How can I get my brother to pluck his unibrow?
December 18, 2012 6:58 AM   Subscribe

How can I get my brother to pluck his unibrow or want to improve his image? He is 25, doesn't maintain his beard/sideburns and has very thick unibrow. He uses a wheelchair and I'm afraid his appearance is giving off the wrong impression.

He has CP but it only affects his legs so mentally he's the same as any other 25 year old. But he refuses to do anything about his appearance. I have not said anything to him about it since he was a teen but he is trying to find a job and I wish he would let me help him with his appearance. Right now he looks like the kind of person who smells bad. If I didn't know him, I wouldn't give him a job...or sit next to him on the bus.

Is there anything I could say or do? I don't want to hurt his feelings.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (33 answers total)
I would say this is probably none of your business.
posted by Ted Maul at 7:06 AM on December 18, 2012 [16 favorites]

he refuses to do anything about his appearance
I wish he would let me help him with his appearance

You don't say whether he has actually come right out and said "I do not want you commenting on my appearance, ever, at all," or if he just sorta seems not to want to bother with it and you haven't pushed the issue. Could you email a moderator and get them to clarify?
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:07 AM on December 18, 2012

You're his sibling, you're allowed to hurt his feelings. I talk to my sister like this all the time.

"Dude, right now you look sketchy as hell. Do some manscaping. I can recommend a place. It's cheap and I promise, you'll get jobs and you'll get laid. Let's go get a beer."

He may have other self-esteem issues but the things you're talking about are totally fixible.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:08 AM on December 18, 2012 [27 favorites]

Unless he asks you for help either directly ("help me get a job") or indirectly ("man, why can't I get a job?"), then it is none of your business.

Right now he looks like the kind of person who smells bad. If I didn't know him, I wouldn't give him a job...or sit next to him on the bus.

This sounds more like YOUR problem/ignorance/judgment, not his.
posted by TinWhistle at 7:11 AM on December 18, 2012 [13 favorites]

First, I'd think about why you want to tell him. Are you embarrassed for him, does it bother you? If that's your motivation - skip it. It's his body, he can groom or not how he chooses.

If your primary motivation is to help him get a job, however, I would bring it up one time. I would say something like, "I think your appearance is hurting your job prospects; I think that if you maintained your facial hair - your sideburns and eyebrows - differently, it would really help you get a job. I can help you out with that, and I'll pay for you to get it done." If he doesn't take you up on it, drop it, and don't bring it up again.
posted by insectosaurus at 7:13 AM on December 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

I have not said anything to him about it since he was a teen but he is trying to find a job and I wish he would let me help him with his appearance.

This is good news, because if/when he does ask you for your help or opinion, you'll have some suggestions for him.

he refuses to do anything about his appearance.

His body, his choice.
posted by headnsouth at 7:23 AM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Does he complain about not being able to get a girlfriend or keep friendships? If yes, then perhaps take him to a stylist or barber. But, not maintaining one's appearance is also a form of self-expression. And I agree that siblings are allowed to tell each other these things.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 7:31 AM on December 18, 2012

There are many ways to approach this depending on your relationship. I'd probably act like I was asking him for a favor, like "oh let me tweeze you, it's weirdly fun for me & I'm curious about how it would look". "Oh, I like picking out clothes but I already have too many, can we go get an interview outfit for you?"It would help if you're known for liking this stuff already. My older sisters got me to do a lot this way, making it all seem like a fun project instead of a pity charity good deed.

Lots of approaches might work just as well, if he's open to it. If he's not, well...
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:32 AM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Growing up, I was taught that honesty about these types of issues is better coming from people who love/care about you rather than a stranger who may be inconsiderate.

It might be awkward, but really the worst that can happen is being brushed off or a tiny argument (depending on how you address it and if he's too sensitive).

Just bring it up casually when you two are talking. Be polite about it, possibly make a joke out of it, but don't make a whole ordeal over it either. If he still decides not to do anything with his appearance, well then it's his choice but at least someone's telling him that he might want to spruce up his appearance.
posted by livinglearning at 7:38 AM on December 18, 2012

I'd frame the quick talk as a 'let me help you get a job' pep talk, rather than a 'your grooming sucks' talk. If he is looking for a job it's dead easy to say 'let me take you out and spiff you up so you can get the kind of job you deserve'. Take a before and after pic and praise the HELL out of the new and improved him. Offer to help him spiff up his résumé too!
posted by PorcineWithMe at 7:39 AM on December 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

This is your problem, not his. Keep your opinion to yourself until he solicits it.
posted by Sternmeyer at 7:53 AM on December 18, 2012

I kind of feel like people who are saying MYOB may not have brothers or sisters (or good relationships with them, anyway). In my experience, this is exactly what brothers and sisters can do for each other, that nobody else can (not even parents).

Just as sis can say, "hey bro, you're looking a little raggy - want some help?", bro can say, "sure, you're the best!" or "geez sis, get off my case" just as easily right back.

