Thursday, December 27, 2012

My nose is big, uh-uh I'm not ashamed.

No shhhh-ing necessary. The obvious can be said aloud. I've got a big nose.

"You've got a bird nose." So my prominent nostrils were described by my college boyfriend, L.J. Upon registering the look of hurt in my eyes, he also added, "And I have a pig nose. So?"

It was a level of bluntness I wasn't prepared to hear. My heart felt like it was going to burst.

It's not like he was the first person to say I have a schnoze. I knew it. I often complained of it's large size.I fantasized all through high school of getting a rhinoplasty (As an aside, they had to call it that? RHINOplasty? Way to make it just that much worse.). Even family members told me I had drawn the genetic short stick in this area. My grandmother made pronouncements about my poor "nose bridge." My dad said I had inherited my mom's "clown nose." And my cousin Quiana just summed it up with "You've got a big nose, Lee." But, to her credit, she added that I was "still cute." Blech. Who wants that consolation prize?

Months ago I read an article on CNN that stopped me in my e-tracks: "Learning to love my big nose." WHOA! The writer, Kat Kinsman, had put it all out there.

With a boyish bowl haircut and an outsized nose as the prow of my moon-pale face, I did not sail easily through the rites of womanhood. I was ugly and was told so, both in words and by omission. I remain unsure which was worse: being directly informed of my unattractiveness, or simply never being told I was the least bit lovely. Sure, it's all skin deep, but it can sink in and leave a scar.

After a "Mean Girls" experience on a field trip involving popular girls tormenting her and especially her "witch" nose, she experienced a dramatic shift.

Something in me fractured that night, and as it shifted, another part freed. There was no way I'd ever be beautiful -- so I didn't have to try.

It's astonishing how liberating that felt. I could focus on the things that brought me some measure of happiness while I was plotting my escape from my small town. I painted, I edited the yearbook, I wrote horrible angsty poems, I made weird and delightful friends and talked to boys like they were actual human beings, because I knew there was no chance they'd think such a funny looking girl was flirting with them.

In the first few weeks of art school, I ceased to hide, stuck a ring through my right nostril, dyed my hair the most shocking shades I could find on the shelves and was surprised as a person could be when a boy said he loved me. It flamed hard and burned out quickly, and I assumed he'd just been kindly enough to overlook my obvious facial deformities -- though he surely seemed to spend a lot of time painting pictures of the rest of me.

And then it happened again. Only this time it was different. I looked across the diner table to see my new boyfriend Jon and our friend Helen staring at me rather intently. I instinctively grabbed a napkin to blot my lipstick, and yanked my flaming crimson hair down over my face. "What?"
Helen nodded contemplatively. "It's your nose. Definitely your nose."

Jon agreed. "Yep. Definitely."

The grilled cheese sandwich I'd been enjoying suddenly threatened to reappear on the table. I could not take this. Not from the two of them, who I'd started to find essential in my world. "My nose...what?!"

"It's the thing that makes you beautiful. Like, it doesn't look like anyone else's. It's the thing that makes you look like you." Helen went back to chewing her fries.

"Yep," Jon said. He returned to Helen's fries, and I quietly imploded inside.

When I read Kat's story, I got teary-eyed and felt that ache in my chest. Being a big-nosed girl, I could totally relate. While I didn't embrace mine to far later, I decided years ago that I since I'd never be beautiful or an "It" girl, I could ride out my youth comfortably as a nerd. I got straight A's and a full ride to college. I took poetry classes and wrote about music for two of the university papers. I eventually got a nose ring, too. Since I couldn't hide it, I figured I'd decorate it. Wearing glasses became part of my persona. I have knock down, stop-traffic, gorgeous friends. I learned to appreciate walking at the green in the crosswalk.

Then of course, I met K. My handsome man has a nose much like mine. We laugh and say it's the family nose. Family... which brings me to Zoe. There's a better than good chance that she'll inherit it. And my little girl is my catalyst. Similar to how I refuse to pass to her my love-hate relationship with my small breasts, kinky hair, feet or thighs, Z will know a rose is still a rose, even with a big nose.


