Nose Job

Kate: It’s actually really hard for me to talk about my nose job, because it’s so stigmatized, but let me try. I keep telling myself I’ll start talking about it. I’ll probably post on it a few times, since there’s a lot to the story.

If you’ve seen the video I did you may be asking yourself, “Wait…that’s the nose you ended up with afterward?? Exactly how big was it BEFORE??” The surgery was actually pretty unsuccessful. I was in the 5% of cases where something goes wrong, and my nose now is mostly the same as my nose before, except that the bridge is slightly thinner and it’s crooked where it didn’t used to be. My surgeon looked confused and apologetic. He offered to try again. Thanks, nose doctor.

But rather than get into all the creatively disturbing words I need to use when I yell at the guy, let me talk about the really important part, which was the motivation to get this surgery in the first place.

I used to like my nose, when I was really young. I remember the moment when that changed.

I was fourteen and hanging out with some friends. There was a new girl there too.
She was just standing there, scowling and angry about something she wouldn’t share. Then she suddenly turned to me and said, “You know, I have a friend whose father could help you out.”
I asked, “What do you mean?”
“You know, with your nose.”

I said, “My nose?” I didn’t understand but had an abrupt sick feeling, as though my arms had been pinned and I was waiting to be punched.

“Um, yeah. He’s a plastic surgeon.” Her face said, “Obviously.”

The room was completely silent. I didn’t have any idea how to respond
Then my friend Kaila said, “There’s nothing wrong with Kate’s nose!”

The girl made a little dismissive sound that might have been a laugh. She didn’t believe a word of it.
“I like your nose,” Kaila told me.

“I like it too,” I said slowly. Perhaps amazingly, it was the first time someone had ever told me something negative about my appearance. I couldn’t look at anyone.

Emily insisted that she do a photo shoot of me a couple days before my surgery. Yes, I always wear gold high heels in the garden.

In college, I knew the girl had been right. I got a nose job when I was twenty-two, the summer before graduate school.  When I told my parents what I wanted to do, Mom was crushed. “I’ve failed,” she said. “I thought I taught you how beautiful you are.”

Dad shook his head sadly, and Mom said, “Why do you hate your own face?” She got up and left.

“I don’t hate it,” I explained to Dad. “I just know I’d be happier if I could make my nose a little different.”
He nodded. “It’s your choice. It’s your face. You’re the one who has to look at it in the mirror for the rest of your life.”

But I’d lied. I did hate it. I hated my face so intensely that sometimes just looking in the mirror made me feel like I would cry with anger and disappointment. How had I become this? It wasn’t anything obvious. No one ever said anything as mean as that girl again. I always had a boyfriend who told me I was gorgeous and perfect and exotically Jewish. But my nose became the symbol of everything unattractive about me. It was the most obviously different thing, in my mind. And I was obviously different.

I thought if I fixed the most obviously bad thing, I’d fix everything I hated about myself.

Did it work? Take a wild guess… It’s really not that simple. Do I regret my decision? No. Because you know what? If I hadn’t done it I’d still be thinking there was a distinct, hugely improved world of self-esteem on the other side of that surgery. And I’m glad I know the truth now.

Everyone: I know this was depressing. Has anyone else gone this far to change the way they feel about themselves? I don’t think cosmetic surgery gets addressed as much as eating disorders. Maybe it should be.


Kate on March 23rd 2010 in beauty, nose

26 Responses to “Nose Job”

  1. fitforfree responded on 23 Mar 2010 at 1:40 pm #

    this is SO POWERFUL — and we can all relate, one way or another. There always seems to be a better, more confident “self” on the other side of the curtain, whether the curtain is your nose, your butt, your legs, your fitness level, or whatever. I haven’t had cosmetic surgery, but I’ve definitely starved myself in pursuit of a better/happier self.
    I want to kick that girl!!!!

  2. Melissa responded on 23 Mar 2010 at 3:37 pm #

    This is such a great post! You know, for years I hated my nose. I still have my days when I loathe that little bump in it from when I smashed it on a diving board. I thought I’d be happier if I had it changed, but I remember reading something once that said something to the effect of “it’s the imperfections that make you perfect.”

    Now, as one who consistently degrades herself when looking in the mirror, it might sound hard to believe that I took that to heart, but I did. I wouldn’t change my nose for anything now…everything else…that’s still a work in process.

