getting in touch with ethnic beauty and reclaiming the hawk nose

So this piece is running today over at the Frisky, for my Mirror, Mirror column there. But I wanted to share it here, too. Sorry if you’ve heard some of this stuff before– I write a little differently when I’m writing for people who aren’t, you know, you guys. 

I didn’t think that I was getting ethnic plastic surgery. I liked being Jewish. I just hated my face. I wanted desperately to like my face better. I’d spent too many years laughing with my hand over my nose because I thought it looked even bigger when my face was happy. Stupid, right? It’s amazing, in retrospect, the things we are tormented by.

When I was a little girl, I thought I’d grow up to look like a queen—exotic, powerful, with a strong, regal profile. Queen Thayet, in Tamora Pierce’s The Immortals series, had a hawk nose and she was the most beautiful woman in the world! Why not me? I had a hawk nose! I figured I would be decent at ruling a kingdom, too.

(so regal! source)

But then when I was fourteen a girl told me I needed to get my face fixed. She said she had a friend whose daddy could do it because he was a rich plastic surgeon. She said that if I went to him he’d make me pretty.

The things kids say!


Years later, in college, when I decided to get a nose job, I didn’t think that I was ugly because I didn’t have the right kind of looks and never would– because I didn’t have the Nordic features that show up in movies and on Top 100 lists of hot women. I didn’t think I was a modern-day footnote on the familiar, well-documented ritual of Jewish assimilation. I just thought I looked bad and should make the badness stop. No one really remembers now, but here in America, back when my dad was a kid, Jews couldn’t play at the country club where he worked summers as a caddy. Slide back a few decades before that, and Jewish men were sometimes killed for sleeping with white women. Sometimes now, I get hate comments reminding me that I should’ve been burned in the ovens. And it’s shocking, because being Jewish doesn’t seem like that big of a deal anymore. Not a big enough deal to bother anyone. Not a big enough deal to try to hide, certainly.

I looked away uncomfortably from the propaganda sketches when I learned about WWII. Everyone was cringing, I think, but I saw my nose in those images. The big, wicked, curving nose of the sly, conniving Jew. I pretended not to. It was coincidence. Disney used that nose, too, on villainesses and fools. An evil nose. Arbitrary. Cleopatra! Queen Thayet!

“You look really Jewish,” a girl told me at a slumber party when I was 12. “It’s your nose,” she explained. I told myself she was just making an observation, but her voice was unfriendly.

I got the nose job, and something went wrong and my nose ended up crooked, as well as bumpy. It was just as big. The surgeon didn’t quite apologize, but he said this had only happened to him one other time. Most of the time, things were fine. And before you get cosmetic surgery you have to sign like a hundred forms that say “even if he messes up, it’s totally cool!!” I had signed without even reading most of them. I was on my way to a better face!

My great-grandmother had a big, bumpy nose. She was really cool. She made cookies with cream cheese in the recipe, and jam filled thumbprints pressed into their surfaces. She spoke softly, with an Austrian accent. She would listen to the Shabbat service on the radio when she was too old to go, and she knew the Hebrew.


I decided not to get my nose fixed, after the surgeon made it crooked. It was a weird decision, maybe. I don’t think I fully understand it myself. But it had something to do with figuring that there’d always be something I could try to fix about myself, to make me look more acceptable or pretty, and that it might make more sense to just learn how to be OK with how I looked in the first place. I think a part of my brain gave up. I was done trying to look beautiful in the way that models look beautiful and movie stars and even just the girls who everyone agrees are really pretty. I have a big, stereotypical Jewish nose, and I don’t cover it when I laugh anymore. Well, sometimes I do, honestly, but that’s just because it’s a habit and they’re hard to break. Like my nose. Like Queen Thayet. Her will is definitely unbreakable.

And if I’m gonna get all noble and statement-y about the whole thing, I have to say that we should stop pretending that we don’t want everyone to look like the same kind of pretty. Hell, Michelle Obama would cause riots if she didn’t straighten her hair. What’s the deal with that? We might tell ourselves that we’re just trying to look more beautiful, but sometimes, too often, “beautiful” means “white” or “white with a specifically Scandinavian flavor” or “really thin, but with some fat in the boobs anyway” or “whatever some other people who have nothing to do with you decided.” And I think we should be careful. Because even if your ethnic beauty doesn’t fit in, it is powerful and meaningful, and sometimes, actually, it’s just hot.

So happy Chanukah! And enjoy whatever else you celebrate! And this holiday season, give yourself the gift of believing in the way you already look. You have some ancestors who you’d make really proud, I’m pretty sure.

(spin what your mama gave you! source)

*  *   *

Do you have ethnic beauty of some kind? What is it? What’s your background?

Unroast: Today I love the feeling of getting better after being sick. It is SO awesome. I feel like I can take on the world! Or, like, eat a clementine and stop canceling meetings.






Kate on December 6th 2012 in beauty, being different, body

60 Responses to “getting in touch with ethnic beauty and reclaiming the hawk nose”

  1. morgaine responded on 06 Dec 2012 at 1:05 pm #

    My dad is Greek, and as a result, I am hairy. Really hairy. The curls on my inner thighs have been known to break – actually break – razors. My first boyfriend was German. We once swam together in a really muddy pond, the kind where every body hair is outlined in grit when you come out. My body was thoroughly striped, and his was barely marked. He thought it made me exotic, though, and I’ve never forgotten that. I like it a lot. I may look unusual, but open-minded guys are attracted to that foreignness. I like the jolie-laide aesthetic: not traditionally attractive, but *interesting*, which I feel is more important.

