Because Helen Mirren Said So, That’s Why.


On March 31 of this year, Helen Mirren told reporter Sebastian Shakespeare of  The Daily Mail : “I’ll tell you what I had done recently, which I love — I got my eyebrows tattooed.”

“I was fed up of my brows barely being there and when one of my girlfriends got it done, I thought that they looked great.

“They’re very lightly and delicately done — but it means that when I get up in the morning and I have no make-up on, at least I have eyebrows.

“It’s made a huge difference.”

For the record, this (see below) is what La Grande Dame, Her Highness Helen was talking about when she said her eyebrows were “barely there“:

Photo credit: Russell Clisby

Me and Helen, we have the same problem, eyebrow-wise:

Well, we all know how much everyone here in VivianWorld loves, adores, and aspires to be like Helen Mirren, She Who Can Do No Wrong.

So I did it. After two months of dithering, I got my eyebrows tattooed.

It hurt.

I clutched/dig my fingernails into a stress ball and gritted my teeth during the worst of it (about 14 minutes in all, before the topical anesthesia is applied) and I made it through the entire procedure without screaming, which took 2 1/2 hours, which includes the lengthy paperwork (for New York state) and consultation during which I showed my esthetician, Christine, my Helen Mirren photo (same as above) and said, “I want her eyebrows.” Which I can’t have because my brow line is different, so I had to settle for Vivian Swift eyebrows.

Fun fact: Christine told me that human faces are asymmetrical, which is why you really do have a “good” side, and keeping that in mind she tries to make eyebrows that are also slightly asymmetrical to look more natural. She informed me that I, however, have an unusually non-asymmetrical face. So this is what I want on my tombstone:

Here lies Vivian. She was very symmetrical.

Barbra Streisand’s famous GOOD side. She is NEVER photographed from the other side.

You are warned that when you finish your first microblading (that’s eyebrow tattoo-talk) session to to be alarmed. Your brows will look unnaturally dark. Rest assured, the ink will settle and fade into a more natural hue after a few weeks, at which time you will go back for a touch-up to perfect get your final semi-permanent brows. After that, you’ll only need to stop by every year or two to keep the brows looking spiffy.But when I saw my new eyebrows I was horrified. I felt as if I was ready for a starring role in kabuki theater. Like I was wearing Halloween make up. My eyebrows looked ridiculous! I was aghast, but Christine swore to me that the brows looked great and that I would get used to them. I wondered, What on earth have I done to myself???

Later that day I had to drive to the train station to pick up Top Cat and I was still extremely self-conscious about these weird things on my forehead. I put on extra eye make up in order to off-set my jarring appearance in the hopes that when Top Cat saw the New Me, he would not tell me what I already knew: that I had made a terrible, terrible mistake.

So Top Cat gets in the car and he looks at me carefully, searchingly, and at last he says: “I don’t see any difference.”

That is why I love this man. OK, sure, he has stopped looking at me since we first met 15 years ago — that is, has not updated his mental image of me since 2003 — but at this point in life, I am grateful for that.

Of course I am going to show you the new eyebrows:

My hair is not having a good day.

It’s been two weeks now and I have come to love my new eyebrows. And perhaps not coincidentally, a few days ago a new acquaintance guessed that I was in my 40s and we were in a room with fluorescent lighting. It’s the eyebrows. They take 20 years off your face. Also, my hair was having a very good day. And maybe she was extremely bad at guessing people’s age. Still, I love having eyebrows. Thank you, Helen Mirren.

OK, now that the exciting part of this week’s blog is over, let me catch you all up on the used book store news: Remember my rainbow display from last week? (Hint — that’s it, below.)

As I was flummoxed about what books to put on either side of this display, I asked for your help last week and I appreciated your feedback, Dear Readers. The sum of your advise was for me to think more outside of cliche, so I looked all over our shelves for something word-associative to Gay Pride to use but, as Steve said, you have to work with what you have on hand, and we don’t have a lot of poetry or art books:

It’s a small used book store with limited shelf space. Sometimes we have no idea where a book should go to be with its own kind, so I have to get creative with the labels.

Well, it beats “Miscellaneous”.

And then the obvious hit me, and this is now what is on either side of our rainbow stacks of books:

The second-most interesting book donation that came in last week was this:

This book was published in 1988, which would disqualify it even if it wasn’t full of “quizzes” you can take to know whether or not you really love your boyfriend, or how much he respects you, or if you should just be friends with your crush, etc., all of which had already been filled in and scored (you see now that this is the kind of junk we get all the time) but good lord, I just looked it up on and the book is out-of-print and there are only 2 old copies of this book for sale, one for $1,009.00 and the other for $5,930. Can those prices be for real??

