."

My mother stood sentry to make sure my sister wouldn't sever a major artery. I'm convinced that Sveya used all her force and strength to puncture my ear lobes repeatedly.

I complained, "What's taking you so long?" while she jabbed and rammed the needle over and over again.

She complained, "Wow, they're thick and rubbery."

That had to be one of the more painful experiences of my teen years. To this day, I honestly believe she lied and never pierced anyone's earlobes before. However, she didn't lie about it not hurting. Her.

Afterwards, peering into the mirror, I noticed that one of the new holes was not even with the corresponding one. "Hey, Sveya, this one's higher than the other!"

"That's because you moved!" she insisted.

With hidden pierced ears, wearing Donna O's dress. 16 with 19 eyelashes.
With my now four holes, one cock-eyed, I wore earrings all the time. Nice plastic pink, green and blue hoops. I felt so special.

A few weeks later, I asked permission to wear lipstick.


"Why not, Mom? All the other girls wear lipstick."

"If all the other girls jump off a cliff, would you jump off as well?"

"But, Mom -"

"Listen, you don't need lipstick. You look good as you are." My mother also forbade all make-up. The only cosmetics allowed were nail polish. Of course, the color I chose was green. Mom clarified, "The word, 'make-up,' is from Italian meaning to trick."

She got that partially right with the word, 'Trucca.' But, make-up's also a derivative from the French word, maquillage. Once again, Mom bent the rules to serve her evil purposes.

"Mooommmm," I whined. Foogee didn't join in. He no longer stayed at my side since I returned his dog collar as a gesture of goodwill for the piercings. Talk about a fair weather friend.

She stared at my 19 eyelashes, then my four holes, one of which was crooked. With a sigh, she relented. "Go ahead," she said dismissively. "But it has to be clear, no color."

As I grew older, I found Mom was right about make-up. A little eye pencil and lipstick was all I ever needed. Yet, I was plagued with the fact that I had 19 eyelashes, the bane of my existence ever since Mom made that discovery. 19 eyelashes pretty much became the family's most common rallying cry.

Nearly forty years later, I heard of Latisse. The miracle drug that can grow eyelashes on bowling balls. As my girlfriend, a top notch medical aesthetician explained, "You need to apply every day otherwise the magic is gone!"

I started Latisse this past summer. Nothing happened. Well, something did: one of the 19 eyelashes turned white.

In despair, I phoned my friend. "It's a month! Nothing happened except one eyelash turned white."

"Give it time. It takes up to six weeks."

Six weeks came and went. I still applied Latisse every night religiously. Out of nowhere, this fall I grew lashes! Many. Thick. Beautiful. Long. Black.

My girlfriend said, "I never saw Latisse react this way before! Hell, they're long and thick. How much do you put on every night?"

"Just a drop," I reassured her.

Dubious, she said, "I don't know what to advise you, but pretty soon you may have to trim them to wear your glasses."

So, now I'm looking to purchase contact lenses.

# # #

No comments: