№16 Do I Have a Big Nose?

Close up of my nose.

I had a girlfriend once who said I had a big nose. I said, “You just think I have a big nose because I’m Jewish.”

The truth was, Patricia’s nose was bigger than mine. She disagreed. To settle the nose issue, we asked my niece Natalie, who was about five at the time, and who I hoped was not yet biased by stereotypes.

When Natalie said mine was bigger, I thought I’d let that conversation die forever, even though Natalie was wrong.

Now I’m with Vicky, who’s Latina. We never argue about who has the bigger ass. But other prejudices confound us. Just last weekend, Vicky and I were dancing at a party and her cousin Marisol said, “No me digas! You can dance!”

It was a simple merengue, so I guess, yeah. But to Marisol, I’m a Gringa, and Gringas can’t dance. She’s seen me dance for years because dancing happens at all Venezuelan Christmas parties, birthday parties, and dinner parties with two or more people. But it just now registered with Marisol that maybe I can dance.

This got me thinking that prejudices can make you see one thing, even if what’s right in front of your nose is something else. This may seem inconsequential. My ex didn’t leave me over my nose. And who cares if a white girl can dance? But misconceptions have shaped history.

The way I remember the story of Genesis, Eve was a temptress who tricked Adam into eating the apple. And because of this story we’ve been fed about Eve, we’re preconditioned to mistrust women.

That made it so easy for Donald Trump to convince enough people that Hillary was a liar, even when no one in the history of lying has lied more than Donald Trump.

But people’s beliefs have nothing to do with the truth. To prove my theory, I had to find out whether or not I had a big nose.

First I did a survey. I asked my friend Allison, who’s Jewish, but who looks WASPY with long blond hair, blue eyes, and the occasional pink and green outfit. Allison has the smallest nose capable of sniffing. She said, “Look left. Look right. No.”

I asked if Jews have big noses and she said, “Some do.”

I asked my 9-year-old, Sebastian, if I have a big nose. He said, “Medium.” When I asked if Jews have big noses, he said, “I don’t know.”

When I asked Vicky, she said, “Mine is bigger.”

The interesting thing about Vicky’s answer is that several people surveyed compared my nose to theirs. If they had a big nose, they concluded mine wasn’t big.

How do you measure a nose? Is there a nose to face ratio? Patricia’s face was bigger than mine, for sure. So maybe to my niece, Patricia’s nose looked smaller in proportion.

Next, I called my high school boyfriend’s father, who’s a plastic surgeon. Dr. Levin did his first nose job in 1971. He knows noses. He told me over the phone that at one time the medical literature purported that the ideal feminine nose has a 110-degree upswing from the lip to the tip. He also said that if you start at the point where the eyelids come together on the inside of the face and draw a line straight down, the line should hit just at the edge of the nostril. This is the measure for ideal nostrils, by white people standards. He explained that white people have a more pronounced dorsum, which is the bridge, than black people and Asians. “The hook,” he said, “is Jewish.”

I made an appointment to get his professional opinion. It had been several years since we’d seen each other, but the minute I walked in, Dr. Levin said, “You have a great nose.”

He had me look left, then right. He held my chin and looked me straight on. He said, “We want to create a nose just like yours.”

He drew pictures. He measured my upswing: 110 degrees. He measured the width of my nostrils: they hit just at the line.

Dr. Levin measuring my nose angle.

He did go on to say that I have a hanging colomella, which sounded disturbing. The colomella is the part between the nostrils some people pierce when they want to have a bullring. But it’s nothing he would fix.

When I asked if I had a big nose, he said, “No.”

I felt vindicated.

I have a near-perfect nose and that proves my theory. Perception eclipses reality. I think Patricia thinks I have a big nose because I’m Jewish. I think Patricia thinks all Jews have big noses because she’s British and I think Brits are anti-Semitic. I realize I’m the one making stupid assumptions here. And for real understanding, I have to move beyond them.

Do all Jews have big noses? Are all Brits anti-Semitic? I know the answers to those questions are noes.


This is №16 in my #weeklyessaychallenge. Ray Bradbury said to write a story every week. Ray, you’re kicking my butt.