I mean, use your best judgement, but brother/sister relationships generally support these kind of interactions without all the super-touchy boundary issues that would otherwise exist in this kind of situation.

If you've already brought it up and been rebuffed, then maybe it's not such a great idea to keep pushing on it, but as a sister you DEFINITELY get at least one pass on this kind of thing.
posted by Aquaman at 8:10 AM on December 18, 2012 [26 favorites]

If he's has an unruly bushy beard that is untrimmed and he complains about not getting any interviews/advancing past interviews or asks for specific advice you could mention that in your/your friends' experience having a shave or short, kept beard is a big boost for their employment. It's within sibling rights as long as you don't out of the blue start telling him he needs to shave. However, get over the eyebrows, that's your own hang up. I highly doubt that anyone interviewing a man would think not waxing between their eyebrows showed a lack of discipline. Most men don't bother.
posted by itsonreserve at 8:15 AM on December 18, 2012

[Helpful answers please, thank you.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:20 AM on December 18, 2012

Likewise that siblings can be a little more forward than others. Nthing that if he seems unhappy or has expressed interest in friends/relationships/jobs but isn't successful that you should be just tell him that he looks like a weirdo and that you want to help. If he seems otherwise content though, don't bother.
posted by greta simone at 8:27 AM on December 18, 2012

I would shift your approach from "How can I get him to do X?" to "Should I bring this up, and if so, how?" Because there's no answer to how you "get" a 25-year-old adult to do something he doesn't care to do.

I do think that if this is something you haven't mentioned and if he seems receptive to other kinds of job advice (meaning he hasn't already said "leave me alone about job stuff; I'll get one when I get one"), you might be able to say, "You know, unfortunately, when you're at the front end of job inquiries, some people are judgy about stuff like big beards. It might help to do a trim-up while you're interviewing." That, you could probably get away with, and it's about as much as you can do.

He's an adult; if he hasn't requested help, all you can really do is give a little bit of advice, and then either he takes it or he doesn't.

And I agree with others who have noted that your own attitude about people who have facial hair or "smell bad" might need a little bit of examination as well.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 8:44 AM on December 18, 2012

I'm afraid his appearance is giving off the wrong impression

It is only "wrong" if it is counter to how your brother intends to come across. It may be off-putting in many social/work environments but that doesn't make it wrong. He may fully intend to look unkempt!

Still, you can certainly point out the disconnect between his appearance and the type of job he is trying to land, but you'll get further faster by foregoing the right/wrong attitude.

Even better, get some good looking women to come to your assistance.

Remember the scene early in "Wild America" where the protagonist gets a teasing talking-to by the college girls? With very few words those girls turned that boy's life around, "Come see us when you grow up."

One or two (seeming) off-hand comments from an attractive woman can change the world. Or, at least, his world.
posted by trinity8-director at 9:01 AM on December 18, 2012

Gift him a spa day? Including massage, time in a steam room, hot shave/beard trimming, haircut and oh yeah, eyebrow grooming. This way he still has the option to refuse any of the treatments if he has specific issues with it (one of my guy friends had an almost-phobia about hair being plucked from *any* part of his body, so this happens), but if he's at all curious, hey it was your idea and it's already paid for, he'd probably at least give it a try.
posted by aiglet at 9:29 AM on December 18, 2012

Agree that this is exactly the type of communication/criticism/advice that happens when sibling relationships are healthy and productive. Parents teach the kids a lot but it's the lucky kid who has siblings who can and do guide him through the contemporary social jungle, which parents can no longer navigate because they're too old.
posted by Rash at 9:34 AM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

If he's in a wheelchair, then it might be very difficult for him to get very close to a mirror and do some necessary manscaping, especially if all of the mirrors in the house are over counters or sinks. The difficulty of getting close to a mirror can be a huge turn-off to him.

You can encourage him to manscape by making it easier to perform certain activities such as plucking or shaving.

Can you get him a large mirror and wash basin that he can easily rest in his lap or on a low-profile table? Ideally, the mirror should rest at his head level or lower, because it's much easier to look down at a mirror than it is to look up at one.

Also, are there any mirrors in the house at his head height? He might not be seeing himself on a day-to-day basis like you do. It's best that you put one such mirror in the bathroom that he showers in, because people are more likely to groom themselves when they are performing other hygiene-keeping-related activities.
posted by nikkorizz at 9:52 AM on December 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Ask him how the job hunt is going. If he says it isn't going well, and that he's not sure how to improve his chances, tell him that you believe personal grooming is a really important part of making a good first impression at a job interview, and that if he's up to it you'd like to get him a few nice shirts, a solid job-appropriate haircut, and some "manscaping" (or help him do it at home) for his next interview.

That, plus echoing the comments regarding mirrors in the home and such. Think about how closely you get to look at a mirror while using two hands to groom, and think how difficult such a thing is for him; he can't just lean in, and handheld mirrors take up a hand.
posted by davejay at 10:36 AM on December 18, 2012

But he refuses to do anything about his appearance.