Anyhoo, I did not throw it out because I love the ’80s clothing on the cover. It made me hum Bananrama all afternoon. . .

I say it all the time. I miss the ’80s.

. . . and I also did not throw this book away because the cover (and spine) are a shade of green that I desperately needed for one of my rainbow stack of books. So a vintage copy of Girltalk About Guys is sitting on the mantel in the used book store of the William Cullen Bryant Library of Roslyn, NY, if anyone wants to buy it. I’ll sell it for cheap. $200. All proceeds benefit the library.

And before I go, I must say something about Anthony Bourdain.

I say it all the time. I miss Obama.

After he got famous with his book about the underbelly of the restaurant business, Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain could have settled for a TV show on the Food network, to coast on his 15 minutes of fame for the rest of his life. But no, he went in a totally unexpected direction, hitting the road with a camera crew, traveling for 250 days a year to experience life way, way, way off the beaten track, or in some overlooked corner of America that made our own backyard seem like a foreign country. And although I am not all that interested in food, and most of the stuff he ate disgusted me (I don’t think we should eat animals), I always enjoyed Anthony Bourdain’s smart and snide and funny and sincere interpretations of the taste, sounds, smells, and feelings of food and drink.

He was also a role model in that he showed me how to stay curious, how to engage with new experiences, and how to stay cool in your 60s. He was always willing to experiment with his own comfort level, and seemed committed to discovering something authentic in every encounter, which is such a high level of engagement with life that constantly inspired me.   I will miss him.

Have a great weekend, Dear Readers. May you do something completely out of the ordinary, and come back and tell us all about it.


16 Comments, RSS

  1. jeanie June 15, 2018 @ 9:11 am

    That is exactly how I feel about Anthony Bourdain. I wouldn’t want his diet but I sure loved his take and the world attitude and sense of adventure. I’ll miss him.

    The eyebrows look great on both you and Helen but I think I’ll leave the option for more than two hours of pain on the table. There are reasons why I didn’t have children and many of them apply to eyebrow tattooing! That said, they do look great!

    And I love your categories for the library — a little bit of this and “defies categorization.” Those tend to be the spots I head first, the Miscellaneous, but your titles are so much better!

  2. Citizen Reader June 15, 2018 @ 9:36 am

    Hello, Gorgeous!

    I love the eyebrows, and of course you can’t go far wrong taking the beautiful and sassy Helen Mirren as your style icon. Good for you for taking a chance, even Anthony Bourdain never got his eyebrows tattooed, I’m pretty sure.

    I don’t miss Obama, but I am sad about Bourdain. Even with all its crazy chef machismo “Kitchen Confidential” was a great book. And I remember I saw an episode of one of his travel shows in Vietnam, when he looked around himself and wondered about why on earth the U.S. was ever there killing people.His loss is definitely that, a loss for all of us.

  3. Citizen Reader June 15, 2018 @ 9:39 am

    By the way, I TOTALLY miss 80s and 90s fashion. Sure it was boxy and flannel-y but it was also kind of kicky and fun and didn’t trade totally on clinging to every curve (which, in my case, is too many curves) and baring every inch of skin possible. I mean it’s fine and all, but I do think there was something about those decades that allowed women to feel feminine in a not-stereotypical way.
    If that makes any sense. Probably not. It’s been a long week.

  4. Felicia June 15, 2018 @ 12:05 pm

    The eyebrows are fantastic.

  5. Susan June 15, 2018 @ 1:13 pm

    Great new eyebrows. Amazing what a well defined brow can do. Shape and color looks to perfection. Love your new labels for random books that do not fit anyplace else. Sounds like you are instituting some improvements and some whimsy at the shop.

  6. Casey June 16, 2018 @ 9:38 am

    I laughed out loud at the cake decorating book. Nice touch.

    And I love Helen Mirren’s eyebrows, and I also love the Vivian Swift eyebrows. And now you can go into any biker bar and hang with the other tattooed patrons, including the heavily inked spirit of Anthony Bourdain. There is no one who can replace him, and as a travel writer yourself I know that you have a special appreciation of his unique style, as a writer and a wanderer.

    I wasn’t there in the ’80s but if I were, I would miss them too. Everything looked brighter and colorful back then, and I agree with Citizen Reader that these days clothes are all about how much body you can sow, no matter whether you have the figure for it or not.

    Give Taffycat a kiss for me.