    (Now I’m dating a Jewish man who’s just as hairy as I am. I didn’t know until this post that our relationship would have been illegal a few generations ago!)

  2. Melanie responded on 06 Dec 2012 at 1:41 pm #

    I, like Morgaine, am half Greek and covered in hair. I don’t like it so I’ve had laser hair removal on my face, and I wax my brows and lady area. I have never had anyone complain about it, I myself just can’t stand being hairy. It makes me feel less feminine. Which is funny ’cause I have gal pals who don’t shave and it’s not like I don’t think they are feminine. I just don’t like body hair on me.

    Because of my Greek heritage I have very coarse hair I can only wash twice a week. It looks beautiful when straightened and styled, but I’m just too lazy to do it so most of the time it’s a crazy mop. I also have a large Greek nose, and I really love it.

    I know that beauty standards totally lean toward thin and nordic. I have never thought that was attractive. I like large men covered in hair. I like dark women with crazy noses and not “traditionally pretty” bodies. I am glad. I wish people respected that there are so many different kinds of beautiful out there.

  3. Rachel responded on 06 Dec 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    My dad was adopted, so I know almost nothing about my blood-related ancestors. I was raised hearing about my adopted grandparent’s Irish heritage, and I’m pretty peaches-and-cream in coloration, but I’m also incredibly hairy. Like, ridiculously. And even though the hair on my head is blonde, the hair everywhere else is a weirdly dark shade of brown. I accepted that and moved on with my life, and then once I got to college, people started pointing out other features that didn’t quite make sense on me– my eyes are too almond-shaped for my Irish background, my eyebrows are strangely low-set, my nose is too wide for me to be as white as I am, my butt is too big considering my body shape… It just never stopped.

    Now, I’m just trying to accept myself, hairy Jessica-Rabbit-shaped body and patchwork face and all. I’m never going to be a slender little twig of a girl, but that sure as hell doesn’t mean that I’m never going to be attractive.

  4. San D responded on 06 Dec 2012 at 2:03 pm #

    Not for nothing, as the saying goes, but have you checked out the noses on the OTHER side of your family tree? I would characterize them as decidedly “strong”.

  5. Corinne responded on 06 Dec 2012 at 2:31 pm #

    Kate…your wonderful! I would be that scandinavian beauty you talk of….I am 100% swedish…except I am so hairy, mostly on my arms, that children actually say “yuck” when they see it! Many times in my life I have been told I look Jewish. I always wondered what that meant exactly, so I took it as a compliment. Then I married a handsome Jewish boy….and I love that comment even more as I try to fit into his world. I am proud of my heritage, of my husbands, and I love that my daughter Henna has such beautiful brown eyes and dark tone, and her quick wit that allows her to comment on everything around her. Because of our backgrounds, we created a holiday that is unique to our family’s called Hennacornoeli Day(Henna, Corey and Noel). We celebrate it usually on the solstice, usually in between Hannuka and Xmas. It is full of our very own traditions and stories. So Happy Hanukkah….and celebrate the everyday miracles that make us all so unique. The funny thing now is when people say ‘You look Jewish” I reply:”I have a Jew in me everyone now and then”. ha!


  6. Amy responded on 06 Dec 2012 at 2:43 pm #

    I’m Scandanavian. Swedish specifically. I apologize for my Nordic features. :P
    I am also a tiny bit Irish and got all of the freckles that genetics forgot to give the rest of my family. In particular I have a large “birthmark” (also known affectionately as the Pac Man Freckle) around my left eye. I was bullied relentlessly for it. I don’t know if anyone remembers the show “Wishbone” but it featured a dog with a spot on his eye. That was my name from 2nd until 3rd grade when I moved (not because of the bullies). A girl once held me down on the bus and beat me in the face with the seatbelt because she wanted to see how it would bruise.
    My parents offered to save money to have it lazered off. I said “No. I was made this way and obviously for a reason. We’ll just have to see what it is.” I don’t know where that strength came from, especially as a kid, but I’m thankful for it everyday.
    Later in life it lightened up a bit. I’ve been told by a few people that its cute or makes me unique. Most people don’t even notice it anymore. My fiancee has a serious thing for freckles so that’s a bonus.

  7. morgaine responded on 06 Dec 2012 at 2:52 pm #

    Corinne –

    “I have a Jew in me every now and then”


  8. D responded on 06 Dec 2012 at 3:18 pm #

    I am half Mexican, and half Alsatian. I have a big nose and a big booty, and I love them both most of the time. I have skin that tans very easily, though its base color is very fair. I have fairly dark hair with some random blonde streaks on my head, and oddly blonde hair on my arms. I like my “ethnic” look!

  9. Lisa Furst responded on 06 Dec 2012 at 3:21 pm #

    Oh, Kate – thank you for this post! I’ve been noticing lately how, at nearly 41 years old, and not skinny, I’ve been really excited about my body. I think we’re supposed to think we’re less beautiful as we age, but I am loving how I look these days, and it has nothing to do with my having “fixed” anything about myself. And I really think it’s true that so often, the beauty that isn’t the “norm” is truly, utterly, totally hot. I see it every day in women I know and women I don’t. And I know I’ll keep seeing it even more, the more I look for it.

  10. Heather responded on 06 Dec 2012 at 3:36 pm #

    My coworker has a large nose, which shes hates, but I never even noticed until she kept pointing it out. She is the only one that cares… all the guys (young and old) at work think she is gorgeous (even with being 45!) and are always flirting with her. I tell her all the time that her nose makes her HER, and I would hate it if she changed it.