    P.S. That girl is lucky I wasn’t there, or I would have kicked her ass for you :)

  3. Julie responded on 23 Mar 2010 at 3:38 pm #

    Thank you for this post. I so clearly remember the first time a peer said my nose was “big” (it’s not, it’s thin and a little long), and it was all over for me. I’d never thought my nose was ugly before that comment, but then I was obsessed with looking at my profile in the mirror to see the “problem,” and I thought a lot about a nose job. Never had one. Now I’m glad. I am learning to recognize the beauty in having a nose that’s somewhat different for most – but it’s been long in coming…

  4. Gena responded on 23 Mar 2010 at 3:41 pm #

    This was an amazing post. Thanks.

    The idea that happiness lies on the other side of a cosmetic “fix” is just one of the many, many heartbreaking myths that women have been fed in an attempt to keep us self-loathing and easy to manipulate. You did your part today in punching a hole in the lies.

  5. janetha responded on 23 Mar 2010 at 5:34 pm #

    great post. and you are right, cosmetic surgery definitely is not addressed enough. thanks for sharing your story.

  6. Kaila responded on 23 Mar 2010 at 6:02 pm #

    I grew up with Kate, and I always remember thinking she was absolutely gorgeous. She was my role model for years, and I remember having a similar experience as Kate with my body. I never even thought about how I looked until I began attending public school in 7th grade. We were both homeschooled, and were never exposed to the harsh criticism of public school until later in life. I think everyone has a certain feature that they wish they could change, and I hope that it doesn’t always have to be that way.

  7. Kate responded on 23 Mar 2010 at 7:45 pm #

    @ everyone: Thanks for the strong, supportive responses! It’s really a relief to be able to talk about this. Melissa, thanks for the offer to kick that girl’s ass :) I wonder what ever happened to her…I really don’t understand to this day how girls can be that openly cruel to each other.

    Julie, even if your nose WAS really big, wouldn’t it be great if that didn’t have to make you feel terrible? There are surprisingly strict beauty standards for people’s faces as well as their bodies.

    fitforfree– Thank you for bringing up fitness level. Something we should talk more about sometime.

    Kaila– I want to hear your story, too! I’m actually going to do a post on homeschooling (maybe a few), so thank you for mentioning that. You and I have had a very unique path…. <3

  8. Joanne responded on 24 Mar 2010 at 12:30 am #

    I don’t know how some girls can be so cruel to each other either – but to be completely honest, from my personal experience with other girls/women and my own family, I suspect that the girl who pointed out your nose had been victim to the same criticisms about her appearance at home.
    I have issues with a lot of parts of myself too, including my own nose, but lately I realized that I’m not defined by a single characteristic, even if it’s one that I’m not happy with. I have been battling bad skin for over 10 years, and that’s been the biggest cause of my anxiety and low self esteem. I’ve done a few procedures to simply control it, but I just feel helpless about it, even now at 24.
    I’m really glad that you shared this story with us. Cosmetic surgery is a strange topic, especially for Asians where eye and nose jobs are as common as fancy handbags, and the parents seem to encourage this sort of procedure. I used to think there was this unhealthy stigma around it, like it was only for the extremely superficial, but at the same time, women pay ridiculous amounts of money to keep up with the latest fashions and obtain the latest beauty products. Yeah.. it’s weird.
    However, it does seem frightening how much botox is standard for women these days, especially in the office I work… Are wrinkles really that scary?

  9. Kate responded on 24 Mar 2010 at 3:35 am #

    @Joanne: Thanks for bringing up the racial/ethnic aspects of cosmetic surgery. The stigma is definitely different depending on the community, but even in the communities where it’s almost expected (the Jewish community can be like this too, though maybe not to the same extent), I’d guess there’s still a sense that you’re a failure as a woman if you have to get surgery, because you’re not already “beautiful.” Also, you appear vain.

    Much like Emily mentioned in her video, I’m already concerned about the pressure I’ll feel when I’m older to conform to a strange standard of beauty that involves a lot of botox. It’s hard to fight something when the people who subscribe to it look “better” as a result. After all, we don’t control the way beauty is evaluated in society. But then, if we don’t fight it, who the hell will?

    I think that feeling of helplessness is pretty common. I definitely feel that way a lot.

  10. Gemma responded on 25 Mar 2010 at 4:12 am #

    wow! great post and i love this site!! i think its terrible that women can be that mean to each other. keep at it, and by the way, where can i find one of those boyfriends who will tell me im gorgeous and perfect???

  11. Kate responded on 25 Mar 2010 at 4:16 am #

    @ Gemma– Date really nerdy guys :)

  12. Kate: Getting Shot « Eat the Damn Cake responded on 26 Mar 2010 at 2:42 am #

    [...] how I told you about that girl from when I was fourteen, and what she said about my nose? Her name was Carly. I still remember that, even though I only saw [...]

