‘Perhaps I should have a nose job, what do you think?”
We were standing on the platform surrounded by luggage and children, having just found out that our train to Gothenburg was cancelled. My husband dropped a heavy suitcase on the ground and stared at me.
‘What? Why on earth do you say that?’
‘Well, they could make it straighter,’ I said, quickly adding, ‘and it might improve my breathing.’
Stranded on a small-town train station, yet to find out whether there would be another train that day, it was hardly the time nor place for a conversation about nose jobs.
‘Where’s this nose job nonsense coming from?’ my husband asked, clearly more frustrated with me than with the unreliable Swedish rail service.
‘Oh, I read something on Facebook…” I began but stopped. Even to my ears, it sounded ridiculous.
‘Look,’ my husband said, fixing me with his gaze, ‘what about your Born Whole message? Don’t you think that having another operation would go against all that you stand for? Besides, your nose is fine.’
He was right of course. Vanity was getting the better of me. The thought of going for a nose job now, more than twenty years after my last operation, made little sense. And how could I go on peddling my message about Born Whole if I had my wonky nose fixed?
Noses; for years I’ve had a mild obsession with this particular body part. Sometimes I can’t stop looking at my daughter’s beautifully shaped nose; perfectly symmetrical, just the right size and with the slightest hint of an upturned tip. The kind of nose I dreamed of having when I was eight years old.
My own nose owes its particular shape to the fact that I was born with a cleft lip and palate. It’s more slanted on one side, lopsided. It’s not something I think about every time I look in the mirror, but I have always been self-conscious about having my photo taken or looking at myself in dressing room mirrors, fearful that the asymmetry of my nose will be exposed.
When I was little, my parents would sometimes try to alleviate my appearance anxiety by pointing out their own flaws. ‘No one is perfect,’ they said as if that were of any consolation to me. Still, I remember the first time I saw my parents’ faces reflected in a mirror – I think we were at a restaurant – and I was thrilled to discover just how funny their noses looked. ‘Ha,’ I thought, ‘their noses are wonky too.’
I had my last nose operation when I was twenty years old. I was living in the United States at the time, and my Swedish doctor had referred me to a plastic surgeon in New Jersey. At my initial consultation, Dr Peck suggested all sorts of nips and tucks to accompany a nose job, all of which I gracefully declined. I’d come for the nose, only the nose, I explained. In retrospect, I don’t think the operation made much difference to my appearance, but it cost me an arm and a leg, so ever since I’ve been fiercely protective of my ‘Picasso’ nose.
Noses can be a touchy subject for many people. I once worked with a lovely young Italian woman who’d fallen out with her parents because they kept badgering her about having a nose job. ‘A straighter nose will make you more attractive,’ they insisted.
And isn’t it funny how celebrities’ noses often looked different before they became famous? I’m just saying…
Thankfully, another train arrived to take us to Gothenburg, and any thoughts about nose jobs were soon forgotten amidst the frenzy of trying to recover a misplaced iPhone. But that’s another story.