  11. Kate responded on 06 Dec 2012 at 4:10 pm #

    Isn’t this always the case, with so many people? Every person has that thing they’re self-conscious about, and so often, the rest of us couldn’t care less. It’s funny how that works.

  12. Kate responded on 06 Dec 2012 at 4:12 pm #

    YAY!!! This makes me so happy

  13. Kate responded on 06 Dec 2012 at 4:13 pm #

    I have to say, you sound stunning!

  14. Kate responded on 06 Dec 2012 at 4:16 pm #

    And your family has awesome names. I love that you’re making your own tradition.
    And Bear is Swedish in large part. I grew up participating in Santa Lucia rituals, unrelatedly, because there was an awesome mom in our homeschooling group who is Swedish and would get us together every winter to celebrate all of our traditions. I LOVED wearing the candles on my head and singing the traditional song– it’s the only Swedish I know :-)

  15. Jess @bruteandbird responded on 06 Dec 2012 at 6:01 pm #

    Dude. You’re gorgeous. It’s funny how we miss out on our own spectacular-ness until, well until… I don’t know what. Until we look in the mirror with our own eyes in our head?

    I’m suddenly realizing I am also a spectacular and a sexy beast. Beasts unite! Oh, and smarty pants. Smarty pants need unity too.

    P.S. Thumb print cookies are also awesome. The end.

  16. Kate responded on 06 Dec 2012 at 6:21 pm #

    I ended up removing that bit about the criminality of Jewish/white relations. I distinctly remember learning in college about Jewish men being killed for sleeping with white women, in the early 1900s in the US, but I’m looking online and can’t find sources, so I don’t want to make a statement about the legality without confirmation. I’m not actually sure how extensive anti-miscegenation laws were. Argh! I wish I had a better memory!

  17. Meli responded on 06 Dec 2012 at 6:39 pm #


  18. Anita responded on 06 Dec 2012 at 6:58 pm #

    My mother’s family were/are Jewish. Even though I’m not technically Jewish, it has lent my facial features a certain something. I work in an area where a lot of Jewish people live and when I go to the supermarket and linger anywhere near the kosher section, I find myself having conversations with elderly Jews. I never mind, it’s usually an interesting conversation. The funny thing is that I also get mistaken for Italian, Greek, Russian – even Arabic. It makes me laugh and no one believes me until they see it happen. Maybe I’ve just got one of those faces….
    On another note re your nose job: I had LASIK on my eyes because I really hated wearing glasses. It went wrong too – sucks to be the ‘one-in-one-thousand’ doesn’t it?

  19. Maya responded on 06 Dec 2012 at 7:16 pm #

    I’m tremendously grateful to my mother for complimenting my nose (which is Just like my dad’s)- it was the only facial feature that I didn’t hate in high school… But I certainly “look Jewish”, and so does my husband (and I think it’s tremendously handsome).

    The other side of this, though, is that there are plenty of Jews who don’t “look Jewish” to us, because our cultural norm for what Jewish looks like is so completely Ashkenazi (Eastern European Jewish). There’s some really nasty discrimination and prejudice within the Jewish community against Jews who come from other parts of the Jewish world (Western Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, India, Ethiopia, Uganda), or who are Ashkenazi but adopted/converted. For those folks, the stereotypes can cut both ways at once.

  20. Jade @ Tasting Grace responded on 06 Dec 2012 at 9:05 pm #

    I’m mixed Thai & Norwegian…which, when I was younger especially, meant I had a decently pretty face and really soft skin, but also the shortness of Asians and the large behind of Scandinavians, which seems to only increase with age. Well, age and cookies. (And I really want some of those thumbprint cookies.) So I get the kind of comments like “You would be so pretty if you just lost X lbs.” Meanwhile, I just wish I could find jeans that weren’t too long for my short legs.

  21. claire responded on 06 Dec 2012 at 9:27 pm #

    I am sure you had to know I would not accept your view of yourself. As they say Beauty Is In The Eyes Of the
    Beholder, therefore you are beautiful inside and out.CRF

  22. Mountjoy responded on 06 Dec 2012 at 10:24 pm #

    Not so much ethnic, but still hereditary – I found my first grey hair at 17. By 25 I was salt-and-pepper. At 45, there aint too much pepper left. But I’ve never contemplated dyeing it – I’ve always embraced it. I remember as a young teen hearing people call Blake Carrington “distinguished” and I guess that helped me understand that having hair, albiet grey, was probably better than not having hair. You learn to work with what you have, and make the most of it, I think.

    Happy Chanukah; I hope Bear spins your Dreidel for you!

  23. Seo responded on 06 Dec 2012 at 10:31 pm #

    My jawline. My face is long but not in the oval-y way (I guess that would be called oblong?) and it’s not an overly strong jawline, but it isn’t completely feminine either. My mom says I have jowls. T__T I think it is a Czech or German thing since that’s primarily what I am. Last week I got online and was trying to look up traits from different places to see if I had any distinct characteristics of any ethnicity and I couldn’t find much. Has anyone else done this? xD I -did- accidentally stumble on a girl on Instagram, however, who looks like my twin from Berlin (shameless rhyming). When I was a teen I hated my jawline and my face shape always made me feel like I couldn’t have long hair because I ended up looking like a weird elf or something, but I’ve come to terms with it.

  24. Jenn responded on 07 Dec 2012 at 12:36 am #

    Yours is the only blog I read where the commentors are as interesting as the original post.

