By Joel McNally
Last week, I received an e-mail from my good friend Ted in Ontario, who informed me–as casually as if he were discussing a falafel–that over the course of his reading week, he would do the unthinkable and undergo plastic surgery.
I was shocked. My healthy, virile and flabbergastingly attractive friend was going under the knife to have a body part irreversibly altered. His reasoning was even more shocking. Ted was so perturbed over his appearance–had been teased and ridiculed so much over the course of his existence–that he was actually losing sleep over it. The time had come for change.
I’ll digress for just a moment. As an individual blessed with a nose of Gonzo-esque proportions, I was also the subject of childhood torment. As I’ve grown and matured and come to accept my errant proboscis, I find that the comments haven’t lessened, just diversified. I still, to this day, am the subject of observations ranging from the excessively cruel ("You’re the ugly duckling’s worst nightmare!") to the utterly sublime ("Your nose is gorgeous and I’d eat caviar off it.").
In light of Ted’s radical decision, I’m wondering why I’ve never taken the plunge and just rid myself of this source of annoyance and unwanted attention. Sure, my parents were of the "love thyself" school and were moderately successful in helping me recognize that my appearance is inextricably linked to who I am. My nose came from my character. My character came from my nose. I’m just not a short-pert-cute-nose kind of girl.
Or am I? How would the course of my existence have altered if I’d had an inch or so shaved off the tip? Who’s to say I wouldn’t be the woman I am today?
Would I have lost forever the part of my essence tagged "elephantine schnozz"?
I find it bizarre that we are on one hand told that appearances aren’t everything, yet told that happiness should be our ultimate goal. Even more bizarre is the fact that while it’s acceptable for people to judge and comment on appearances, thereby robbing others of their happiness, the individual with the less-than-acceptable appearance is expected merely to deal with that appearance. In any other instance where someone is deprived of security and fulfillment, they are urged to proactively seek ways of changing their circumstances. When it comes to appearance, however, we do not applaud those who do what it takes to ensure they are happy. We condemn them as succumbing to media pressures, and as superficial or insecure.
At present, Ted is striding around like a Titan, finally liberated of the thorn in his side. Is he superficial and insecure? Perhaps he was, but I’m quite certain that he’ll be much happier contemplating an existence without cruel comments, jokes or sleepless nights. Without the constant threat of ridicule, I’m almost positive he’ll be a more secure individual. So please explain to me why I wouldn’t be better off with a different, shorter nose. Go ahead and tell me that anyone else, apart from Cyrano de Bergerac, knows what 22 years of wincing at profile photographs feels like and what it would feel like to suddenly not have to.
Happiness is not societally dictated. Precisely because we are judged on our appearances, we should be free to alter them without fear of further negative repercussions, and if I ever decide to take my big nose to the cutting room, I sincerely hope that everyone else will keep their big noses out.