Cutting off the Nose

As I write this, I’m having a little bit of trouble breathing. It’s like I have a perpetual cold. I’m completely used to it, but when I think about it, I realize that it wasn’t always like this. In fact, the reason it’s like this now is that I feel bad about my face.

My college boyfriend talked me out of getting a nose job. He was appalled by the idea, perhaps to his credit. But I couldn’t talk myself out of it.

When I finally went to the cosmetic surgeon he took one look at my nose and said, “Oh yeah. Could definitely use some work done.” He was a very blunt guy, and I appreciated that about him. I appreciate him a little less after two surgeries and a nose that doesn’t look significantly different but doesn’t function quite as well.

Cosmetic surgery isn’t like in movies and on TV. They don’t take the bandages off and reveal a drastically improved visage. It’s months and months and months of waiting for the swelling to go down. I taped my nose every night.

Want to know something weird? When I had a guy over and was getting ready for bed, not ONE of them ever asked why I was putting tape on my nose. At first I thought that would be the most awkward thing ever.

“Wow, you look amazing in those tiny—wait. Do you have tape on your nose?”

“Um, yeah.”

“Why the hell would you put tape on your nose??”

“Rhinoplasty. That’s why. Rhinoplasty.”

Who can hear or see the word rhinoplasty without thinking of a rhinoceros? No one, that’s who.

I felt a little like a rhinoceros, with my big nose. I felt like it had no right to take up so much of my face. Like the radical unfairness of the cosmos had been acted out on my face. Like everyone who looked at me knew it. Actually there were two options for people:

  1. They recognized how awful I looked
  2. They dismissed me immediately, without realizing why

It wasn’t always that bad. I had plenty of days when I looked in the mirror and thought I looked great. I acted confident. Confidence is a good act to learn to perform. It’s not as hard as it looks.

But the days when I looked in the mirror and felt unattractive, I blamed everything on my nose. Because it’s easier to blame one thing. I think politics works a lot like that. People work a lot like that.

A nose job is kind of brilliantly symbolic. You’re literally cutting something off that you don’t like. Sometimes, like with Michael Jackson, you cut off most of it. With me, only a little. Not nearly enough, as I discovered months after the first surgery, when I still looked like someone whose appearance I didn’t like.

In perfect honesty, I don’t regret it. I know I’m supposed to conclude with some statement like, “Don’t change yourself, you’re perfect the way you are!” But I prefer my new nose to the old one. It’s like an enemy became a casual acquaintance.

An acquaintance who sometimes prevents me from breathing normally.

I’ve moved on to blame other parts of my body for my insecurities. Sometimes it’s my neck. Sometimes it’s my eyes. But I’m not going to run back and get those parts adjusted, because it’s not really worth it. You can save up all your money and spend it on every cosmetic surgery you can think of, but there will probably still be something left to hate about yourself. Or, perhaps even worse, after all of it, you’ll look in the mirror and realize you still don’t like the things you changed. Because they can’t change enough to make you into whatever your image of beauty is. Those images of beauty are brutal.

I may have a new nose, but my mind is about the same.

*  *  *   *  *

Un-roast: My beauty marks. Some people say “moles.” Forget that!

Everyone: Anyone else had cosmetic surgery? Check out Penelope Trunk’s take on it for a stance that’s still pretty radical.

For my first post about my nose job, click here. For the syndication of this post on Jezebel, click here.

And come back tomorrow for an amazing guest post by Stephanie, who disagrees with me on many things and isn’t afraid to tell me why.

32 Comments »

Kate on May 25th 2010 in beauty, nose, perfection

32 Responses to “Cutting off the Nose”

  1. janetha responded on 25 May 2010 at 1:59 pm #

    i wish i could unroast my moles. freaking HATE them. there, i said it.

    thanks for talking more about your cosmetic surgery. i never get sick of your insight.

    and you’re right. i always think of a rhinoceros.

  2. liss responded on 25 May 2010 at 2:02 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this story! It’s brave of you. I’ve thought about getting a boob job before, but am never quite ready to go for it.

  3. Hayley responded on 25 May 2010 at 2:59 pm #

    I tend to “blame” my individual body parts as well. Some days it’s my moles! (What a gross word).