    I’m a mutt of the European-South-American variety, and look rather American (small-framed, brown hair, hazel eyes), but my daughter came out looking Irish. She looks just like her Great Grandmother, who was French Canadian and Irish. Her grandparents never talked about her grandpa being Irish, though, since back then, the Irish were the race to look down upon.

  25. Wilma responded on 07 Dec 2012 at 12:56 am #

    Hi Kate,
    San D is right! You have/had Meg’s nose. It suits her just fine and looked just as fine on your pretty face. Don’t ever doubt your looks; you’re gorgeous! Screw those who think otherwise. I also had a nose issue when I was a teenager. Always had a kind of bump toward the top, near my eyes, and I was always self-conscious about my profile. One day, years later, I realized that the bump was no longer there! Maybe as I aged, some facial shifting took place and compensated for my flaw. Who knows?!

  26. anya responded on 07 Dec 2012 at 7:31 am #

    Hi Kate . I’m Eeastern European Romanian mixed with some Russian. When I braid my hair like a crown it catches light and looks like a cross between blond and brunette. Really unique. I also like my eyes which are deep and dark and almondy like my mom’s . In London, I was mistaken for an Italian. I took it as a compliment :)

  27. Melanie responded on 07 Dec 2012 at 8:14 am #

    What an interesting thing this is, how different people think of what ‘ethic’ is.

    I’m of the Chinese persuasion, and all my life, all I wanted to do was look, well, not. Here in Australia, the normal kid could look like a variety of things with different coloured eyes or hair, but the one thing they did have was white skin, which I did not. However, there are features about me that are not all that traditionally Chinese – I’m quite short, but I am also quite solidly built with bust and booty. Thus, when in China, I also look like I don’t quite fit in, and it just seems really obvious, you know? I’ve always felt a bit like I didn’t quite belong anywhere and it was always just a bit unsettling, hammering in just how “ethnic” I felt I looked.

    Of course, now that I am mostly grown up, looking different is good and I’m learning slowly to enjoy things about myself, like how I’ll always look younger than my age, my metabolism which means I usually don’t past size 12 (although, frustratingly, never below 8 either). It’s the little things you do learn to appreciate :)

    P.S. I have always loved loved loved Tamora Pierce and it is so nice to read that somebody else who I admire so also liked her books :) You are awesome!

  28. Liz responded on 07 Dec 2012 at 8:15 am #

    Kate, miscegenation refers specifically to inter-racial sexual relations and was coined in the US in reference to Black and White mixing, not Jewish people.
    As far as I know (in my little research), there have never been laws in the USA concerning Jewish and non-Jewish relations. Now, individuals being anti-Semitic assholes, yeah, but nothing officially legal.

  29. Iris responded on 07 Dec 2012 at 8:26 am #

    I grew up in Norway, surrounded by archetypically Scandinavian beauty and blonde hair which I looked so, so different from. I’m part Argentinean, so my hair is black, my skin is brown-tinted even when pale and tans extremely easily, and my eyes are dark. I used to get asked all the time where I was from, and when I answered “here” people would be confused – even ask “are you sure?”. Someone once asked my mum where she had adopted me from (the Argentinean is on my dad’s side). She used to sing me a song called Children of the Rainbow as a lullaby, telling me I was a rainbow child (also because my name means rainbow). Even so, it never actually occurred to me as a child that I looked different… I felt out of place for other reasons, mainly to do with really liking books and not being that interested in validation from my peers.

    I later moved to the UK, and here I stand out not for my Argentinean colouring, but for my Scandinavian height. I’m 6 foot, and I have literally had people stop in the street to yell “whoa, you’re tall!”. I don’t mind the “tall” comments as much as “you’re HUGE.” I also still get asked, when people realise I’m Norwegian, why I’m not blonde. I’m just so confusing!

    Most of the time, I enjoy being mixed and I love my dark hair and tall stature. Luckily, I was never someone who was troubled by standing out. But I sometimes wish there was somewhere I fit in uncomplicated-ly. Because if I go to countries like Spain where my colouring is normal, I loom over everyone, and in Scandinavia where my height is normal I’m darker than most.

  30. Jordan responded on 07 Dec 2012 at 8:58 am #

    I’ve got blonde hair, pale (but tan-able) skin with its share of freckles, and green eyes. Ironically, and I can only guess it’s because my hair is very curly for a white girl(?), I have been asked several times if I was “mixed” by African-American friends (and strangers). One little boy, when I told him I wasn’t mixed, asked if I was black, which is a story my Ghanaian friends make me tell every time they have family over that I haven’t met before!

    I’m actually a mix of all sorts of Western European ethnicities for three-quarters of my self (mostly Irish, German, English), and then I have the “really interesting” quarter that traces back to several areas of Eastern Europe. My great-grandfather immigrated to the US after World War I from what was Austria-Hungary and what became Czechoslovakia afterwards, and it’s his consonant-heavy last name that I got, so even though I’m only an 8th Czech, it’s the ethnicity I most identify with. His wife, my great-grandmother, was a short and stout Polish woman whose broad shoulders have made their way down through the generations and make it sometimes difficult for me to find jackets that fit just right!

  31. Terrie responded on 07 Dec 2012 at 9:10 am #

    My ancestory is so mixed, English, Irish, German, Native American and who knows what else. The thing I hated the most about myself was the thick, curly and dishwater blonde hair I was saddled with while growing up in the 60′s and straight blonde surfer girl hair was all the rage. I finally embraced my curly hair in my thirties, loved it and realized it was who I was….just like my sister. And as things come to pass…illness and medication made my hair fall out….now I get to choose the hair I wear….modern wigs are amazing…funny thing though…I still pick straight hair versions. Hardly a day goes by that someone does not complement me on my hair and want to know who “does” it. When I tell them it is a wig they are in disbelief. My sister also lost her hair with cancer treatments and she has embraced the wig world also.