  13. Kate: Wedding Dress, The Saga Begins « Eat the Damn Cake responded on 05 Apr 2010 at 8:42 am #

    [...] of planning, though. The problem was my face. Secondarily, my problem was my body. Maybe mostly my problem was how I felt about my face and my body, but in the moment it felt like the problem had nothing to do with feelings and everything to do [...]

  14. Oddly Beautiful « Eat the Damn Cake responded on 15 Apr 2010 at 9:11 am #

    [...] You’re talking to someone who got a nose job. So definitely, [...]

  15. Why I Blog | Eat the Damn Cake responded on 22 Apr 2010 at 5:54 pm #

    [...] disorder. I don’t feel like any of the problems I’ve had are particularly dramatic. I got a nose job, which I want to write more about, but other than [...]

  16. Clara responded on 21 May 2010 at 11:02 pm #

    Awww, okay, so I know this post is OLD like BWhite, but this was just what I needed to read. I’ve had something of a similar situation lately, which I am going to share because the internet is for (over)sharing. Every other day I have to herd a group of seventh graders through French lessons, and a couple days ago I had to walk one of the constant troublemakers down to the office. She was trying to annoy me as part of her little rebellion against authority (because, as the copy girl, I evidently have some), and I was being mature and ignoring her. But then she asked, in that innocently curious little girl’s voice that so many women use to put each other down, whether I was pregnant.

    Now, I know that, not only do I not look pregnant, I’m a pretty thin girl. I know this because every other day I hear something like GIRL YOU SO SKIN-NAY. I know that 99% of women share my stomach “imperfection” in that they have an actual stomach. I know that, most of the time, I actually kind of like my little stomach curve. I know that this girl is one of those spoiled brats who would carpet bomb a city to get the attention they crave, and, as a big ol’ high school student, I should be able to ignore this Beiber-obsessed tween terror. And I know that she’s actually much fatter than I am, and that as the thin, pale, clear-skinned teenager with blonde hair and blue eyes, I’m much closer to meeting society’s beauty ideal than she’ll ever be.

    I really do know there are eight trillion reasons – some noble, others considerably less so – why I shouldn’t have cared what she said. But that didn’t change the fact that I spent the rest of the afternoon sobbing and looking up the average price of abdominal liposuction in my area. I can’t be angry for that girl for being cruel because it’s ridiculous and pathetic to be angry at middle schoolers for being mean and, really, if it wasn’t her it would have been someone else. And I just feel helpless and irrationally angry at that little piece of fat because, no matter how hard I work out, it’s always there, and it’s like this freaking reproachment that I’m not doing enough to be pretty, and that’s why I’m unhappy. Not because I’m the kind of neurotic wreck who personifies her fat, but because I weight 120 instead of 115 and am therefore not pretty.

    I know it might not seem like it, since I just kind of ranted about my PERSONAL DRAMZ, but I found this post INSPIRING. Yes, with the CAPS. I guess it’s just nice to know that no, there really aren’t any easy answers. Having issues about your appearance sucks, but at least it I’m not the only one with those issues, and even people with seemingly super-cool lives (like pretty Jewish graduate student models with sweet-talking boyfriends!) have these problems. It makes me feel like less of a freak. Though this super-long crazy comment probably cancels that out.

    (Also, not to be that creepy internet creeper, but I like your nose. It’s very elegant in a Russian princess sort of way.)

  17. Eat the Damn Cake » Cutting off the Nose responded on 25 May 2010 at 12:47 pm #

    [...] For my first post about my nose job, click here. [...]

  18. Nose responded on 25 May 2010 at 9:12 pm #

    Whoa, your face has such a beautiful profile in that picture!
    My nose is distinctly that of my ethnicity. Not feeling so close my ethnicity culturally, I love that a part of my body ties me to it. I hope you find things you love about all your parts and keep blogging.

  19. Eat the Damn Cake » Yet another visit to the plastic surgeon responded on 15 Jul 2010 at 3:03 pm #

    [...] My brain was like, “HE’S GOING TO CUT YOUR FACE OPEN!!! QUICK! SELF-LOVE!” It didn’t work. I went ahead with the surgery. I’d made my decision. I felt empowered. Hey, being able to decide to change yourself can be very [...]