  4. sara responded on 25 May 2010 at 6:01 pm #

    I really admire this post as well. I have to say upfront that I completely disagree with cosmetic surgery. However, I have suffered from an eating disorder for the past five years, so I understand. I disagree with everything that my ED has told me to do (and that I have done) as much as I disagree with cosmetic surgery. Its so hard when there is something about yourself that you don’t like, that you can’t get over. It seems like the source of all your insecurities. For me, its my stomach. I don’t know if I’ll ever be okay with my midsection. While I wouldn’t get liposuction, I have starved myself to the point that I could accept my stomach. by then the rest of me had all but disappeared. Thank you for writing this. I think I needed a reminder that if I wasn’t hating my stomach, I would find something else to be unhappy about.

  5. Elena responded on 25 May 2010 at 6:14 pm #

    Kate,
    Im so glad you posted this. Amazing and provocative article as usual. It reminds me of the ways in which we all get caught in various ways in trying to control our lives in order to make us “happier”. As though there’s always something out there that could do this..one more dress, one more plastic surgery, one more starbucks frappucino. We all know deep inside this isn’t really true ( i guess in terms of true fulfillment, there can be some temporary happiness), and I think our culture has done an amazing job of bringing the superficial consumer out of us. I think its a misguided wish to get the most out of life and to experience love and joy. I think we need to be taught that these things are really inside of us and nowhere else. We each have everything right here, right now. Can you believe that? Probably not, because we haven’t been encouraged to think this way.

    Anyway, I wish more of our society would teach us to appreciate the real authentic beautiful people that we really are. And encourage us to seek this out. To embrace our differences and to see that true beauty is how we feel about ourselves, how we treat ourselves and how we’re treated. Like you said, we’re all so unique and all have so much to offer. I wish we all just focused on this. Seems like a much more useful and meaningful use of our short time here on this earth.

  6. Elizabeth responded on 25 May 2010 at 7:36 pm #

    Liis – I have also thought about buying a fuller set of breasts. That way of saying it sounds so weird, but it’s true. I have always known I would never follow through with surgery, but I think about it. I don’t judge anyone for their decision to or not to. I have my personal reasons not to. One, (right when I was seriously thinking about doing it) a woman I know died from cosmetic surgery complications. Two, I have two daughters, and I just felt I couldn’t teach them to love themselves just as they are — if I was going to change the way I naturally am by buying bigger boobs for myself. Three, When I was pregnant I had D’s and it was really uncomfortable when I went running. I love to run! I’m sure I would have adjusted, but it was easier for me to run with smaller breasts. Four, It just seemed like a lot of work — the surgery and the recovery time. Just my thoughts…I do know quite a few women who have done it and loved it.
    P.S. I like my dainty wrists today.

  7. TG responded on 25 May 2010 at 7:38 pm #

    haha! love the dialogue between you and the guys.

    but seriously, this is so well said. and i love that you’re talking about cosmetic surgery, since i feel like people aren’t allowed to when they have it, and we just gossip about movie stars getting it and stuff. but this is a real story, and it’s really interesting to read.

  8. Wei-Wei responded on 25 May 2010 at 9:00 pm #

    It’s a lot cheaper, but a lot harder, to learn to love your own features, instead. I’ve never considered cosmetic surgery, but nose jobs seem so common in the US! I certainly am not a fan of my bigger-than-average beefy nose, but at least it gives my glasses a place to sit on.

    It’s weird how the guys didn’t ask, though. Are nose jobs THAT common? Did they just accept it, or didn’t they notice at all?!

    Looking forward to Stephanie’s post. :)

    Wei-Wei

  9. bobbie responded on 25 May 2010 at 9:37 pm #

    I had saddle bags that no matter how thin I got, they lived on my outer thighs. At 44 I finally had enough and finally had enough money to do it. It was the best thing I ever did. I can now wear pants without feeling self conscious about the sacs hanging off my thighs and tight skirts too. Now for the honest part…. do this when you are young. They took the fat. Most of the connective tissue of youth was there, but not all. I look great in clothes, but not so great in a bathing suit. Can’t firm up skin. That’s my story.

  10. Kate responded on 25 May 2010 at 10:06 pm #

    @Bobbie
    Thank you so much for sharing your own cosmetic surgery story! I appreciate your honesty.

    @Sara
    Your honesty as well! I know a lot of people disapprove very strongly of cosmetic surgery, but in the end, it really is just another response to body insecurity, and there are plenty of creatively destructive (and healthy) ways people find to address the same issues.