    With age does come some wisdom….don’t cuss what you have…it may be taken away.

    Kate, I love your blog. Wish I had had your self confidence when I was that young.

  32. Leah responded on 07 Dec 2012 at 11:39 am #

    I’ve been told I look to pretty to be Jewish. Fuck that noise. When I see pictures of women lining up at Ellis Island, I think if I covered my head I would look exactly like them.

  33. Mandy responded on 07 Dec 2012 at 12:12 pm #

    I’m a mix of pacific islander, scotch-irish, english and german. I’ve been told I look middle eastern.
    Out of that mix, I have dark hair, skin that tans very easily, a “regal” nose of my own, green-gold eyes, and an Asian (rather than European) hip-to-waist ratio. Which means that regardless of my weight, I have only 4 inches difference between my hips and waist. Made finding pants that fit a real chore, until the lower rise style came into fashion.
    Most of the time, I like my regal nose, though sometimes I wish I had a stronger chin to balance it better–some days, my nose takes up more than it’s fair share of the attention! :]

  34. Kae responded on 07 Dec 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    I’m Jewish and apparently look it – I have extremely white skin, dark pronounced eyebrows (and body hair) and The Nose – except that the hair on my head is (darkish) blonde!
    My family is Eastern European, but I grew up in a different country, and people often pick up on my being a different ethnicity.

    Also, Hanukah Sameach!

  35. Debbie McNulty responded on 07 Dec 2012 at 12:59 pm #

    I am half white half Mexican. I have a big nose. It doesn’t look anything like the noses on my mother’s white side of the family. Even thought I know it is crazy I look in the mirror and really hate my nose. My friends and family say it is cute. I am 42 and have worked most of my adult life to learn to love myself and my body. I figured out my nose was Mexican looking when I started to see older women in my community with my nose. Logically I know it is silly to obsess about such a small thing but when I look in the mirror my nose if for sure the first thing I notice. Not my beautiful dark chocolate brown eyes that everyone compliments me on…sad.

  36. Beth responded on 07 Dec 2012 at 4:36 pm #

    I always find it funny when people talk about ‘Scandinavian beauty’ because they are usually thinking of something completely different than reality. I’m half Swedish and look like the relatives on that side of the family. I also grew up in an area with lots of people who were Swedish. Guess what? Most of us don’t look like the stereotypical image put out there. Most of us don’t have the blonde hair and tiny nose. In fact, it’s pretty common to see big noses on us. I’ve been asked before if I’m Jewish, and I think it’s because of that crazy stereotype that big nose = Jewish, which is BS. And growing up, I thought my nose was too big, too. Now, I like it. It’s big and strong (like the rest of me), not a quiet little button nose. It’s a nose that demands attention. :) Plus, as I’ve grown older, it seems to me that the stereotypical ‘beautiful woman’ in out society has such a forgettable, nondescript face. One example is many of the Disney princesses, their faces are almost interchangeable, but the face of the female villains are the ones you remember. They are distinct and have personality, and to me that’s a lot more beautiful and enjoyable to look at.

  37. Aurora responded on 07 Dec 2012 at 4:39 pm #

    I came so close to the Scandinavian look…but my mom’s side is actually Russian/Eastern European, so I came with a side order of “can survive in Siberia” body type. I’m blonde and blue-eyed, but I’m also not particularly tall and pretty stocky even when I’m on the thin side. I hoard both muscle and fat, so I kind of end up looking like a dude. ^^; All the better to drag firewood through the cold Russian forest with.

  38. Kathryn responded on 07 Dec 2012 at 5:44 pm #

    My genes are from a mix northern European countries, so I’ve turned out very tall with incurably pale skin and thick auburn hair that I’ve nick-named “The Beast.” The funny thing is that I am exactly the type of person who would prefer to blend in and disappear in most social situations. . . but with my appearance, that’s well-nigh impossible.

    Through high school, I wanted so much to be 5’2″, size 2 (or 0…or 00), and blonde, but obviously it was not to be. It’s taken me a while to own the way I look and start to enjoy it. I realized a few years ago that my coloring and features closely resemble those of my mother’s father. I don’t look like either of my parents, but when I saw photos of my grandpa as a young man, I was surprised by the similarities between us. I have some very sweet memories from the little time I spent with him when I was a child, and I’m honored, in a way, to have this connection with him.

  39. SolariC responded on 07 Dec 2012 at 8:02 pm #

    Interesting post – it resonated with me because just like you I used to think when I was a teenager that my nose got so big and dreadful when I smiled. I felt terribly self-conscious. But then I sort of forgot about my nose, and worried about other stuff, and now I actually like my nose, even if it’s rather large and unexpectedly bumpy.

    Also, I am a total mutt of German-Welsh-English-Italian-Native American extraction, so I apparently have a universal face. In Greece I was mistaken for a Greek; in Italy, for an Italian; in France for a Frenchwoman, and in New York for a Jew. I’ve always thought that was super cool – I get to belong to everyone.

