To a Woman With a Big Nose

Opinion

By Judy Oppenheimer

Published May 22, 2008, issue of May 30, 2008.
  • Print
  • Share Share

My sister Debbie has always been gorgeous — great face, great body. When I happened to find a picture taken 20 years ago, showing us all grouped around our family’s beloved dining room table, I was thrilled at how young and fit we all looked.

But I hid it from her for months.

The reason is simple: the picture shows her in profile. My sister hates her profile. More specifically, she hates her nose, with a passion beyond reason, at least to my mind and to everyone else’s.

Small noses don’t run in the family; I don’t think any have appeared in several generations.

My grandfather, who died when I was 5, reportedly had one, but so far as anyone knows, this particular gene was then lost, or submerged, forever. Anyway, Zayde’s nose, which is still fondly remembered by older relatives — “Now Zayde had a good nose!”, accompanied by general murmurs of appreciation — has yet to reappear.

On the whole, though, we’re a good-looking family, and so what if our noses aren’t tiny raised bumps? We’re Jewish, aren’t we?

Never bothered me. My sister’s another matter. I’ve argued with her about it often enough, but finally gave up. She wants to hate it, that’s her prerogative.

But then something happened: I happened to see the recent Julie Christie movie, “Away from Her,” the one she got an Academy Award nomination for. Everyone had been raving about how absolutely beautiful she looks in it, despite her age, which is apparently something unspeakable, like 60.

So I saw it. The acting was fine, but something was definitely off. Christie, who I remembered well from her (and my) youth, just didn’t look the same. The Julie Christie of the past — “Darling,” “Shampoo,” “Dr. Zhivago” — had been truly stunning. Memorable. The kind of looks that haunt you.

This Julie Christie was older, sure, but that wasn’t it. She was also conventionally pretty. Regular, uninteresting, dime-a-dozen prom queen looks.

She’d never looked like that before. I’d heard she’d had a facelift, but somehow, I knew that wasn’t it. Was it possible this was someone else, masquerading as Christie? I couldn’t figure it out.

Then one night I came across an old Christie film, “Heaven Can Wait.” And the answer was there: The young Christie was as ravishingly beautiful as I remembered — with a proud, impressive nose.

She’d gotten a nose job! That was what had made the difference. It had to be something she’d always wanted; noses don’t change with age. Obviously she figured if she was fixing things up, she might as well go all the way.

And with one fell swoop of the surgical knife, she had gotten rid of everything that made her exotic, arresting, interesting — and beautiful.

It reminded me of the Jennifer Grey story. Remember her? A little girl, but with quite a nose on her. She got a lot of attention for her role in “Dirty Dancing,” where apparently her nose was considered okay since she was playing a Jewish girl.

Only it wasn’t to her — not long afterwards, she got herself to the nearest surgeon, who obligingly chopped her nose down to a bare nub.

And no one ever heard from her again.

A fully rendered nose can be not only distinctive, but actually enhance a person’s attractiveness, giving it interest, an arresting beauty. As Jennifer Grey knows, the lack of one can sink the whole enterprise.

My friend Janie is an actress. She is also Jewish and has a decent sized nose, no minor blip. Early on in her career she played the Anne Sullivan part in “The Miracle Worker.” That play has a strenuous physical scene in which Anne, the teacher, is trying to tame Helen Keller.

Wrestling with her co-star in one performance, Janie smashed into the table, fell — and broke her nose. (Trooper that she is, she was all for finishing the scene, but they pulled her offstage before she bled all over the set.)

She had only one instruction for the surgeon: Don’t dare change my nose! No smoothing out, no carving, nothing. Her nose is a part of her looks and she wanted it to stay exactly as it was. And so it has.

I hold no breach against plastic surgery, and wouldn’t mind having a few things ironed out, or lifted. But my nose will stay as it is, for the duration. And so should my sister’s. Yours, too.

Judy Oppenheimer is the author of “Private Demons: The Life of Shirley Jackson” (Ballantine Books, 1989).


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.