penelope and bumblebee

Good grammar costs nothing.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


I may have mentioned this earlier somewhere, but I have a big shnozz. It’s large. It sticks pretty far out from my face, has a bump in it and ends in a bulbous, well, bulb. When I look down my nose at you, I have a long way to go.

It is my father’s nose, I think. My mother had rhinoplasty years ago, so I’m not real sure.

Believe me, for real, when I say this, but it no longer bugs me. Ok, once in a while I get self-concious, like when I am meeting someone for the first time or I end up in profile in a picture that other people will have access to. But I think (hope) that it is something that people notice the first time, and then it becomes normal and is never thought of again. Like, it really never dawns on me that one of my friends has h-u-g-e gazoongas, even though the first time I met her, I thought, whoa, that girl has huge gazoongas. Or that another one of my friends has kinda bad teeth, or that another one is freakishly tall. It really just took me a few minutes to think of those examples, because all of these friends are so darn beautiful, and I love them.

We all have our physical imperfections, but I won’t go into the reasons why I think that we think of them that way. I’ll just tell you why I thought that, even though all of my ‘imperfect’ friends were beautiful to me, I was not.

I knew my nose was big in grade 5. how did I know? Why, because an older boy on the schoolbus told me, of course. That whole year he and his younger brother called me only by their special pet name for me – gonzo. It spread. Soon, all the other boys on the schoolbus were calling me gonzo.

Grade 5 was a bad year for me, for several reasons. I was 10, and another little ‘gift from god’ had just been added to our family (the second new addition in two years), necessitating a move out of the only house I had ever lived in. I had to change schools. Again. It was to be the 3rd school I’d go to in 5 years, thanks to being classified as gifted. I had to be bussed to the new school, via a school I didn’t even go to, so those boys were not even classmates. My teacher was mean, mean, mean, I was doing really bad in French and my little brother (earlier new addition) started to act out, causing family tension. Oh, and I found out that I had a big nose.

To make matters worse, after enduring the entire year of busrides, I ended up changing to their school the following year, (4th in 6 years if anybody is keeping score), where the taunting continued.

Now, just to clarify: I wasn’t a friendless loser wandering the playground with noone to talk to but gonzo. I had lots of friends. That year I even had two ‘boyfriends’ (we were ‘going around’ – that meant holding hands and dumping them when the wind changed direction, just because I could). But it didn’t matter. The seed had been planted, and I entered those dreaded early teen years painfully unsure of myself and drenched in low self-esteem. The reason, of course, was as plain as the nose on my face.

It didn’t help that it was no secret that pretty much every woman in my family over the age of 20 had had a nose job. It was as normal a thing as getting your driver’s license. It also didn’t help that, when I confided in my mother, the solution she offered was to get it ‘fixed’ when the time came; or that, for my 16th birthday, my aunt offered to pay for it. I guess the time had come. I cried a lot, and as my big nose turned into a big red nose, I just felt worse.

I would see other girls on the street or on the bus and wish that I could trade noses with them. I wonder now what they might have wanted to trade away, and if it was for anything of mine.

But by 16, thanks mostly to my very cool, very influencial older sis, I was already on my way to becoming a feminist of sorts, and for my birthday, I wanted a new phone, not a new nose.

Me and my sis talked a lot of smack about the women in our family (and in our highschool) that had changed their faces; about how they were denying their beauty, their strength and their roots (thank you, god, for matzo ball soup, yiddish swear words and prominent proboscises). We wanted to be ‘real’ women. We didn’t want to be victims of culture and society. We wanted to be positive role models to our daughters.

I soldiered on through high school, university and travel, doing all the things that ‘pretty’ girls do, like bedding hot men, making lots of friends and smiling for the camera. I just learned how to turn my face, ever so slightly, so that my nose would not cast a shadow, making it seem even larger than it already was.

I never got a nose job. I married my seriously good looking aryan prince with height, freckles and a perfect nose. And now we have a daughter. And I want to be an amazing role model for her, and look, won’t I be able to show her that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, and that her mother is strong, funny and loving, even if she does look as though she just escaped from gepetto’s puppet shop? But, lord help me, I also want her to have her father’s nose, and have mercy, I have already spent some time comparing photos of myself and bumblebee at age newborn, 2 months, 4 months , 6 months, 1 year, looking for any signs of resemblence in the mid-facial area. So far, she is her father’s child. And I am relieved.