  20. katasable's Blog : Kleinfeld's Failed Me, and Finding My Dress responded on 02 Aug 2010 at 11:39 am #

    [...] though. The problem was my face. Secondarily, my problem was my body. Maybe mostly my problem was how I felt about my face and my body, but in the moment it felt like the problem had nothing to do with feelings and everything to do [...]

  21. Eat the Damn Cake » Perfecting the face responded on 22 Nov 2010 at 12:10 pm #

    [...] but for me it always applies first and foremost to my face. I wrote about my nose job originally here, and here, when I went back for a consultation with another [...]

  22. laurabalaurah responded on 17 Aug 2011 at 1:18 am #

    I’m a half-Greek former homeschooler with a big nose.

    I was 13 when my Greek grandfather first offered to pay for a nose job for me, just as he had for my grandmother, his niece, and my mother. Welcome to the family, right? We were never sure if my large, sloped nose was a product of genetics or of the bike accident I was in as a kid. I gasped the first time I saw it in a 3-way mirror, and contemplated changing it. I laughed it off when acquaintances commented on it and feigned Greek pride. After college, a stranger slipped drugs into my drink at a New Years party in London. Liquid Meth, a doctor discovered. I fell on my face. What did I break at the age of 22? My nose. The nose that wouldn’t go away. Again, I found myself contemplating surgery. My nose felt like a daily reminder of everything that was wrong.

    I just discovered your blog (I had A Practical Wedding, too), and I found such a comfort in your writings about your nose. I’m about to turn 29, and somewhere between 22 and 29, I’ve been gradually coming to terms with my nose, my body, and my history. I just realized that when I look at photos from our recent wedding, I just notice how happy and glowing I look, rather than the usual check-up on how my nose is portrayed in each shot. It was good to remember how far things have come. I didn’t have the nose job, but I came very close. And, that would have been a right choice, too. But, I think that if I had I would have come to the same conclusion that it’s taken me all of these years to arrive at: my problems with my nose were just a symptom of my lack of comfort with many aspects of my body, from how it functions to how it looks. How brave of you to have taken the plunge into surgery, and to have still allowed yourself to come to a similar conclusion: fixing one thing doesn’t fix the rest. There is room for revelation at any stage in the game. And, your nose is gorgeous! It’s beautiful how surgery changed some things, but not others– a reminder of your nose journey. Thank you for your stories- and for reminding me of mine.

  23. Eat the Damn Cake » can you just tell me that you’re gorgeous, please? responded on 26 Sep 2011 at 11:56 am #

    [...] And of course, there was the woman from my childhood whose nose job devastated me. Because her nose had been perfect, with its regal arch, and then it suddenly flipped up, the way, I learned over and over again, noses were supposed to. I thought I was going to grow up to be like her– beautiful in a different, queenly way. Instead, predictably, I grew up to get a nose job. [...]

  24. Jen responded on 27 Sep 2011 at 4:51 pm #

    What a great post. I got all the way to the appointment for my surgery and backed out, because I realized I would be more ashamed to look in the mirror the next day than I was the day before. It was a really powerful emotion, and it felt like a huge milestone in my young adult life. I also tend to find striking and exotic women extremely beautiful. Queenly is exactly the right word.

  25. Bella A. responded on 19 Sep 2012 at 11:37 pm #

    I believe that getting cosmetic surgery i.e rhinoplasty is a personal choice and whatever your decision is, the only person that you are accountable with is yourself. It’s good that you also have this questions in mind. This makes you an informed patient reducing the risks of getting quack nose doctor. LOL

  26. Sara responded on 18 Mar 2014 at 6:32 pm #

    Just read this blog for the first time and I love it. I’ve read your unschooling blog top to bottom. I unschool my two little sons. I put off reading this blog for a long time. I realize now why I did that. I have had severe body and face issues my entire life, and I couldn’t stand the fact that my little boys might have any of these same issues. I really thought that if I was completely accepting and unconditional with them, and that if I unschooled them I could shelter them from these societal pressures and anxieties. I didn’t want to read this blog, because I knew that reading it would slash my little dream to pieces. Well, events of life have since then destroyed that dream, so now it’s safe to come read here.

    The first thing I did when I arrived at this blog was search for this very post. I wanted to know how a protected, sheltered unschooled child could come to hate herself as much as I have hated myself. I still wonder if I know the answer. I’m wondering if it’s possible that you already had insecurities that left you vulnerable when that girl made her comment. I’m wondering if that girl gave you a bulls eye to direct all those fears and insecurities. I’m wondering if maybe there’s a way to go deeper with my sons, if maybe I can address these deeper fears and lessen then sting and the impact when the world invariably rejects them for some always unknown reason or another.