Although it's not quite of elephantine proportions, I have always thought my nose too big. My older brother used to ask me if he could climb me and dive off my nose. As a child, I had read all the children's books that told me flawless beauty was comprised of cute button noses and pouts. As a teen, I longed for a nose piercing but didn't get one because I felt such adornments only flattered slender bridges and delicate nostrils.
I told my parents that a nose job was inevitable. They tried to assure me that my nose was my heritage and that I would eventually grow into it. I was never convinced. In fact, I spent most of my teenage years living in hope that one day I would get rhinoplasty, and then I'd finally be beautiful. Everyone tried to talk me out of it. (It is amazing how people with perfect features have so much contempt for going under the knife.)
Finally, after a year of working three jobs, totaling 90 hours a week, I got a credit card and headed to the best plastic surgeon I could find... within my budget. I gave no thought to the fact that I could have paid off my college debt with that money. I suppose I secretly felt that with a perfect face, my student loan would automatically vaporize.
I walked along London's famous street of cosmetic surgery offices, head high, thinking, Not long, girl! As I entered the office of "my surgeon," I imagined that I was a famous model, dropping in on an old friend for a little touch-up.
But when the doctor looked at me, it seemed a wave of disgust passed his face. I could almost hear his thoughts: How on earth am I going to saw that mountain down? I was not to be deterred, however. I whipped out a magazine page and showed him the image of the beautiful and delicate Halle Berry, whose nose I had coveted for years. I faced him, squashing my nose between my fingers.
Then he spoke: "You don't need to change your nose." I thought for sure that I had misheard him, so I continued holding my nose between my index fingers. He shook his head and told me, "You shouldn't change your nose."
My confusion quickly turned to anger. What? How dare he? Did he have any idea how long I had waited for this? Did he think he was the only plastic surgeon in the world? "Of course I need to!" I growled. "Can't you see that my nose is all soft and undefined and that this nose," I said, frantically shaking Halle's picture, "is perfect?"
He looked at me kindly and came out from behind his desk. He took my upper arm like a grandma would a truant child, then pulled me over to the mirror and said, "Don't you realize your face is more than your nose?" We both gazed at my face. I only saw my nose. "If you change your nose," he said, "you will be less beautiful." I looked at my reflection again, and for the first time in a long time, I didn't only see my nose. My nose dissolved, and my eyes, lips, cheeks and chin appeared before me. "If your nose was more defined, your face would be too harsh... too angular," the surgeon continued. "I could take your money and give you a different nose, but you'd lose your beauty."
I left the doctor's office confused. I thought about what he said all night long, and my mind filled with questions: Why would he say that I am already beautiful? Did he really think that I was beautiful without this surgery? Was I? What is beauty, and how would I lose mine by trying to improve upon it? Why would he forfeit a fee from me? Surely he wouldn't have said what he did if he didn't mean it.
In subsequent days when I looked at my face in the mirror, I heard his words: "You'd lose your beauty." Maybe he was right. Maybe accepting my nose is the first step to understanding not just my beauty, but myself. In the meantime, I haven't made an appointment to see another plastic surgeon.