A new start after 60: ‘Microblading my eyebrows gave me the

When Linda Parker turned 60, she made a list. For the past 30 years, she had looked after other people, first as a carer for her dad, and then as a single parent of a daughter. Now she wanted some fun for herself alone. The first thing she wrote down was “microblade eyebrows”.

Before her birthday, she had looked in the mirror and seen a face she says she “barely recognised. I had no eyebrows. I had completely lost them. I felt pallid and invisible.” She has no idea “where or when” her brows disappeared – they must have gone gradually – but she thinks stress may have been to blame.

Microblading involves tattooing hair-like strokes, “little tiny cuts with a teeny tiny machine,” says Parker. When she told her daughter, Lara, her plan, she told her to be careful. “Right up to the day before, I thought, ‘I’m not sure I’m going to do this,’” says Parker. She braced herself for pain, but the discomfort was less than she had expected.

Her new eyebrows were “the first positive step” towards a new way of living. The swelling quickly subsided and the scabs dropped off. That one small step triggered several large leaps.

“Having eyebrows back gave me the confidence to apply for another job,” says Parker. At the time, she was working as a learning support assistant for children with special needs; she had sought a job in education after her partner left when Lara was three months old. By then, she had cared for her father, who had suffered a serious brain injury, for 10 years until his death. She learned she had an aptitude for caring.

The job she saw advertised at an arts centre in Guildford was very different. “It was for the guest experience team: taking tickets, selling ice-creams. I thought they would probably say: “She’s too old. We won’t take her.” At the interview, though, they asked when she could start.

“I am now trained in stage-door protocol – meeting famous people, organising keys and cards. It has given me my mojo back,” she says. “I look forward to every shift. It’s very energising. You are keeping up with different people’s opinions and viewpoints.” She continues to work in a school, too. “I come home and I can be absolutely shattered, but the minute I get to the theatre, they are such a lovely crowd. And it’s given me the confidence to try other things as well.”

The “other things” include salsa dancing, wild swimming and standup paddle boarding. Further successes from her list include “achieving fudge that sets” and trying to make a difference – she has shared her home with a Ukrainian refugee.

Has a defined pair of eyebrows really spurred so much change? “I definitely wouldn’t have done any of this otherwise,” says Parker. At every landmark age, she says, there’s a natural inclination to think: “That bit’s passed me, now what’s going to happen?” She did not want to accept that “nothing exciting is going to happen now”. The eyebrows made it possible “[to] look in the mirror and think: ‘I’m never going to get rid of the wrinkles, but I’ve got a more defined and expressive face. I look what I would call normal again.’”

Parker was 42 when Lara was born, so her 60th birthday coincided with her daughter’s 18th. “I suppose that was also part of the catalyst,” she says. “I thought it was time to put a bit more fun into life. It was fun bringing her up. We have a great relationship. But as a single parent, you are always responsible.

“I didn’t want her to think I was sat at home like some sad sack doing nothing.”

Parker says she “grew up in the era where women and older people don’t get chances”. More than anything, the eyebrows were a promise. “I’m not going to be defined by what I thought I couldn’t do when I was younger,” she says. “I’ve proved to myself that limits and barriers are often internal – and that people are kinder than you think when other people have a go and try something new.”