  40. Jen responded on 07 Dec 2012 at 9:29 pm #

    I’m half-Mexican, half-British/Dutch mix. My mom has a long, bony nose, my dad has a wider, more hooked nose, and somehow I got a nose that was both bony and kind of hooked. I hated, hated it when I was younger. Now I couldn’t care less. It suits my face. I wish I wasn’t the lightest of all the cousins on my dad’s side of the family- they all have gorgeous olive skin- although I’m very grateful for the dark brown hair (with red highlights- thanks, paternal grandma!) and eyes. And the booty- the women on mom’s side tend to have flatter tushes. I do wish, though, that I hadn’t inherited my mom’s (and grandmother’s, and great-grandmother’s) big breasts. At age 34, I’ve called a truce with them, but they’re heavy and difficult to dress, and none of my female cousins inherited them. No fair.

    About the “universal” face: I’m often asked “what ARE you?” People have guessed Italian, Greek, Israeli, Jewish, Russian, French, Lebanese…only one person, a Mexican exchange student, ever guessed correctly.

  41. Cindy responded on 08 Dec 2012 at 8:40 am #

    I think Jenn is absolutely right – this is the only blog where I actually read the comments, because everyone is so thoughtful and open and supportive. You guys rock.

    I think the hard thing is when a single feature becomes your only defining characteristic in the eyes of others. As a person who was different at my crappy restaurant job because of my age (24, when most were 19-21), my education (working on a Masters), and the fact that I liked to do crossword puzzles, my coworkers often made a big deal about my rear end. Has *anyone* ever been flattered by Sir-Mix-a-Lot or Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls?” No, people, that is not “my song.” Stop playing it.

    It certainly doesn’t help when the thing other people notice is the thing that you’re most self-conscious about, and it can be so hard to just own it. It just makes me more thankful for those who love the things about me that I love (especially the non-physical things), and I will choose these people every time.

  42. Kristine responded on 08 Dec 2012 at 3:21 pm #

    I too am a strange mix (Sicilian, Austrian Jewish, Ukrainian, and Turkish) and I don’t think I really look like any of them. I have super pale skin but it’s actually olive and I tan rather than burn in the sun. I also have wild curly hair (that’s naturally auburn but dyed black) so people never are sure where I’m from. I do have a typical Ukrainian nose and my father always told me I couldn’t get a nose ring because of it. I’ve wanted it since HS but was always kind of afraid to do it. A few months ago I said fuck it and did it anyway and I love it! I don’t mind my ethnic nose or hilighting it, I generally like more “interesting” looks as opposed to the typical small features, blonde hair thing. I really like your nose, especially when you shave your head. I think that looks great. I realize as I get older how much I look like a mix of both of my grandmothers and I really like that so it’s harder to dislike the way I look. I’ve pretty much come to accept myself at this point, the only thing that really bugs me is my stupid sensitive allergy prone skin :-p

  43. Isabel responded on 08 Dec 2012 at 7:45 pm #

    I’m Norwegian, and I’m very short and not at all the typical “Scandinavian beauty”. People seem to forget that Scandinavia isn’t just an explosion of hot Viking guys and blond bikini models – it’s a mixture of people, with different ancestry. I would bet half of the Blondes in Norway have dyed hair, which makes them fake blondes. For my part, my Great great grandmother was a “kvæn”, that is a Norwegian with a Finnish origin, and I can’t be a 100% sure about this, but I might also have some Samii (like, indigenous people in Norway) blood in me. Therefore I’m a short brunette with a dark(er) complexion and rather a round face, but with sort of high cheekbones. I used to hate my potato nose when I was a kid, but then sometime in my teens I realized that my nose is like the cutest thing on my face. :-)

    People have asked me if I’m South African and even German (come to think of it, I’m of German ancestry as well), but not many have guessed me to be Norwegian.

  44. Tiffanee responded on 09 Dec 2012 at 2:53 am #

    Wonderful article! It was uplifting in a clarifying way.

    I am a brown skinned black woman married to an Indian man … And our son is a gentle mix of the two of us. I think about ethnicity a lot. I feel I am always needing a way to keep myself centered when it comes to this topic. (I find it may be due to the bombardment of so many images of “beauty” that are contrary to my mirror and simply the true beauty that I frequently neglect inside.

    Also, race…. how something as trivial as the pigment of ones skin, seems to give license for the society as a whole (and self) to “catogorize” Or place label. Good or bad who wants to be disingenuously categorized?

    When did it become such a curse or even blessing to be different, unexpected, original, and not boring. It seems that plain (as in one’s unadulterated, pure, untouched self) is an ideal fit. I hope my son knows the truth.

    Thank you for this reflection!

  45. Kate responded on 09 Dec 2012 at 11:57 am #

    I am loving reading about everyone’s heritage. This is so interesting.

  46. Kate responded on 09 Dec 2012 at 11:58 am #

    Actually, I don’t! Gram’s nose is broken– It was broken when she was a kid, playing outside. It does look great on her, and I think she’s beautiful, but that’s not where my nose comes from :-)

  47. Mara responded on 10 Dec 2012 at 12:01 pm #

    *raises hand sheepishly*
    Traditionally pretty. Oops. Cute button nose and everything. I’ve decided to go with a personal philosophy that translates roughly into “I’m sexy and I know it,” but seriously, I’m not the only sexy person in the room, ever! People don’t believe me when I compliment them, either.
    I really love drawing people, a lot, and I’m pretty good at it. (Can you tell that I never sell myself short?) And I love, love, LOVE to draw people with interesting faces (i.e., ones that look different from the one I see in the mirror every day), especially noses, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told someone that I love their nose and would it be creepy if I drew it? only to be told that the person hates their nose. For the record, I love hawk noses. Hooked ones, whatever you call it. I’m a little obsessed. I think they’re gorgeous, I get happy fascinated little goosebumps because I’m a creep like that.
    (I also love Tamora Pierce, btw. She was my favorite author when I was in middle school. This was before I discovered Diana Wynne Jones and Harry Potter, which knocked her down to third favorite, but I still think she’s grand.)
    I had a point, but it got lost…
    Oh! Um, right, everybody’s beautiful. This is a professional opinion from an artist, so it’s FORREAL. Seriously, there’s something about everyone that makes me itch to draw them, and funnily enough, it’s usually the thing that makes them different. :)

  48. Kate responded on 11 Dec 2012 at 9:56 am #

    Oh, and I meant to say this earlier– Thank you to the people who commented on the comments! I LOVE that the comments are always thoughtful. I get a lot out of them, too, and feel really lucky.

