My Basement Frida

Harvard Essay: What is an intellectual experience (course, project, book, discussion, paper or research topic) that has meant the most to you?


It is raining, and I am measuring the length of Frida Kahlo’s unibrow with a ruler – eleven inches and a half. When I was ten, my fifth grade teacher Mrs. Hoef said that ancient Egyptians had pharaohs and priests. My mother tells me that Frida was born in her hometown of Mexico City, but I believe my mother is lying because Frida’s eyes say she was a pharaoh.

The tapestry of Frida Kahlo hangs in my basement. The only wall décor my parents deemed necessary is this tribute to the famous Mexican artist. I like my basement Frida. Mrs. Hoef says we have third eyes, and I often wonder if Frida’s third eye can see out from behind her unibrow.

One day, my friend says “Why does that lady have a unibrow? Why is she so brown?”

I do not know how to reply to this because I had not wondered about the connection between the brow and the pigmentation of skin. I feel very much ashamed, the way I think the Egyptians would have felt had their pyramid angles been off. This becomes a ritual: the Frida-questions, the shame-turned-guilt-turned-disgust. I beg my mother to stop packing me quesadillas for lunch, to stop buying me books on the unibrow lady. I turn the music off in the car when I hear Ojalá by Silvio Rodriguez. I decide that I need to...

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