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Musings From My Writing Life

My mother had this thing she did with her eyebrow. That is not a typo. Eyebrow. Singular. She could raise her eyebrow quite high so it peaked in a perfect arc. It was very noticeable. When accompanied by a low murmur of my name or “girls,“ my sisters and I were trained to look at Mom. The raised eyebrow was a cease and desist signal, meaning everything from “use a soft voice, please,” to “don’t do that,” to “stop right now.” It got results with me, because I was always stunned into wondering how she did that – with just one eyebrow. So it distracted me from whatever behavior was deemed wrong enough to elicit the raised eyebrow.

For years I practiced in front of the bathroom mirror. I had the murmur down. “Muthhhh-errr” but both eyebrows popped up. I held my one eyebrow down with my hand. I taped it. Closed both eyes and then did the raise attempt; but of course, I had to open them to look and there they were – up in a surprised double arc.

I don’t remember exactly when it happened. Maybe a pre-puberty birthday, or a Christmas when I had been exceedingly good. I randomly gave it a go while doing a toothbrush rinse and voila – up went my left eyebrow – solo flight. Was it a fluke? I tried again. Ha! There it was again. The Single Raised Eyebrow (SRE). I had liftoff!  But who could I tell? Certainly not my mother. I shared my discovery with my twin. She tried. No luck. It seemed this was to be my own inherited trait.  

This quirky anomaly morphed into being able to wiggle my right ear at will. Only the right. That had entertainment value and is still a fun icebreaker. 

But the single raised eyebrow (SRE) has served me well for decades. When I was teaching, I developed the use of SRE with my young munchkins. The murmured name, the single raised eyebrow and slight shake of the head. Cease and desist, please. Followed by a slight smile or wink when compliance was achieved. 

SRE is effective in dealing with adults who may be difficult people. Many people indicate surprise or doubt with the double eyebrows. A paltry attempt. But the SRE can instantly signal a hmmm look with an I doubt that message.

In an email post from TUT (The Universe Talks) I discovered my top trending use for SRE.  “In case they look at you funny, when you tell them of your loftiest dreams, desires, and a beautiful dream vacation home, all you have to do is turn your head sideways, raise an eyebrow, and slowly say, “I… have… connections. “ Because I do.

I love this use of the SRE. Even though I know I have many cheerleaders in my life, sometimes people will give me a look or fling a phrase my way that is intended to keep me “safe,” aka inert/stagnant, or the assassinator of dreams “don’t make waves.” Using the SRE for the “I have connections” message is most deliciously gratifying.

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and her writing life. She retired after 30 years of teaching, and semi-retired from coaching, and professional editing. Founder of the Eastside Writing Room based in Tucson AZ, she’s posted 100s of blogs, and is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. These days she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, teaching about the power of words, gather writers together, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys speaking and storytelling at Odyssey Storytelling, Artists Standing Strong Together, Center for Spiritual Living Tucson, and anywhere there’s a mic or a Zoom room.