In this weekend’s Sunday Styles section of the New York Times, Taffy Brodesser-Akner wrote earnestly and poignantly about her nose, describing her youthful rhinoplastic desires and her recent decision to put off fixing her (actually) deviated septum lest she inadvertently change her nose. But the article is hardly an ode to her natural proboscis, of which Brodesser-Akner—who recently wrote about the second day of Rosh Hashanah in Tablet Magazine—recalls realizing, “It had curled into a comma somehow, and was suddenly too high up on my face.” Instead, the essay is one woman coming to terms with a facial feature she saw many around her tinkering with.
What I love about it is that I know exactly what she’s talking about. What isn’t said—or, maybe, what the Times doesn’t need to explicitly state—is that the preoccupation with noses and the very presence of the nose job in the teenage consciousness is far more often a reality for Jewish girls. “At 13,” Brodesser-Akner writes, “I started dreaming about a nose job, but my parents wouldn’t hear of it.” Ah, yes, that gloriously awkward age of 13, when everyone starts noticing each other at bar and bat mitzvahs and teenagers become acutely aware of their own appearances.
“The nose job I didn’t get in 11th grade would have been straight and long with a tip like a polka dot,” Brodesser-Akner recalls. I know the one! “On the first day back from summer vacation, six students returned to our all-girls high school with black eyes and tiny bandages across their noses, badges of their parents’ understanding of what it was like to go through life with that nose.” The Semitic Sweet Sixteen rite of passage even got the Glee treatment last season, when Rachel Berry got kicked in the face during dance practice and the Jewish plastic surgeon told her it was standard operating procedure (literally!) for her female co-religionists to have their noses fixed around that time anyway. Will she? Won’t she? Fellow on-screen Jew Noah Puckerman tries to convince her not to, urging her to be proud of the Jewish heritage her nose symbolizes.
“But really,” Brodesser-Akner explains, “I’ve avoided rhinoplasty because though it might make me prettier (and I do believe my nose is what stands in the way of my being conventionally pretty), I’m not sure what it will say about me.” While (spoiler alert) I’ve never had a nose job, I definitely relate to this idea that there is something imbued in the act of cosmetically altering one’s nose–particularly in a community where so many young people do just that. Which means that, at some point, I bought into the nose crazy too.
Love the One You’re (Born) With [NYT]
Related: A Bridge Too Far [Tablet Magazine]
Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.