It’s not like he was the first person to say I have a schnoze. I knew it. I often complained of it’s large size.I fantasized all through high school of getting a rhinoplasty (As an aside, they had to call it that? RHINOplasty? Way to make it just that much worse.). Even family members told me I had drawn the genetic short stick in this area. My grandmother made pronouncements about my poor “nose bridge.” My dad said I had inherited my mom’s “clown nose.” And my cousin Quiana just summed it up with “You’ve got a big nose, Lee.” But, to her credit, she added that I was “still cute.” Blech. Who wants that consolation prize?
Months ago I read an article on CNN that stopped me in my e-tracks: “Learning to love my big nose.” WHOA! The writer, Kat Kinsman, had put it all out there.
With a boyish bowl haircut and an outsized nose as the prow of my moon-pale face, I did not sail easily through the rites of womanhood. I was ugly and was told so, both in words and by omission. I remain unsure which was worse: being directly informed of my unattractiveness, or simply never being told I was the least bit lovely. Sure, it’s all skin deep, but it can sink in and leave a scar.
After a “Mean Girls” experience on a field trip involving popular girls tormenting her and especially her “witch” nose, she experienced a dramatic shift.
Something in me fractured that night, and as it shifted, another part freed. There was no way I’d ever be beautiful — so I didn’t have to try.It’s astonishing how liberating that felt. I could focus on the things that brought me some measure of happiness while I was plotting my escape from my small town. I painted, I edited the yearbook, I wrote horrible angsty poems, I made weird and delightful friends and talked to boys like they were actual human beings, because I knew there was no chance they’d think such a funny looking girl was flirting with them.
In the first few weeks of art school, I ceased to hide, stuck a ring through my right nostril, dyed my hair the most shocking shades I could find on the shelves and was surprised as a person could be when a boy said he loved me. It flamed hard and burned out quickly, and I assumed he’d just been kindly enough to overlook my obvious facial deformities — though he surely seemed to spend a lot of time painting pictures of the rest of me.And then it happened again. Only this time it was different. I looked across the diner table to see my new boyfriend Jon and our friend Helen staring at me rather intently. I instinctively grabbed a napkin to blot my lipstick, and yanked my flaming crimson hair down over my face. “What?”Helen nodded contemplatively. “It’s your nose. Definitely your nose.”Jon agreed. “Yep. Definitely.”The grilled cheese sandwich I’d been enjoying suddenly threatened to reappear on the table. I could not take this. Not from the two of them, who I’d started to find essential in my world. “My nose…what?!”“It’s the thing that makes you beautiful. Like, it doesn’t look like anyone else’s. It’s the thing that makes you look like you.” Helen went back to chewing her fries.“Yep,” Jon said. He returned to Helen’s fries, and I quietly imploded inside.
When I read Kat’s story, I got teary-eyed and felt that ache in my chest. Being a big-nosed girl, I could totally relate. While I didn’t embrace mine to far later, I decided years ago that I since I’d never be beautiful or an “It” girl, I could ride out my youth comfortably as a nerd. I got straight A’s and a full ride to college. I took poetry classes and wrote about music for two of the university papers. I eventually got a nose ring, too. Since I couldn’t hide it, I figured I’d decorate it. Wearing glasses became part of my persona. I have knock down, stop-traffic, gorgeous friends. I learned to appreciate walking at the green in the crosswalk.
Then of course, I met K. My handsome man has a nose much like mine. We laugh and say it’s the family nose. Family… which brings me to Zoe. There’s a better than good chance that she’ll inherit it. And my little girl is my catalyst. Similar to how I refuse to pass to her my love-hate relationship with my small breasts, kinky hair, feet or thighs, Z will know a rose is still a rose, even with a big nose.