  11. Brooke responded on 25 May 2010 at 10:23 pm #

    Thank you. THANK YOU. Thank you for talking about this and thank you for getting it published on Jezebel so I could read it and relate.

    I also got a nose job when I was young. And it was hard. It was hard because I hated the way I looked and how a really awful girl told me how girls laughed behind my back because of how ugly I was and how each model of beauty I saw had a thin, straight nose. But, it was also hard because I was 15 and I didn’t want to sacrifice my integrity. However, it haunted me because I just wanted to look in the mirror and see something looking back at me that I could be proud of.

    The morning of the surgery I cried and asked if I could not do it because I was just being weak to bow down to society’s idea of beauty. My parents listened but instead thought I would thank them later. Then, I cried a lot after the surgery and have been embarrassed ever since and even felt like I was “lying” to the world. The worst part was seeing a Daria episode where a girl NAMED BROOKE got a nose job and then her nose collapsed (it was too perfect for self-shaming). But, somehow, I still felt the same as same old Brooke and now I just have that new layer of confusion for myself.

    It’s funny how I thought everyone would love me and accept me and never reject me because I had banished the ogre that kept everyone else away. But I think I might have mislabeled. I don’t know what the ogre actually is (I’m very nice to people even to the point of, until lately, letting them walk all over me) but it wasn’t really my nose.

    In summation, let me say, this is not black/white and society/individualism. It’s much more. It’s grey, human and something that shouldn’t be so stigmatized.

    Thank you. I’ll sit down now.

  12. lauren responded on 26 May 2010 at 1:13 am #

    janetha, i also wish i could unroast my moles. and moles and spots are two different things. sometimes spots turn into moles (raised). My brother and i refer to ourselves as dalmations because we’re amazingly spotted and moled. And it’s genetic. On both sides. And some of my mother’s have turned cancerous – luckily caught in time.

    When i was 10 or 11 – and going through my first of two restricted diet phases – i decided to DIY plastic surgery/other physical improvements. i cut off my flyaways and two of my moles. Cutting off the moles was painful, bloody, and ineffective – they are still there and just as big as ever! Growing my flyaways back was very awkward in that amazingly awkward phase of my life, middle school. In addition, emotions, puberty, and binge eating. Gosh i’m crazy.

    I usually try to be no fuss. No make-up, no hair-dos, as little tweezing as possible. Hair always up in a bun. Not only can I not stand hair on my neck (especially my itchy, scratchy hair), when my hair is out, it frizzes, and people have trouble seeing over it, or they touch it. Make-up is uncomfortable as well, and it does not hide beauty marks nor moles. And after my 2nd restricted diet, binge eating (and 60lbs) have come back and i break out worse at 23 than at 15. It is so hard to feel good about myself when so much seems wrong, and the things I can control – like binge eating – i don’t. Sigh. and sorry about the rant.

  13. Cecilia responded on 26 May 2010 at 5:29 am #

    The thing that I wish so badly that I can change in my face. I hate that my face is so chubby – even at my thinnest. I can honestly say I despise it. My quality of life is affected by it because I don’t allow anyone to take photos of me, I don’t wear my hair up, I walk with my head down. I really does sucks. It doesn’t help that friends and relative made fun of my chubby cheeks. Le sigh … I just don’t know what to do really.

  14. Emily responded on 26 May 2010 at 2:09 pm #

    Interesting post as always :) I study psychological data on happiness as part of my phd work, and an interesting study came out on how happiness is affected by plastic surgeries. As it turns out, it one of the few things that we have studied that can actually boost a person’s average level of happiness. People who are happy with the results of their surgery tend to have an increase in how happy they are in general. This is interesting as other factors do not show the same results (e.g. winning the lottery does not result in an increase in general happiness). It is theorized that this is because many get the surgery in response to shame about a particular body issue, and when the shame is gone, they are able to experience life with more positivity.
    Just thought it was an interesting result and one that offered a different perspective.

  15. zoe responded on 26 May 2010 at 10:45 pm #

    ummm…your eyes? excuseeee meee? your eyes are SO. PRETTY! i think you’re talking some crazy talk :) !

    but interesting reflection. i totally know about wanting to change your face. i had a birthmark (and a large one at that) right in between my eyebrows when i was a kid. it faded at the start of middle school (thank the universe i cannot imagine having that in middle school…) but i hated it for all those years. looking back now, i think i love it and miss it some. (side note: oddly enough…NEVER got teased. still not sure why. kids are so mean.)

