Why I'm Glad My Hawk Nose Grew Back

by Caroline

When I was a teenager, I agonized over my nose. Large, bold, and bumpy, no one in my family could figure out what ancestor it came from. I often wore my hair down so that with a toss of my head I could easily hide it. I was self-conscious and shy, and it was all due, I was convinced, to my terrible nose.

How I suffered over it. Eventually my mom got sick of hearing about it so she’d say, “Well, why don’t you do something about it?” So we went to a plastic surgeon. A month before my 18th birthday, I underwent surgery to remove the bump, narrow it a little, and make the tip slightly finer.

This is probably a bit shocking to a lot of you, but you should understand my cultural context. Where I came from – an affluent town in So Cal – several young people got nose jobs. My two best friends did. So did a boy and a girl in my ward who were in my grade. It was not that unusual a thing to do.

The experience itself was terrible. Somehow the plastic surgeon convinced me to choose a local anesthetic. Big mistake. The shots inside my nose were one of the most painful things I’ve ever experienced. And then I lay awake and watched them lean over me and file down my nose. When it was all over, my face was swollen to twice its normal size. I had an emotional breakdown after I saw myself in the mirror that night. Against my bruised and swollen face, my new nose looked like a pig nose – my worst nightmare.

But a month after the surgery, I was loving life. My new nose looked fantastic once the swelling left. I felt fantastic. I went away to college confident, happy, and far more outgoing than I had ever been before. I had absolutely no regrets.

Over the years, however, my feminist sensibilities have made me question this decision I made at 17. Did I just fall into that old societal trap that told me that I had to have a Barbie face to be attractive? Was all that confidence false and misplaced? Did I sacrifice my own distinctive look for something merely unobjectionable?

I think the answer to all those questions is probably yes. If I could go back and have a conversation with my teenage self, I think I would try to talk her out of doing it. I would try to help her to realize that one shouldn’t let fashion magazines make a person so miserable for looking a little different. I would try to convince her to focus on all the great features she had, physical and especially non-physical.

But at the same time, I still can’t deny how much the surgery meant to me at that point in my life, how much it increased my happiness in those heady years between 18 and 23 when I felt beautiful, powerful, and completely in charge of my own destiny.

And the ironic thing? My nose grew back. (Apparently this happens sometimes when young people get this kind of plastic surgery.) It took 12 years of gradual growing, but I no longer have that perfectly straight fine tipped nose that filled me with such relief and giddiness. It’s pretty hawkish these days. And I must say, I rather like it. It’s distinctive. It’s strong. It’s what I should have embraced as uniquely me from the beginning. 

What are your thoughts about plastic surgery? Where do you draw the line on procedures done to beautify? For me it’s not a black and white thing. Intellectually, I see the disturbing implications, but my lived experience has taught me that it’s a nuanced issue.

Caroline

Caroline is a PhD student in Women's Studies in Religion and mother of three.

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27 Responses

  1. tracy m says:

    How amazing that it grew back- and how wonderful that you love it now- I think it’s beautiful and give s your face tremendous character.

    My own thoughts are rather nuanced as well. I have had elective surgery- and I would do it again. I had bread reduction surgury, and while I understand they may also grow back sometime in the halcyon days to come, I am so releived not be hauling them around now.

  2. tracy m says:

    bread? Ha! Breast. It should say “breast”. sigh…

  3. Jana says:

    I had cosmetic surgery to have a birthmark removed (it was rather prominent on my ear) at the urging of my parents when I was 12 years old. The birthmark had some precancerous cells so there was more than just a cosmetic reason for having it done, but the pain associated with the surgery and skin grafts was enough to scare me off of any elective surgery after that.

    I was _very_ self-conscious about my ear so it was a relief to have it taken care of so I could feel more confident wearing my hair up without thinking that others were staring at my birthmark.

  4. Dora says:

    Tip: if a physician is going to numb you or your kids up with some local lidocaine, ask that they buffer it. It reduces the stinging.

    As to elective plastic surgery, I’m rather against it. Yes, I understand why it’s such an (ahem) attractive option, but I wonder if it’s just a bandaid over a larger problem. And while surgery can be an “easy” fix, it isn’t always lasting.

    For example, a woman at my work got her stomach stapled about 5 years ago. She lost a lot of weight, and felt much better physically and emotionally. However, she’s now regained almost all of it back. I wonder if it was really worth it, and what she will do about it.