April Joy said...

I love this and so needed to read it. Im dealing with alot of appearance related insecurities too. Always have, but as Im now a mom, my body changes, my skin changes, my nose and its crooked bridge seems prominent, my joints are increasingly uncomfortable...etc..etc....the other day I had a similar convo with myelf. I decided I felt most free being known as an artist....wild hair, natural makeup if any, comfy/artsy clothing...etc and I felt so free not trying to feel gorgeous, or as those around me would define the word. My husband thinks Im beautiful, and if my spirit is free to enjoy my body as is...then he will only find me more beautiful. So as I age...and it seems to be progressing rapidly these last few months...Im letting go and enjoying being creative with what Ive got....instead of feeling bad that its not how it used to be or not like someone elses.
So anyway haha, thank you. My heart feels your heart.

Alisha De Freitas said...

Thank you, April, for the awesome comment. I never noticed a crooked nose bridge. I always thought your face-eyes, nose, mouth- fit wonderfully together. I think you're beautiful.

Aging... ahhh, yeah, I've been noticing the changes in my self. Fine lines creeping around the corners of my eyes, the dark circles, the blemishes. A whole other set of self-acceptance issues to work through. I figure it's about time I shed the ones left over from the 90s.

I know Gary thinks your beautiful, which makes you even more beautiful... kind of weird, but totally sensical in my brain. Love becomes you.

Meaghan Oliver said...

Wow Alisha! You really write well :) This piece is so inspirational and sounds like it should be in a magazine or book. Girl you need to go make a career out of your writing. You can tell that you love what you do. It's awesome!!!

Alisha De Freitas said...

Awwwww, Meaghan, thank you! I just write for fun. And to stop boredom. :-)

John Henry said...

I like big noses (and I cannot lie - hey, you started it, with Digital Underground!) My wife went through something similar. Fortunately she made it through with the perfect nose (and everything else) that I love. Maybe there should be a required class in high school on how to find and love your personal style. Not sure it can be taught, though. You just have to own what God gave you, whatever it is.

I always had a big nose, and appreciated big noses, but that kind of thing is much easier for guys than gals, for some reason. If you can think of a way for my daughters to not have to go through this, let me know!

Marc Koellhoffer said...

I've long told Alisha that she has the talent and special knack (that elusive "it factor") to make it as a professional writer...

Marc Koellhoffer said...

And this is another in a long line of pieces she has done that prove my point!
On a personal note, it surprises me how many people, especially those around my own age, are still so judgmental of others based upon appearances! Beauty and looks fade, folks. What is left inside, in someone's heart, is what you are left to live with.

Alisha De Freitas said...

John Henry, your knowledge of early 90s hip hop/dance is quite impressive. My jaw dropped that you caught the reference (do the Humpty hump!). I think your daughters are in great hands. One, your wife has gone through it. She not only can provide support, but much needed empathy. And there's you. I can never stress enough the importance of daddy encouragement. While I know my father loves me, his thoughtless comments about my appearance, like having a "clown" nose further weakened an already shaky self-esteem. By being the awesome man you are, I'm sure your girls will navigate the teen years and beyond wonderfully.

Alisha De Freitas said...

Marc, stop it! Thank you for your wonderful compliments. But nah!

Yes, I'm amazed at how superficial grown people can be, too. Look no further than the combox at Kat's story on CNN to see shining examples of it. Despite saying she has come to appreciate her nose, some trolls still called her Pinocchio and advised her to seek out surgery. Despite being 40, healthy and having an awesome career she loves. Smh.

John Henry said...

Hehe. I know my Bay Area hip hop. (My buddy opened for Too Short and I met Lyrics Born at a poetry slam a looong time ago.) You can't quote Humpty at me without my noticing. But thanks. Daddy encouragement. I can do that.

Alisha De Freitas said...

John Henry, you fascinate me.

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