  49. scarlet responded on 11 Dec 2012 at 9:30 pm #

    It’s hard to quantify my looks by ethnicity. I’m a Western European mix, but I don’t look typical of any country, and I’ve had more than a few people wonder if I was part Asian because of my almond eyes, thick dark hair, and rounded cheekbones. In actuality, I am a mix of French-German-English-Scottish (and probably Spanish) ancestry. I don’t look typical of any of those countries. As for the possibility of Asian blood, I’ve had genetic testing done and one of the things it revealed is that my ancestry is entirely European. I was slightly surprised and more than a bit disappointed not to turn up anything I hadn’t known about before. As for my European stock, I look probably like a dark-haired Viking sort of person. I’m tall, robust, and voluptuous, with an icy complexion and blue eyes. People speculate about my background a lot, and I guess it’s because I don’t fit a neat stereotype.

    I know this sounds really weird, but I never knew there was such a thing as a “Jewish nose” growing up. I was never exposed to that idea. I also remember being very surprised when my junior high history teacher teased a student about being Irish because of her red hair. I didn’t know that a thing either. I’ve always been really oblivious about linking ethnicity to looks.

  50. kao responded on 12 Dec 2012 at 11:58 pm #

    Hey. You’re the strongest woman I know who’s ever had cosmetic surgery, and I really wanted to …

    … I really, really despise my chin.

    Straight on, it’s okay. But in profile, it’s large and bulbous and un-pretty. I’m not waifer-thin: 5’4″, 130-135lbs, depending on the time of day. But my chin is just … in profile … it’s huge. And it makes my entire face look like a satellite dish, like a witch.

    For a long while, I was really unhappy about it. Then I got some self-esteem back (always still a little self-conscious). Then recently, I got into a relationship I thought was fantastic, and I thought the guy really liked me, chin and whatever else considered — I’ve never gotten braces yet (I’m 18), so my teeth are still kind of crooked, but he once said that even my little pop-ish canines were cute — and I was a lot more confident about my face, and then suddenly —

    Well, one day, he wasn’t feeling all that sensitive, I suppose. He said something like “What’s up with your chin? It’s all big and stuff”.

    And it all came crashing down again. That fragile house of cards. I took pictures with a countdown, turning my face to my profile, and hating hating hating the pictures and doubting myself and my boyfriend and whether or not he likes me as I am and —

    I just want it to stop. One way or another. Braces (expensive) or surgery (hella expensive!) or something (maybe I have a malocclusion, maybe it’s not my fault, maybe I’m an illegitimate child neither of my parents have large chins what is this), and I don’t know where to start.


  51. kao responded on 13 Dec 2012 at 12:07 am #

    I can’t even attribute it to any sort of ethnic beauty — I mean, well, Asians aren’t exactly known for huge chins.

  52. Kate responded on 13 Dec 2012 at 4:55 am #

    I’m an Australian living in Sweden of German/Irish descent. I have the German look going. Blue eyes, round face, blush easily and constantly have rosy cheeks. I also have a few freckles on my face.
    I hated the blushing so much as a child/teen. More than a few people look at me at once and I blush. Even when I feel comfortable. I evidently got over it, my non day job is teaching dancing and I have vast numbers of people looking at me and my red face at once.
    I’m also pale enough that a lot of my veins are visible. One on my nose looks like a bruise. My parents offered to have it lasered when I was younger. I declined. Not sure why, but glad for it now. It is part of me. As is the huge mole on my forehead at my hairline that always gets caught by hairdressers when they are combing out my exceptionally thin/fine hair.
    Just found the blog. Love it. :-)

  53. Kate responded on 13 Dec 2012 at 10:51 am #

    I totally know what you’re going through. And there isn’t really an easy answer. I had to get plastic surgery to get to where I am now, but that doesn’t mean you do, too. My belief is that you can always learn to feel better than you do now, but if you work on it for a long time, and things don’t feel better, you should do what makes you happier. If that’s cosmetic surgery, then get cosmetic surgery. Your happiness is the most important thing. Because you’re really young, it might make sense to give yourself a timeline. Like, take the next year or two years, and work on feeling better about your chin, and if at the end of that time, you don’t, then think about surgery. Remember that everyone will have a different opinion– one boy might say one thing about your chin, and another might say something else entirely. My nose is big, but some people think big noses are gorgeous. You don’t have to worry that you won’t be considered attractive. You do have to worry about considering YOURSELF attractive.

  54. Elle responded on 20 Dec 2012 at 2:27 am #

    Cajun here. Mostly French with some other European and Native American influences. My skin is so light I’ve been told I have no skin color, I’m short and stocky with big bulging calves (which I’ve only learned to love since I’ve felt their power when bicycling) and I have large ribcage and boobs and butt and thighs.

