It’s been over three years since I got a nose job. Honestly, I can’t remember what month it was. Sometime during the summer.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember how much I hated my face. Enough to lie asleep while someone hacked it open. Enough to show up for the surgery even after my dad watched a live special on rhinoplasty and described it in horrifying detail to me (“and then there’s just this giant hole in the middle of your face because they flip the skin back, after they cut the piece, you know that little piece in between your nostrils? Yeah that one.”) It’s hard to remember how badly I wanted to look different. I was casual about it. I played it cool. “It’s just something I need to do, y’know?” But sometimes when I was alone, I would look in the mirror and cry because I hated my face so much. It felt unfair. So many other girls got a regular nose. And then they had regular faces. Why me? Seriously, God, what the hell?
And then I got the nose job, and, well, some of you know the story– it didn’t really make a difference.
“This has only happened to me one other time,” the surgeon told me apologetically, explaining that something had gone wrong.
Instead of my face being fantastically transformed, it was just slightly rearranged. Now my nose is a little crooked in places it didn’t use to be. It’s a little thinner at the bridge.
But I don’t think about it so much anymore. Except when someone posts a picture of me on Facebook and the flash creates strange, imaginative shadows on my nose that emphasize its largeness and crookedness in new and fantastic ways. Then I am momentarily devastated. And then I move on.
Like everything about the way I look (at least to myself), my nose is complicated.
My face is complicated. It’s different in every photo. It’s occasionally perfect and striking. It’s occasionally, when reflected in the window of a parked car I’m walking past, and, inevitably, the dark windows of the F train, hopelessly proportioned. But the hate has been dulled over the years. Maybe all that emotion was tiring. It slid down, anyhow, to other parts of me. “Oh no,” I moaned. “My arms! And why is my neck so short?” But I never reserved the same bitterness for other places on my body. My face felt like me.
And then the other night, in the bathroom of an adorable little restaurant on the Lower East Side, I caught myself looking hard at myself, and without thinking, I said, “This is it.”
I was talking about my face.
This is it.
(don’t even get me started on how one eyebrow goes up and the other doesn’t)
This is how I look. Bumps and complications– a history of violence just under the skin, hints of my great grandmother, who escaped Austria during a time when soldiers with pitchforks were stabbing the bales of hay in wagons at checkpoints, in case there were hidden Jews underneath. Her husband found her stunningly beautiful. Based on the photos, she was unphotogenic like me. This is how I look– an unusual combination of ideas, sometimes a turtleneck works really well, sometimes makeup does, sometimes it doesn’t. This is the face that will age with me. This is the face that my children will get some of, whether they like it or not. This face is a legacy. It’s a battlefield. It’s totally ordinary. It’s full of surprises. It’s completely unique.
“And it’s fine,” I said to my face in the mirror.
This is it. And it’s fine.
That moment has been a long time coming. Actually, it came so quietly, I didn’t hear its approach. But I didn’t miss it. I was paying attention. And I remembered other times, years ago, when I stood in my parents’ bathroom, staring into the wide mirror behind the sink, and thinking that my face was anything but fine. It was the opposite of fine. It was a nightmare that fine had when fine was attacked in a dark alleyway, drugged, and tied up in the basement of a nondescript house in an expressionless suburb somewhere the police would never even think to look.
(And don’t worry, fine is fine. That got weird.)
I’m kinda proud of myself for having that moment, and for recognizing that it was important. It gave me an idea: I want to start a series of posts called “Little Victories.” Where I write about things that have gone right– fights with myself I’ve won, things I never worry about even though I could, lessons I’ve learned, lessons I’ve seen other people learn, positive ways of interacting with themselves I’ve admired in other people, things that have improved. Sort of a more detailed unroast. I’m going to challenge myself to do this once a week, and I’m hoping you’ll share your victories, too, as guest posts and comments, so that we can do this together.
Because, as much as we struggle against ourselves and diet and gain it back and change our hair and put on makeup and wish we could be reborn in a different body that looks somehow exactly like Minka Kelly and say fuck it I don’t care even when we secretly care and wonder if everything would be a little better if our bellies were a little flatter or if we could tweak things just a little and if sometimes we even get cosmetic surgery, ultimately, this is it.
And really, really, it is fine.
* * *
Is there something about yourself that you used to hate/feel bad about and have recently gotten over? Or do you not have something like that at all, and don’t understand what business the word “hate” has so close to the words “my face,” and if so, can you be my hero?
Unroast: Today I love the way my face looks in certain photos.