For years I seriously considered rhinoplasty. I have the Sanders nose. I am the only one of my father’s daughters to get it — which frankly, as a teenager, seemed like a pretty unfair hand, genetics.– Three years ago when my paternal grandfather died I stood next to my brothers and sisters for a couple of hours at the mortuary in my tiny hometown greeting people who knew my grandfather in one way or another. For the entirety of those two hours men and women I’d never met said things like “you look just like your dad” and “you must be a Sanders”. After about 90 minutes I began responding with “It’s the nose.” Rude? Maybe, but a person can get away with less tact than normal when she’s grieving. You know what makes people really uncomfortable? When a woman makes jokes about her own appearance.
My nose is noticeably large. Spare me the “oh no, it’s just right for your face.” Please, people, I have access to mirrors, and this is not an attempt to get someone to tell me my face looks good. I’m not concerned about how pretty I am or am not. It’s just that I know my nose is long and pointy, and when I was in my late teens and early twenties I was certain I wanted to “fix” it. Every time the idea would pop in my head I would give it serious thought until I dead-ended into one of two issues: 1) I couldn’t afford unnecessary surgery 2) What would I one day tell my children? What would I say when I tried to tell them they are beautiful just as they are and they want to know why I went under the knife to change the way my face was made?
Those are good reasons, particularly when you’re operating on the fluidity of a young mind. But those are not the reasons I’ve decided not to get my nose “fixed”.
The fact is, I have the Sanders nose. My grandfather had it, I assume his father had it. And I got it from my dad, the man who used to dance with me to ‘brown eyed girl’ at every wedding we attended when I was a kid. He’s the man who taught me everything I know about country music, that vanilla wafers and peanut butter are the best snack any time of day, and how important it is to have a sense of humor.. even about my nose. The most prominent feature on my face came from that guy, a man who has spent the better part of my life reminding me who I am and what I am capable of accomplishing, even when I don’t believe it.
There’s a very distinct smell I’ve only ever noticed in two places. My grandfather’s farm, and the back parking lot at work. Weird, I know. It arrives in Spring, sticks around for the Summer, then leaves again. I can only assume it’s related to some combination of flora found in both places, and chances are good that I haven’t noticed it elsewhere because an older me is more open to the idea of nostalgia. Regardless, a little over two years ago I walked outside at the end of my workday and breathed in the smell. Immediately I knew it as Pa’s farm. In that moment, I wasn’t walking to my car. I was walking hand in hand with my dad toward Pa’s old dock. Dad making a joke about closing the gate so I wouldn’t let the cows out… there were no cows.
Rhinoplasty wouldn’t take away my ability to smell, unless something were to go horribly wrong. I know that. It wouldn’t keep me from remembering good times spent with my family on my grandfather’s old farm. It wouldn’t do anything but maybe make me feel a little bit more beautiful on the outside. Except that’s not what I need anymore. What I need is the people who love me, and my deep connection to them. Sometimes that connection is shared hobbies, or stories, sometimes it’s knowing the best and worst sides of a person and loving them anyway.
Sometimes, if you’re lucky, it’s shared genetic imperfections. I say lucky, because it’s in the moments strangers stop the receiving line at your grandfather’s visitation just to say “Hey, you must be a Sanders” that you realize where you really came from.
To be honest, that’s the only real thing we get to keep in this world.