Has he actually explicitly rejected the idea of doing stuff about his appearance, or has he just not done anything (yet). Because a male growing up in American culture can get the message that it's not good for him to spend time or energy on his appearance. And if all that's happening is moving from off-putting to not off-putting, it's a little hard to get excited about that.

I'm mostly putting this here in response to the people saying "his body, his choice". He may not be aware he has a choice. (I'm saying this out of personal experience.) So I don't know if that's his situation, or what your relationship with him is like, but you could try one morning over breakfast giving him a quick scan in the face and saying "Y'know, bro, if you put a little bit of effort into keeping that whole facial hair thing a little more under control, I bet you'd get a better response from the ladies. Heck, from other people too. I'd be glad to show you some stuff.", and then go back to eating your cereal. You've presented the option to him, offered your help, and now it is his choice.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:01 AM on December 18, 2012

My brother finally dealt with his unibrow after being cornered by my friends in highschool who demanded to be allowed to pluck it. Now he doesn't pluck, he uses a razor, which isn't great, but at least he no longer has a unibrow. I think upfront and honest is the only way to get a change, and while it is sad, it is probably affect his job prospects. I don't recommend pinning him down or anything, but a clear discussion about these sorts of things and an offer to help or find someone else to do it is worth it.
posted by katers890 at 11:26 AM on December 18, 2012

"Hey, bro, let me treat you to {set of grooming services you think he needs} at {establishment you have already ascertained is comfortable with and experienced in serving clients who use wheelchairs}. I think it might help with your job interviews if you came off a bit more corporate."
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:27 AM on December 18, 2012

A lot of 25 year old men need professional grooming advice. They've cultivated the slubby look through high school and college. Normally they get this from their friends and siblings so yeah, I'd tell him. Nicely but firmly.
posted by fshgrl at 12:41 PM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

To be frank, it seems like you're not thinking about why this might be more of a challenge to him than to someone who wasn't experiencing cerebral palsy. Not knowing what your bro's particular issues with mobility and fine motor control might be I'm just going on the experiences of friends and colleagues with the same diagnosis, but putting tweezers or razors near enough his eyes to do brow thinning might feel totally daunting, and finding a spa or barbershop that is good at serving clients in wheelchairs might also feel totally daunting.

Hence my suggestion above of doing legwork on the latter in advance. You might also ask on CP support forums and see if other men living with CP have tips or advice.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:58 PM on December 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

You're his sibling, you're allowed to hurt his feelings. I talk to my sister like this all the time.

My sister's tendency to say mean things to me under the guise of being helpful (when I don't consider her a role model or anybody to look up to) is what caused me to cut off contact with her for months/years at a time. The world is probably hurtful enough that being nice and understanding his perspective instead of overempathizing is most important in figuring out if it's okay to risk hurting his feelings.
posted by discopolo at 1:08 PM on December 18, 2012 [5 favorites]

Those of us who have not seen how grungy your brother looks might underestimate the problem.
It is not unusual for people to resist change, or for some guys to consider cosmetic changes 'girly'. Try again using one of the light-hearted approaches up thread.
posted by Cranberry at 1:36 PM on December 18, 2012

Depends on your relationship. I've told my sister to floss her teeth, she has told me when I look huge in a dress. In my situation- I am with the "that's what siblings are for" group.
Apparently some siblings don't work the same way... but I would still mention it. If he tells you to MYOB- well, at least you tried.
posted by KogeLiz at 2:02 PM on December 18, 2012

I have a visible physical disability! It is true--we do have less of a margin for error. You should not torment him. But if it's obviously a problem you should say something. You're his sister. No one else is going to. Say it once and then again eight months later or something like that. Then take him shopping, etc., if possible. Then drop it.

Try to do it when he is in a position of strength. "That is a hot-looking shirt. I love it. Listen, I'd want you to say something to me. The monobrow has got to go."
posted by skbw at 6:56 PM on December 18, 2012

I would think if he hasn't asked directly then it is none of your business. Even if it is well meant that kind of criticism can be hurtful, and it is worse coming from family members if you are stuck living with them!

If he asks indirectly like "man why can't I get a job?" then maybe you can offer it as a suggestion. But before you do - make sure he is really asking for suggestions and not just having a moan.
posted by EatMyHat at 1:19 AM on December 19, 2012

Also on the CP thing, is he subject to more discrimination, staring and subtle put-downs than other people without a disability would be? Because if so I could see the incentive to keep a few visible imperfections going, so he can say the rejection/ discrimination is due to lack of effort and not a part of him he can't change. I might be way off beam here, but I feel like that sometimes because I have some quirky habits to accommodate a mild physical impairment.
posted by EatMyHat at 1:34 AM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Christmas is upon us; give the gift of a men's spa gift certificate, one that features straight-razor shaves and eyebrow waxing.
posted by item at 1:50 AM on December 19, 2012

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