  7. Steve June 16, 2018 @ 11:27 am

    I think the eyebrows look great! Bravo! What a good decision. It’s worth noting, though, that Helen Mirren did make at least one bad decision — appearing in “Caligula.” (Although, to be fair to her, it was before Bob Guccione got his mitts on the movie.)

    And a seriously INSPIRED idea for your gay book display, too.

    I have never understood why some prices on Amazon are so insane. I don’t think the sellers really expect to get that much money. There must be a purpose behind listings like that, but I don’t know what it is. It’s kind of cool, though, that the quizzes in your book have been filled out — a snapshot of teenage angst in late 20th Century America! Maybe worth a future blog post?!

  8. Kirra June 16, 2018 @ 7:08 pm

    Congratulations on your new eyebrows a la Helen Mirren. It sounds terribly painful, very impressed you got through it and that you have to go back again fot more pain. You and Helen look great though!

    I think many in the world miss President Obama and now Anthony Bourdain. I really enjoyed his tv shows and the way he explained his travelling, meeting new people and food.

    Your bookshop categories are great. I was very entertained by the Girl Talk book being donated fully completed – do you think that lowers or raises the price?! At least it was a decent shade of green for the rainbow.

  9. DonnaM. June 17, 2018 @ 11:33 am

    I just discovered your fabulous books and now I can extend my delight with your blog!

  10. Becky June 17, 2018 @ 11:40 am

    Love the eyebrows…..good decision.
    I felt so bad when I heard about Anthony Bourdain. The world is definitely an emptier place without him. And I miss Obama’s grace and gentleness.
    What is going on in our country makes me so sad…..when children can be torn from their parents and placed in camps is horrific. The idiot can blame whoever he wants but he owns this one.

  11. Julie-Anne June 20, 2018 @ 11:30 pm

    Tattooed eyebrows – not for me! I wouldn’t be able to stand the pain. I’m looking forward to your next book, to join the others I have. My husband and I went to Europe but despite being so close to Giverny, we did not get to Monet’s garden. Next visit for sure!
    I enjoyed reading about your book compilation process and I’d like to suggest that you buy a “Crop-o-dile”, which is a scrapbooking tool. It is way more ergonomic than the usual little hole punch. It is designed to cut through tough materials, such as cardboard, a CD and plastic. Much easier and less stress on your hand.

  12. Pat Bean June 21, 2018 @ 3:57 pm

    I loved this blog, but then I’ve been a big fan of Vivian Swift ever since I checked out “When Wanderers Cease to Roam.” I spent nine years traveling this country in a small RV with my canine companion Maggie (and wrote a book called Travels with Maggie) after I retired. I miss my wandering days, but like you still have awesome memories. Considering the eyebrow tattoo now.

  13. Patricia Hall June 22, 2018 @ 12:42 pm

    I still have eyebrows (for now) but my hairline has got bald spots! Quite possibly due to a rather nasty fall down a flight of stairs onto stone, landing mostly on my right shoulder. As I lay there post fall, I briefly hoped I’d dislocated my shoulder. Nope, smashed the hell out of my humerus bone. Evidently trauma can cause baldness, so I’m massaging in minoxidil twice daily in the hopes of re-growing some of the missing follicles.

    If it doesn’t, maybe tattooing a new hairline? Your eyebrows look subtle.

  14. Marilyn June 26, 2018 @ 11:41 pm

    I definitely will miss Anthony Bourdain. So sad!!!
    Eyebrows! Wow! Yours look great. I have never thought about it, but now you have me thinking. One day my husband asked me why I pluck them. I don’t! They have just disappeared!

  15. Nancy June 28, 2018 @ 7:50 am

    Just discovered your art, then your blog, ordered two of your books and then headed back to your blog to read this particular entry.

    Oh my, did I need this today!!!! Thanks for a wonderful laugh… I literally had tears rolling down my cheeks and I haven’t done that since November 9, 2016.

    I too miss President Obama and Anthony Bourdain and I will forever be grateful for the inspiration they both added to my life.

    My eyebrows are fading and I’m going to have to live with that… I just don’t look in the mirror with my eyeglasses on… that way I don’t see the wrinkles either.

    Vivian, you are a joyful addition to my journey as an artist and writer. Cheers!

    • Vivian July 3, 2018 @ 10:04 am

      Hi Nancy —

      Whatever it is that brings you to VivianWorld makes me happy. I have heard that my illustrations are “out there” in Pinterest, which I have no control over, but that’s a good thing. I love how the internet, when it works with peace ad love, brings us together. Glad to “know” you!

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