  16. Kate responded on 27 May 2010 at 10:03 am #

    @Emily
    That is so, so interesting. I’d love to read research about happiness and cosmetic surgery. Happiness is such a hot topic right now. My mom is constantly referring to that book “Stumbling on Happiness” by Daniel Gilbert.

    Sometimes I really wonder if the reason I’m not happier with the results of my surgery is that it wasn’t extreme enough. It didn’t go far enough to make the difference I was hoping for. But that always sounds awful, especially because so many people are opposed to cosmetic surgery, and saying, “Not ENOUGH surgery” sounds a little like, “I didn’t starve myself enough,” as in, totally self-destructive.

    It’s a topic that needs a lot more exploration.

    Thanks for the academic perspective!

  17. Eat the Damn Cake » I Have A Lot to Learn From My Chubby Arms responded on 11 Aug 2010 at 1:42 pm #

    [...] correctly, so that not too much of it is in your waist, or your arms. If you’re going to have a big nose, than at least have great hair. If you’re going to be flat-chested, then at least have skinny [...]

  18. Eat the Damn Cake » Why Objectivity Is Stupid responded on 20 Sep 2010 at 12:29 pm #

    [...] anymore. How’s your singing voice? How’s your sense of humor? And by the way, even after the nose job, my nose could take your nose in a nose fight any day.” And it’s true. My nose would totally [...]

  19. Eat the Damn Cake » I suck my stomach in when I’m alone responded on 08 Jun 2011 at 11:07 am #

    [...] A lot, I thought. That’s why I got a nose job. [...]

  20. Eat the Damn Cake » this one is your real body responded on 20 Jan 2012 at 8:04 pm #

    [...] when I decided to get a nose job, it was the same. My nose wasn’t right. Even though it had always been on my face, it [...]

  21. Why I Write About Body Image | Medicinal Marzipan responded on 27 Feb 2012 at 8:00 am #

    [...] write about body image because I got a nose job because my big Jewish nose seemed like the opposite of beauty. Because when I told people that [...]

  22. Guest post: Why I Write About Body Image… | Rosie Molinary responded on 27 Feb 2012 at 12:53 pm #

    [...] even being aware of it, and now, when I broke them, I was ashamed.I write about body image because I got a nose job because my big Jewish nose seemed like the opposite of beauty. Because when I told people that [...]

  23. Body Image Warrior Week post from Kate Fridkis of Eat the Damn Cake responded on 27 Feb 2012 at 6:01 pm #

    [...] write about body image because I got a nose job because my big Jewish nose seemed like the opposite of beauty. Because when I told people that [...]

  24. Loving You. « Quirk On. responded on 27 Feb 2012 at 6:27 pm #

    [...] write about body image because I got a nose job because my big Jewish nose seemed like the opposite of beauty. Because when I told people that [...]

  25. Body Image Warrior Week: Why I Write About Body Image | Weightless responded on 29 Feb 2012 at 11:48 am #

    [...] write about body image because I got a nose job because my big Jewish nose seemed like the opposite of beauty. Because when I told people that [...]

  26. Body Image Warrior Week: Kate Fridkis of Eat The Damn Cake responded on 02 Mar 2012 at 8:01 am #

    [...] write about body image because I got a nose job because my big Jewish nose seemed like the opposite of beauty. Because when I told people that [...]

  27. Eat the Damn Cake » why I write about body image responded on 02 Mar 2012 at 4:55 pm #

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  28. Eat the Damn Cake » The utter despair of shopping at Macy’s responded on 23 Oct 2012 at 11:58 am #

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  29. Eat the Damn Cake » being thin to make up for everything else responded on 15 Feb 2013 at 11:53 am #

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  30. Shavonne responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 3:31 pm #

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  32. Mercalyn responded on 02 Mar 2013 at 7:18 pm #

    I’m slightly for cosmetic surgery. Don’t forget that for how many people go through cosmetic alterations, some of those are in dire need of it. Some people live through harsh times, others, get their face half blown off by a chemical or a weapon. I know some transgender people choose to go through with it.

    For every ounce of media that states, “Just get better confidence,” come the ridicule and stares from the people who just told you that. I don’t agree with it in every case, but sometimes, a person can use it to their benefit(and without being shallow).