Now for a while I have been worried about my eyebrows. They have, over time, become reminiscent of the famously bushy examples unashamedly sported by the Labour politician Denis Healey. In the early 1970s, as Shadow Chancellor, he was reported to have said (although he staunchly denied ever saying it) that he would ‘tax the rich until the pips squeak’. In 1974, he became Chancellor of the Exchequer. His approaches to managing the economy were not a great success.
However his bushy eyebrows and soft-spoken wit earned him a favourable reputation with the general public. When the media were not present, his humour was equally caustic but also more risqué. For example: ‘These fallacies [pronounced 'phalluses'] are rising up everywhere’, he retorted at a meeting of the Leeds University Labour Society. Labour lost the 1979 general election to the Conservatives (led by Margaret Thatcher), following the so called Winter of Discontent in which Britain had been brought to a virtual standstill by endless public sector strikes.
It was those Denis Healey like bushy eyebrows I could see every morning in the bathroom mirror, and they had been playing on my mind for a while. Now as it happens, my local Tesco’s had opened a so called Hair and Beauty Saloon. For the price of buying a Chicken at Oxfam (£5) they were advertising trimming ones eyebrows, using thread. What I had not anticipated was finding myself sitting in a reclining chair in the middle of aisle 6, with a woman wielding a double-length of twisted thread which she moved rapidly over my eyebrows from one side to another. I can tell you now that when she started to move those threads, my eyebrow hair got absolutely ripped out.
After this very painful experience, I sent an email to a colleague regaling them of this experience, and I admit, possibly seeking some kind of sympathetic support. What I got back was the comment that ‘if I thought eyebrow trimming was painful just wait until I try period pain and childbirth’. Now being a man, it is unlikely that I shall ever get to experience either of these.
But interestingly, in a recent study, psychologist Jennifer Kelly from the Atlanta Centre for Behavioural Medicine reported that women experience [chronic] pain longer, more intensely and more often than men. Women are also more likely than men to experience multiple painful conditions simultaneously, which can lead to psychological distress. Dr Kelly noted that genetic and hormonal differences may be the main reason for any differences, but was clear that social and psychological factors are also important.
In terms of eyebrow trimming, I can say with complete sincerity there was no emotional attachment being experienced between my inner self and those pesky eyebrow hairs. It just really hurt! So I shall just have to learn to live with the Denis Healey in me. Tomorrow, I make my return to work and I am sure by midday, all of this will seem a long way away.