For Me, It’s My Nose
Prose by Katrina Martin
Art by Kathy Nguyen
I recently read an article about why I should get a nose job. It was written by an illustrious Instagram influencer who had recently undergone the knife. I imagine she had regurgitated the same spiel in defense of her new honker over and over to probing quibblers until she finally threw up her hands in frustration and told them they can find the damn-link-in-bio.
Overall, the piece was well-formulated. It opened with a tragic chronicle of exactly when she realized her nose was not only flawed but cursed! by a wicked witch who assured her that she would never find true love or – even more unthinkable – never have two million followers and a career of posing with flat tummy teas. With astounding persuasion, the article assured readers that they too have noses to be fixed and curses to be broken. If, by some act of God, you began the article assuming your nose was okay, by paragraph four you were convinced that your nose was too big or too small or resembled the wrong Italian hillside. Having convinced you that you were certainly not being vain, darling, simply pragmatic, it finished with a step-by-step guide outlining precisely how to break said curse:
- Save enough money (either by foregoing student debt or acquiring a sugar-daddy)
- Find a suitable surgeon (if the sugar-daddy doubles as a surgeon, this even better)
- Fix your snout (thus healing not only your face but your life, emotional issues, and childhood trauma!)
It was all very convincing, complete with before and after shots of celebrity nose jobs and quotes from the happy survivors.
As I read, my fingers unconsciously rose to feel my own nose – the dip in the bridge and sharp bump where it changes direction. I know every quirk of my funky nose; I know how it looks from every angle, in every light or season. From the side, the slope looks like someone attempted to draw a straight line while driving over a pothole. I always assumed God had a few too many and let his knife slip in the carving process, but maybe he fastened it to my face very emphatically saying, “Ah, and this will give her character.”
Either way, I am conscious of this flaw in the way your mother prays you will never be, and I make jokes about it in the way your friends hope you won’t, for no one quite knows how to respond. I once challenged myself to describe my appearance from a third-person perspective. She was beautiful, I wrote, with a nose that made her approachable.
I remember chuckling and thinking myself infinitely clever and abounding in wit. Perhaps my aberrant nose had not only made me approachable but hilarious as well. However, upon showing this sentence to a friend the response was the sad half-laugh and furrowing of the brow which typically follows self-berating behavior. I was clearly supposed to be quietly diffident, unaware of the peculiarity of my nose.
I was, however, vividly aware of its eccentricity since primary school, when I realized that my best friend’s nose didn’t curve down at the end. I was an exceptionally vain child, and spent hours pushing my nose upwards as if that would change the structural integrity of my face.
My parents were raised Mennonite, which – for those who don’t know – means almost-Amish. As a result, I was also raised almost-Amish, or more-or-less Mennonite. However, soon after they were married they left the Mennonite church. It was unheard of, and though my parents are certainly the most conservative folk I have ever met, they were considered revolutionaries in their circle at the time. And so, unlike my parents, I was raised with a full education and television, but like they were, I was instilled with strict beliefs concerning humility.
While my parents happily waived the Amish rules concerning black dresses and courting, the rules of meekness were strongly indoctrinated. “Pride goeth before a fall,” my mother would say with reproaching raised eyebrows if ever she caught a whiff of confidence in any of her five children. Self-love and pride were synonymous, and as pride was considered the deadliest of sins, self-love was also fatal. Not that we were to hate ourselves, necessarily, but simply not to think of ourselves at all.
So, when I petulantly told my mother I hated my nose and thought it was ugly, she did not cup my face in her hands and tell me I was beautiful, but instead she grounded me for being vain. Admittedly, I was an exasperating child and she had probably just had it “up to here” with me. But through that time I learned two things about insecurities: they are ungodly, and they are electric. We become hyper aware of every glance, every comparison, every comment.
I remember sitting at the dinner table when my brother, in true little-brother fashion, said my nose looked like a ski slope and proceeded to ski his two fingers down my face, vaulting off the bump in the middle, back-flipping and landing beside the butter.
And I remember the first man who offhandedly said he loved my nose, and in turn I said I loved him too.
Researchers have concluded that the ideal female nose is slightly upturned, the optimal curvature exactly 106 degrees. They say further research is still required to determine whether a “more ideal projection exists”, so we can determine precisely how many degrees we are from perfection, just how far we have to go. And it seems the distance is only increasing; the blade of the surgeon’s knife wedging a gap between what we are and what we should be.
For me, it’s my nose. For you, it may be your thick thighs or grey hair or no-makeup-face. The time I spent pushing my nose upwards, others have spent this time sucking in their guts or contorting their bodies in the mirror. The truth is, every human carries insecurities. Nay, we do not carry but drag them – like a suitcase of stones we insist on lugging around no matter how cumbersome, we cling to our burdens with white-knuckled grips.
My life has been haunted by a voice telling me to be more, more, and it is only upon listening closer that I realize this voice is not that of my well-meaning mother, my pestering brother, nor is it society’s whiny pleading which provokes this dissatisfaction. It is my voice. Far too often, we voluntarily give our insecurities the voice they need to have any sort of power. And while this fact strips us of someone to blame, it also arms us with the power to silence this voice. And, if for now we cannot silence it, it may be enough simply to change its tune. I now happily refer to my nose as a ski-slope, joking that at least it would not be a hill for beginners.
A life spent in pursuit of perfection is not only unfulfilling, or stale or even ungodly; it is simply exhausting. May we learn to love ourselves now, in all our crooked glory, lest we arrive at the finish line harried and desperate, only to find we had spent our whole lives chasing shadows.