  5. Caroline says:

    Tracy m,
    Thanks! 🙂 I personally put breast reduction in whole different camp than most plastic surgery, since breast reduction can be a healthy choice for your back, shoulders, etc. I would consider that someday myself.

    Jana, skin grafts? yikes. That does sound painful. But a great thing to have done because of those pre-cancerous cells.

    Dora, I’ll remember that about the buffer. That stinging pain was agony. The older I get, the more I too am uncomfortable with elective plastic surgery. I’m not entirely sure where to draw the line though. If my baby was born with a cleft lip, I would definitely have that fixed for them. If my child was born with webbed feet, I’d probably talk to him/her about it when older and if the kid wanted to get them fixed I’d be supportive. I intend to get my children braces if they have crooked teeth so that they will have an attractive smile. So I am open to certain procedures, but less comfortable with others. Procedures like face lifts, lipo, etc. make me more uncomfortable.

  6. LCM says:

    I don’t have a dainty nose either and I always thought about rhinoplasty. I was premed in college and in Anatomy they had us watch films of surgery. We watched a rhinoplasty and the thought of banging with a hammer on my nose and being stuffed up for so long… I decided no. Now the thought of general anesthesia just totally freaks me out! I think people should definitely have some surgeries that will enhance their wellbeing, like breast reduction and rhinoplasty for real breathing problems. It makes me sad that women are getting breast implants for the wrong reasons. But to each his or her own, huh?

  7. Jana says:

    Let me just add one more comment to my earlier one about my ear surgery…I had the main surgery to remove the birthmark and graft skin onto the area where it was removed. I was scheduled to have two further surgeries–one to remove the birthmarked area from the back of my ear and one to smooth out all of the scars from the first 2 surgeries. But after #1 I was done. Well, and I also ended up in cancer treatments from something far worse and that distracted me from my self-consciousness about my ear.

  8. fMhLisa says:

    I am jealous of you Caroline, it sounds like you’ve created such a healthy perspective on your physicality. I’m still having to remind myself all the time that my “imperfection” are what make me unique and human, but it doesn’t come to me naturally. I have to remind myself at least three times a day that i really do not need to lose ten pounds.

    And as my youth fades, accepting of the wrinkles and sags does not come effortlessly either. I guess I do understand the impulses that drive people to face lifts and such. I myself have four pretend-a-teeth in the front (my front teeth turned brown after an accident) so I get that it’s complicated.

    We will be concerned with aesthetics, it seems to be part of the package of our humanness. And we will probably always find youth and symmetry attractive. But ultimately I think we’ve gone to an unhealthy place as a society in our obsession with it. And it’s time to back off.

    I was very disturbed by a historian who studies the journals of 8-15yo girls over the last hundred years (I heard her on NPR’s On Point), she said that the change in focus from 100 years ago to now is stark, the focus of our foremother’s journals was on doing good, and of our daughters is on looking good.

    Kinda scary.

  9. Ana says:

    I read this post before bed last night. Then I had a dream about surveying my body in the mirror and deciding to have lipo and breast implants – in the dream I was suddenly shaped like a lopsided apple. It was a relief to wake up to my still-imperfect but mostly-proportionate self again.

    I guess that means I don’t feel like I need cosmetic or elective surgery, but I can imagine wanting it or choosing it. I don’t feel like I need to look perfect, but I can understand wanting to just fix certain things.

    Do you ever wonder whether these procedures will be undone in the Resurrection? I do. Probably I have too much time on my hands.

  10. FoxyJ says:

    I have always been opposed to elective comestic surgery; I prefer to have my “real” body and I’m too scared to have something major like surgery just to fix something like a poochy tummy. On the other hand, I can understand how external realities can really affect our self-esteem and confidence, especially when we’re younger. All through high school I agonized over the fact that I wore glasses. I was sure that all of my problems and social awkwardness were due to my nerdy glasses and the fact that they made me cute. When I went to BYU one of the first things I did was go get contact lenses. The funny thing is, I still didn’t get any dates and I wasn’t any less nerdy. But I did feel a lot more confident because I didn’t have my glasses on anymore. I wore contacts for a number of years, but shortly after we got married we realized that our budget couldn’t support our contacts so we stopped wearing them. It’s been five years and I never think about the fact that I wear glasses anymore. So funny how something that was such a strain on me managed to turn into a non-issue with time. But I’m still glad I got contacts when I did–nothing like plastic surgery, however.