But what if that changes? C’mon, you know this has nothing to do with some warped, out-moded sense of what is and what isn’t beautiful. This is about a mother wanting to protect her child from hurt that she has experienced, from pain that has just as much chance of breaking her spirit as it does building her character.

I won’t be able to shield her from everything; of course I realize that. But I will do whatever I can to ensure that she feels as beautiful as she is, and that the size of her self worth is not wrapped up in the size of her nose, or her waist or her breasts or her bank account. And if I ever see anybody trying to make her feel that way, I will be there to listen and talk and lay a smackdown on anyone I have to. Lord nose.


  • At 11:17 AM, Blogger metro mama said…

    Awesome post, Penelope.

    You're beautiful the way you are. I can't imagine you with a different nose.

    Stop looking at my gazoongas.

  • At 3:10 PM, Blogger lisalou said…

    I think your nose is very regal.

    Kids will make fun of anything or anyone-it's like their thing. Most of them don't even know what they're saying-it's talking shit and figuring out who is who and where everyone fits within their lord of the flies style social pecking order. I see it everyday at school. Remember I teach 14 year olds and they can be brutal.
    I remember that I got made fun of because I had no tits, big eyes,Greek hairyness, pimples, lack of height and short hair. Also because I was hippiesque, in the theatre club and spoke French.
    However, at my 10 year reunion, a decent looking man I did not remember came up to me and told me that I (Me?!) had ruined high school for him because I was so mean. Apperantly, I had called him all sorts of mean names including lard butt and fat ass. Well, as you can imagine I was mortified! No amounts of "I am so sorries" can turn back time... but rest assured, he was probably one of the turds on the bus afterschool calling some poor kid out on their curly hair, bad breath or skinny legs.
    So basically...we're all going to get it for something.

  • At 4:28 PM, Blogger bubandpie said…

    This was a fascinating post. I wonder how your feelings about your nose would have changed if all your relatives had kept theirs?

  • At 10:45 PM, Blogger Her Bad Mother said…

    Dude. (Yes, I know that I overuse the word. But it's my default expression for communicating an address to another person that would be accompanied by sharp intake of breath.)

    So. DUDE. I totally could have written this post. I almost wrote this post, many times. I'm reeling from reading my own words. So I don't know what to say beyond YES. Yes yes yes. I know EXACTLY what you mean.

  • At 2:11 PM, Blogger knitrovert said…

    oh KG, in all 100% honesty, I never, ever, for one second thought you had a big nose. Size is all relative. Bern thinks he has a big nose too but I don't see that either.
    I do however understand that we all find the one thing about ourselves that is unchangeable (to the sensible woman)and think "what if?"
    Knowing Miss. Bee as well as I do, I have no doubt already that she is both wise and hilarious and no matter what her little nose morphs into, she'll use it to her full advantage to charm the pants off those boys! (don't tell her dad i said that)
    You'll always worry about her feelings - but ease back momma, she's feisty just like you.

    Now that that's out of the way, did you watch the 90210 marathon on Monday? It rocked.

  • At 9:36 PM, Blogger penelopeto said…

    you are all awesome gals, and really, even tho my intention was never for this to be a pity post, you have made me feel great - actually, even better, you've made me feel understood. thanks for that.

    knitty- i totally missed the 90210 love-in. can't believe it. i've been home all week, and only managed to catch one episode. and it was a crappy one about the beach club and brandon's holier-than-thou dilemmas, and luke and tori were hardly even in it. i so need pvr.

  • At 12:13 AM, Blogger scarbie doll said…

    Oh. My. God.

    We went through the same thing! Except I was the older sister! (My sister's nose was actually nowhere near as huge as mine.)

    I rarely think about it anymore, but sometimes I am wistful that I didn't do it when my uncle offered to help pay for it. (In their minds I was never going to marry well with a nose like that -- I'm Armenian by the way) By people who respected me for who I was, I was always told my nose had character and I shouldn't do it.

    I guess in the end having the nose helped to build character. I had to develop a personality, a thick skin (with you on the gonzo comments) and a sense of humour. It also made me learn to take pride in my appearance as it is and play up other features to distract from the elephant on my face.

    As soon as my son was born, my sis and I felt up his nose to see if he got our trademark cartilage. It's so damn hard to tell at this age. I had the cute nose until 4th or 5th grade.

    I also married an Aryan prince. He has a ski slope -- I'm hoping that it will counteract the hawk hump and Nate will end up somewhere in the middle.


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