    I love my thick curly hair and my pale brown eyes but otherwise I’ve always been very self-conscious of my body; I feel like I look like a 6 foot tall woman squished down into a 5 foot tall space. The self-hate was strong when I was in high school. Lately my peers have been more full-figured so the contrast isn’t so harsh any longer.

    I am blessed to have a job in a racially diverse preschool, and I’ve been teaching the children that God made us all unique and beautiful, and to love all the colors and shapes and textures people come in. Maybe someday that lesson will get through to my perception of myself ahaha

  55. Elle responded on 20 Dec 2012 at 2:28 am #

    Oh! Forgot to add, my Italian boyfriend has a hawk-like nose and I absolutely adore it. Regal indeed!

  56. Women’s News: Stop Accusing Women of Being Vain For Caring About Their Looks – LadyRomp responded on 20 Dec 2012 at 6:01 am #

    [...] write about body image because I figure if I have struggled with hating my own face, and if I have believed at times that my face is the most important thing about me — if I [...]

  57. QuiteLight responded on 18 Jan 2013 at 4:16 pm #

    Northern European mutt, mostly! Irish, Scottish, German & Danish. I’m tall, blonde, and even featured. My entire life I have had people tell me to my face that I’m too tall, my blonde is too dark to be “really blonde”, my skin is too pale, I’m too skinny & too heavy. Yup, too skinny AND too heavy! At the same time, from different people.

    Since that was enough to make me feel unattractive most of my life, I can’t imagine what people even farther from the cookie-cutter beauty image go through.

    Eventually I realized I couldn’t “win” this game (how do am I supposed to get shorter!?), so I might as well please myself! Things have been getting better (slowly, & with many swampy bits) ever since.

  58. Chani responded on 16 Feb 2013 at 11:59 am #

    I’m Jewish. My mother’s family is from Latvia, and my father’s is Catholic from France. He converted.
    I never thought of myself as pretty, but I never thought of myself as ugly, either. I was just me. I’d never go on stage without make-up first, to make me look pretty. Now I want it accent my nose.
    I have really pale, porcelain skin, but my big hawk nose sticks out and turns red easily. I’d probably have a jewfro if I was a boy. my ears are slightly pointed, too. I love it. And my eyebrows are big and bushy. I love them, too. I’m short. my eyes are boring hazel. I used to hate it. now I love them, because they’re warm and friendly and show off my emotions. And they don’t need glasses.
    Once, a few months ago, during Chanukah, I visited my uncle’s house. My uncle has given up being Jewish, mostly-he doesn’t keep kosher, or even have a seder. But his kids had bat mitzvot.
    He has a table in the entryway, covered in old photos of the family. there’s one from when I was five, and dressed up as Minney Mouse for Halloween. There’s one of my big sister performing a magic trick in high school. And there’s one of a woman that I /knew/, even if I’d never seen her so young, or so happy or so clear-eyed.
    It was my grandmother. I ecognised her by her smile, and by her nose. I have my grandmother’s nose.
    My grandmother’s in her 90s, and struggling with dementia. I hate to say it, but I hope she dies soon. I don’t know how my mom can bear to watch her. I can’t even be in the same room with her anymore, or even listen to my mom talk on the phone about it. I’m in high school, except I’m homeschooled, and I’ll take my math downstairs when my mom talks on the phone about her parents’ health. Bubbie’s had dementia since I was little. I never got to know her.
    But I knew who that picture was. Because of her nose. I looked at her again, and her face was the same, but different. She looked like me.
    I wish I’d known the woman in the picture instead of the woman in the wheelchair.
    I’m turning 14 today, and I hadn’t checked your blog in awhile, so I thought I’d look at it, and I found this. I love you, Kate! This is the best birthday present I could ask for. I love my big hawk nose. And I love Tamora Pierce-maybe it’s because she writes about women being strong, or non-white women in a fantasy world, or maybe it’s because when I met her she seemed to subconsciously know that my favorite quote was ‘If she could be a legend, could anyone? Could I?’. It’s from Wild Magic and she wrote, just above her autograph, ‘Be legendary’.
    I realised, in my Hebrew School class, that I love being Jewish. I was teh only one who kept kosher outside of my house. Why? Don’t you want to know what you’re putting in your body? It’s your body. Your job to take care of it.
    And I like keeping kosher. I like praying in the morning, and lighting candles on Shabbas. I don’t think I’ll ever give that up.

  59. Lauren Katz responded on 17 Jun 2013 at 6:52 pm #

    I’m jewish and have a hawk nose, a sort of mixed skin tone, my face has yellow-red undertones to it and the rest of my body is pretty much pale but with yellow undertones. I’ve been told i look greek, italian, and just exotic in general. My sister has more conventionally pretty features, more swedish features then I do. My sister recently went to israel and told me how most of the men had features more like mine (the nose) and the women had features more like hers, she also said that she was told that my nose type was an evolutionary thing that came from our ancestors living in eastern europe for so long because the noses grew from trying to capture more warm air, while in warmer climates the noses would look less hooked. This sounds silly to me right now because the stereotypical features like mine come from the mediteranian/middle east area

  60. TheIdiot responded on 05 Jun 2014 at 3:42 pm #

    I understand what you’re going through. I am a Pakistani male, 19 yo. All my white friends in UK made fun of me because of my hawk like nose and my monobrow, but the more they teased me the more proud I became. I did not have these features when I was a child, but developed them as I aged. My Paki friends make fun of me also, ironically because of my features and scanty facial hair, not typical Pakistani, and say they make me look Afghan, which is an insult apparently. But I have Afghan roots and am proud of my hawk like features, monobrow, and scanty facial hair, I dont care what anybody else thinks.