  11. Jessawhy says:

    Great post!
    Emily and I were talking about this the other day. I had a similar experience as you, Caroline. My upper jaw had grown very long, so when I smiled, you saw all gums, and when I closed my teeth, my lips didn’t close around them. In high school I felt really unattractive. Right after high school I had surgery (somewhat elective, but the insurance paid for it) to correct this. Essentially, they cut off my teeth, took a sliver of bone out, then nailed them back up, so my mouth looked more normal. The difference was so dramatic that my HS teachers didn’t recognize me a year later. (it took a long time for the swelling to go down)
    The surgery helped my confidence tremendously, and I have always been glad that I did it. But, reading this post makes me wonder how I will feel if my children have the same bone structure and want the same surgery. Hmm. It’s a big deal to change my body surgically. I’m’ sure I didn’t understand that at 18.

  12. Anon says:

    This post is rather timely for me as I am set to have a nose job in one months time. And every day I go back and forth about the decision, although the majority of time I am in the “yes I want to go for it” camp.

    I was hit in the face with a basketball as a kid and broke my nose, although my parents didn’t know it at the time. It healed with a prominent hump, a hump that got bigger and bigger as I went through puberty. I was teased a lot as a teen, not just for my nose, although it was certainly singled out for some remarks, but for me awkward and ugly appearance in general. I was a very unattractive teen, although much of it was my fault as I failed to embrace make-up and feminine fashion until college. These days I am far more attractive, have “blossomed” sort to speak, and am married to a very hot man, but I still see myself as that awkward and ugly high schooler.

    I’ve made some peace with my appearance, but I never outgrew my self-consciousness about my shnoz. So I have finally decided to do something about it. Yet I still agonize about it. As a feminist and a Mormon, I have always tried to be someone who believed in embracing yourself and the idea of being “your own kind of beautiful” (raise your hand if you had that mormonad). But I can’t escape the fact that my nose hurts my self-esteem and makes me terribly self-conscious. The advice to simply shake it off and embrace it is far easier said than done. I have opted for the surgery because I truly do think it will help my confidence. In many ways, I feel like the surgery is something tangible, almost like a rite of passage that will help me finally see myself as I currently am, not how I looked in middle school. I also feel that because of the basketball incident, my nose does not look like it is supposed to look. So surgery to me will help restore it to the way it originally was.

    Nonetheless I’m quite nervous. I’m most nervous about how other people, especially those in my ward will react……

  13. Caroline says:

    I love all your comments. Let me just respond to a couple, however.

    fmhlisa, I probably sounded more at peace with my physical self than I really am. I too have issues with my pudgey hips and belly and would love to have a thinner, more toned body. But the negative thoughts I have when I look at myself in the mirror have a lesser intensity than they did when I was a teen. Thank goodness for that. And yes, super scary about those girls’ journals.

    Ana, I have wondered about the resurrection. I figure God would let me decide, just as he’d probably let the people who have terribly crooked teeth decide whether they would like to keep their post-braces or pre-braces smile.

    Anon, I totally understand where you’re coming from. I do think your situation can be seen as different than mine. You’re making this decision as an adult. I made mine as a hyper sensitive teen who was convinced the world was staring at me. My nose was not the result of an injury (that I know of). Yours was. So I can see how you could come to this decision. My simple advice is this. 1) Ask to be put under general anesthesia, even if it costs $1000 more. 2) Don’t freak out when you look at yourself in the mirror that night like I did. Good luck!

  14. Tanya Sue says:

    I am opposed to cosmetic surgery. The problem is that we are telling people they are not good enough. We are trying to get people to “buy” into what they are supposed to look like. While our imperfections can make us insecure, they also make us humble. After developing some serious health issues I have reached a point where I am grateful that my body works. It is so far from perfect, but it is mine.

    What do we teach our children that look like us? That they are not good enough either? Is that the message we send? We need to focus on how to help people to be confident with what they have and not having a quick fix that won’t generally solve the underlying problems.

    Cosmetic surgery is so common that we let teenagers have it now. Yet we forget it is a major surgery and are surprised when there are complications and death. Recently a 17 year old had breast enhancement to correct a “birth defect”. She died during surgery. It is a tragic end to a young life, but the parents response made me realize that we are forgetting that any medical “procedure” is a medical procedure and a big deal.

    And Caroline, you have a fantastic nose!

