What’s the Deal With Nose Jobs?
Dear Watson is The Faster Times’ weekly advice column. To contact Watson anonymously, write to firstname.lastname@example.org
I was hesitant to mention this, even anonymously, because it’s such a “first world problem,” but anyway: an aunt of mine just died and left me a modest sum of money which allowed me to pay off my remaining college debt. I’m now living self-sufficiently — I have a stable job that I actually like, I have a good living situation that I can afford, and I’m even saving money. Basically I’ve never been better off. I like my friends, I like my city, I like my life.
The thing is, for the last 10 years I’ve been interested in getting a nose job, and I’m finally at the point where I can afford one. I also know a really great surgeon who did a lot of work on a friend of mine who had gender reassignment surgeries, with amazing results. My problem is that EVERYONE in my life seems to think it’s a terrible idea. Some people tell me they think it’s an extravagant way to spend the money, some people think it’s vain and un-liberated of me as a woman, and most people point out that my nose is “fine the way it is.”
They’re not wrong; I don’t have a monstrosity of a schnoz or anything. I just have kind of small eyes and a narrow mouth and I know a more delicate nose would make me look more balanced and attractive. In every other way I’m quite happy with my weight and with my body in general. Everyone seems to assume that this has to do with the fact that I’m single. But it really doesn’t. I don’t particularly want to be “irresistible to men” or “turn my life around” or anything. I want this for me, the same way I sometimes want a manicure. I want to look in the mirror and see myself the way I want to look. And I’d rather get the surgery than take an expensive vacation, for instance, which is what my friends and parents have been suggesting I do “instead.”
But everyone’s so hung up about it that I’m starting to think it might not be worth it just because of how often I’d have to explain and defend my decision. Ironically, even my friend who had gender reassignment (and our mutual friends who supported her the whole way) seems to think it’s a bad idea. Could they be right somehow? Is there something I’m missing here? Or is this just some weird new kind of conservatism? And if I decide to go ahead with it, what do I tell these busybodies?
Thanks for a fascinating letter. The most striking thing about it might just be the fact that so many people in your life felt justified in telling you what to do with your body. And I don’t think that’s an atypical reaction; your friends sound like a pretty chill bunch; I think those responses are well within the normal range. Plastic surgery seems to touch a nerve for even the most open-minded people. It may be worth our time to try unpacking why.
I’d be willing to bet, for instance, that the same people that have argued against your nose job idea would be totally supportive if, for example, you were planning on getting a Godzilla tattoo or having Lasik. But because it’s a nose job, it falls under the category of “beauty,” which is always a complicated and uncomfortable issue. The internet is rife with debate about the nature-and-nurture of obesity, for instance. And a recent study showed that 95% of American women “would change something about their bodies” if it were free and easy*, and 97% say something negative about their own bodies any given DAY**. Although women seem to bear the lion’s share of body-consciousness, on the male side, every guy friend I’ve bothered to ask has admitted to googling height and dick size statistics anxiously hoping to learn how they measure up.
Regardless of the nature-nurture aspect of bodily appearance, the general consensus seems to be that it sucks to have so little control over how our bodies look. And I would venture to assert that the reason people find that so painful is that physical beauty, or lack thereof, is so damn influential.
We all know it shouldn’t be this way, but it’s well documented that perceived beauty correlates to a number of material benefits that in theory have nothing to do with physical appearance. It’s a fairly awful prejudice to hold. But it’s also a very hard one to break free of, because it operates at a subconscious level. The sex appeal thing, for example, is more obvious; but who hasn’t been influenced by a “friendly” face, “a nice smile,” or “trustworthy eyes”?
In a certain way, your friends and family are forming their judgments on the basis of an instinct towards what they perceive as justice. Having a cleft palate, for instance, or bad vision, or being born deaf, seem like “defects” unfairly imposed on innocent children. Not many people object to surgeries that correct what they see as cosmic “injustices.” Even your friend’s sex reassignment surgery can be read as normalizing or corrective — a way of compensating for the unfortunate accident of having been born in the wrong type of body. An open-minded person might think, “That could’ve been me; it’s only luck that I was born with the right junk.” But because the beauty-system seems unjust in itself, having purely cosmetic surgery may strike your acquaintances as a way of breaking a social contract — the unspoken agreement to try to fight our aesthetic prejudices — and taking advantage of a system that’s inherently unfair.
To put it another way: the sad truth is that correcting perceived “defects” often allows others to feel more comfortable around the person in question, because it allows them to bury and ignore their less admirable reflexes, to pretend that appearance never mattered much to them anyway. Having non-corrective cosmetic surgery, on the other hand, calls attention to those ignoble instincts, and may even be seen as an attempt to profit from them.
You confessed in your letter that you don’t have a “monster schnoz” — implying, I think, an understanding that people would probably judge you less for getting a nose job if they thought you had an “unfortunate” nose to begin with. You also point out that you’re not doing this to change the way other people see you. That seems like a pretty good place to start. If I were you, I’d think as clearly as possible about how you feel about the “beauty system” and about your reasons for wanting to change your nose. The clearer your thoughts are, the easier it’ll be to deal with critics if you decide to go through with the surgery.
Or you could just, you know, tell them where to stick their own proboscises.
Best of luck,
Follow us on twitter@thefastertimes
- 1 First Openly Straight Figure Skater Comes Forward
- 2 Brooklyn Man Now Living Entirely Off Own Beard Garden
- 3 “Cra Cra” Now Official Diagnosis in New DSM (DSM-5)
- 4 OfficeMax Marketing Director Struggling to Make Staplers ‘Sexy’ and ‘Conversational’
- 5 Homeless Guy Woos Silicon Valley VCs with Low-Tech Crowdfunding Startup
- 6 Area Man Tailors Life To Be More Relevant To His Hulu Advertisements
- 7 Fan Banging Furiously on Glass Could Be the Difference in Hockey Playoffs
- 8 Survey: 88% of Eagles Fans Too Drunk To Spell Nnamdi Asomugha Last Season
- 9 Attorney Actually Starting to Believe Own Bullshit
- 10 Local Mom Won’t Stop Being First Person to Like Every Goddamn Thing Son Posts to Facebook