Most people can attest to having at least one physical feature they are not thrilled about. For me, that feature has always been my nose. Long and slightly downturned with wide, flaring nostrils it has jokingly been referred to as a witch’s nose, a ski slope, a beak and my personal favorite made up by my Sesame Street obsessed sister at age five, Mr. Snuffuleupagus.
As an insecure teenager, I would sit in front of the mirror attempting to contort my nose into a variety of shapes, trying on different looks like I was trying on shirts at the mall. I’d scrunch it up with my thumb into a small button-shaped knob. I’d pinch the nostrils until I could barely breath and push down the tip, all the while imagining how much prettier my face would be if only my nose were less prominent.
Thankfully, my 20’s ushered in greater self-acceptance, and with it came a newfound level of confidence. My nose went from witch-like to Romanesque and from ski-sloped to striking. My days of agonizing in the mirror were over and I made peace with the insecurities of my youth. Or so I thought.
When my son was born my husband and I swooned over every feature on his tiny body. We admired his alert blue eyes, noted his cute dimple, and brushed our hands through his wispy blonde hair. He looked just like his dad—an observation that was confirmed by every family member, friend, and stranger that saw the two side-by-side. What followed the initial observation though, was undoubtedly, “but look, he has his mother’s nose.”
He has MY nose? “That’s unfortunate,” was my knee-jerk reaction. Of all the physical features he could inherit why did it have to be my nose? I disclosed my genetic disappointment with my husband. “Why is that a bad thing?” he asked. “I love your nose.”
“Love? You love my nose? You’re just saying that,” I rebutted as my long list of criticisms came rushing to the surface. Too long. Too large. Too pointy. Too bumpy. Too wide. Too flared. Too…and then I stopped and looked at my son. I looked at his nose, the same nose that sat on my face. And the only descriptor that came to mind was “perfect.” His nose was perfect.
I tried imagining a young Oliver, feet in the bathroom sink as he inched his face closer to the mirror. I tried imagining him scrutinizing his appearance in the same way I did, his self-confidence plummeting. And all because of one inconsequential feature, that in my eyes, was already perfect.
I picked up my son and held him tightly, desperately hoping my arms could ward off the hardships he is bound to face in the years to come. I said a prayer that in addition to my nose, he also travels though life with my eyes so that when he’s filled with doubts and insecurities, he sees himself the way I do now: perfect as is.
That’s the thing about having kids. They have a way of bringing us face to face with the things we dislike most about ourselves. Whether it’s a lack of patience, inflexibility, poor communication skills, or something as superficial as a nose. We are forced to confront, to adjust, to grow, and to transform into better versions of ourselves.
The next time I’m out with my son and someone comments on the similarities of our noses I will simply smile and say thank you. I will take it as the compliment it is. Because if my nose looks anything like my son’s, then I can only think of one word to describe it: perfect.