  15. stacer says:

    I had septoplasty to correct my deviated septum about 2 years ago. When I went back into my regular doctor, she asked me if I’d gotten rhinoplasty at the same time. I didn’t even know they could do that, but I hadn’t–if anything, my nose was the one feature I’d never really felt a need to do anything about, because thankfully I didn’t inherit my mom’s side of the family’s nose. But I just thought that was funny that my doctor, who has been treating me for several years now and who was the one who has been looking up my nose for so long couldn’t remember what my nose looked like and I thought I’d gotten a nose job.

  16. zacious says:

    fMhLisa,

    Do you have a link to the On Point story you referenced?

    I’d love to hear it.

  17. John says:

    Isn’t the real issue the underlying negative self-image? Where does it come from? And I’m not talking about just noses. It’s all of our human imperfections. How do we treat them in our kids when they’re in their most vulnerable phase of life?

    Caroline: It’s awesome that it worked for you. Whether or not the actual procedure actually lasted, it solved your self-consciousness, which is amazing. It comes across. I never give your nose a second thought.

  18. Zenaida says:

    I had jaw surgery after I graduated from high school to correct an over-bite, and it was considered elective surgery. People ask me if I think it was worth it, and I think I have to say yes, even though it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I really didn’t think much of it at the time, as I had been seeing the orthodontist and wearing braces for a couple of years by then, until I actually had the surgery, and similarly saw my face for the first time. It is incredibly difficult to see yourself so disfigured even though you know it’s temporary. My recovery took at least a month, and I was swollen for the better part of 8 months. The surgery did change things for me, and I think it’s for the better, so it’s hard for me to say that it’s not worth doing at all. But, then I see cases like Priscilla Presley (BTW, “Dancing With the Stars” is one of my favorite shows : ) ), and I have to say it really freaks me out that women feel the need to do that to themselves.
    http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-plastic-pg,0,2871253.photogallery

  19. Caroline says:

    tanya, thanks!

    John, that’s a good question. I do think the root of all of this was indeed my negative self image. I don’t know if there’s anything my parent could have done to make me feel better about myself. She was pretty powerless in the face of everything I was getting from T.V., magazines, etc. As you mentioned, I’m much less self-conscious these days. I chalk that up mostly to simply growing up and realizing that no one else cares what I look like. That’s actually pretty liberating.

    Zenaida, that sounds like a brutal surgery. Even with my newfound regret over my own plastic surgery, I can definitely understand having such a procedure. (And I even now might decide to do exactly what you did.) It is complicated.

  20. j says:

    I feel you are very pretty with that nose, makes you look like different

  21. joe says:

    Friend

    I am a guy and have a hawk nose which was the reason for me
    to have a low self esteem. It took me few years to
    get back to High self esteem that am having “God created me unique and am blessed”

    Great that you have overcome it. God bless you.

    joe

  22. Nathaly says:

    I hate my nose so muchh! I felt the same way you did, ugly, unattractive, I just HATE it! Im 14. &i wanna get my nose done really bad. Its a self thing you know? Do what you want to make you feel better. Hopefully I get it done this summer.

  23. anominous says:

    Over the past years my olo nose has been growing back, but i mostly reget who paid for my nose job, by someone Ide rather forget, like a tattoo of a time i want to forget, but cant erase but I was young, I should have appreciated what God gave me, its been 10 years since then

  24. Pez says:

    so inpsparational, i have a big nose too, and i am already concidering surgury on it at my young age of 14, it stands out and i hate it, at least i used to. but after reading ur story i realised that it is was makes me unique, and looks arent everything. thankyou so much, you have most definetely changed my look on life. xx

  25. Max says:

    I know I’m showing up late in the conversation, but I can relate to the author. I always wanted rhino in my teen years, but I never did it. I couldn’t articulate it back then, but I always intuitively felt that if I had gotten the surgery at so young an age, I’d be cheating myself out something – character/self knowledge. Tough choice, but VERY enlightening.

    The years of hatred/disrespect I received because of the size of my nose was very real- allowing me to understand the true nature & hypocricy of human behavior. I thoroughly understand now why we Humans are a highly superficial lot, regardless of how much we try to pretend otherwise.

    While the introspection has done me a world of good, the author’s decision to go through with the surgery is still understandable, because it’s just one less problem she had to deal with as a teen. And redefining yourself (hook nose or not) is an endless cycle for those who seek to grow & evolve as a person – so don’t fret too much about your decision.

  26. mike says:

    I had surgery to remove the hump on my nose. After doing it I instantly realized that it was a big mistake. I had a roman nose and now the nose that I have it too small for my face. It has been about two years and it has grown back a little but I would like it to grow a lot more. Is there anything in particular that you did to make it grow back?

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