Big schnozz. The word bounced around in my head from ear to ear. Schnozz. How do I even spell that? Is it German? What does it have to do with me? Was it even directed at me? No… Maybe?
These were honest questions I asked myself when, as a schoolgirl, a sensitive young dumdum jokingly guffawed with his equally empathetic d-bag buddies in reference to a very prominent feature on my face, over which I had no control.
Once I determined to what and whom they were referring and that it was a sort of belittling yokel insult directed at me for no good reason except to do just that, of course, my feelings were hurt, my already-uncomfortable pre-teen confidence faltered, I immediately hated my nose and why couldn’t it be smaller and cuter, and more like all the pretty girls’ noses?!
The nose-hate continued for many years after that. Oh, the injustice! Here in the bloom of my youth, to be afflicted with such a monstrous disfigurement! I started to look into the history of my nose: my dad, the grandson of Greek immigrants, my mother, the great granddaughter of Scottish immigrants. My nose was the genetic result of a Greek and Hebridean bloodline, where it seems the Ancient Greeks met the Celtic-Vikings and broke deoxyribonucleic bread. I looked at my mom and dad, their moms and dads and their moms and dads. I began to see my angular profile descended down a line of prominent noses. Noses of courageous immigrants who’d fled their turbulent homes to find a better and safer life in a completely alien country. Noses of strong-willed immigrants who’d helped to shape the country I call home. It was a nose of creative thinkers and never-sleepers. It was a nose of determination and hilarious wit. It was a nose of character and mischief.
When I was trying to establish a career as an actor in my late twenties, I worked briefly as an administrative assistant for a talent agency – an unhappy and all-too-real place to be for someone who had been more accustomed to the other side of the table. One day, one the agents called me into her office to go over a to do list for the day. We digressed from the task at hand and started chatting about my history with representation and auditioning. I told her that I had considered shopping around for a higher-profile agent than the one I had – an agent who had actually just dropped me, not a month before that conversation. We went over the possible reasons for my lack of success in finding an agent and my limited bookings in film and TV. She leant forward as if to let me in on some juicy gossip. I followed suit, leaning in to her as well.
“Have you ever considered...?” She candidly whispered, and she tapped the bridge of her nose lightly – tap, tap, tap – elaborating with her delicate and shocking gesture that I might need a nose job.
RECORD SCRATCH. My insides recoiled. The Ancient Greeks and Celtic Vikings in my very DNA readied their pointed, shining spears.
“NO!” I retorted, surprising myself. “For one, my family would disown me. It’s like a club. We all have the same nose. I would be literally CUTTING THEM OFF. Secondly, have you SEEN the other features on my face?! My nose may not be dainty but at least it balances out the moon-face chin and the Olympic-sized cheekbones. And third, if I got my nose done, I’d just look like everybody else.”
Not surprisingly, I got sacked from that job after only two weeks. But at least I came out with my nose in tact and a newfound appreciation for its uniqueness. I reflect on that experience now and how I’d reacted, realizing that it may have, in fact, been a very important moment in the history of me. It was perhaps my first real moment of standing my ground in a business that I love and respect, but a business that is notoriously shallow and personally disheartening. A moment of saying, “no, this is who I am and it’s important.”
Now that I have kids and a career in performance, I really don’t have a lot of time to hate myself. There are more important things to deal with in this life like good coffee and not saying the F-word in from of my toddler. I’m grateful for that wisdom-for-bloom-of-youth trade-off.
Having said that, it’s now, twenty-some-odd years later and I think I’ve finally got a rebuttal to the Schnozz comment guy. I no longer remember who it was, but if I were 12 again, I’d say, “Schnozz? Good for you. You know Yiddish? How about this one: Putz? Or maybe Schmuck?...No? Ya know, I’ll tell you one thing, if by getting a nose job I could stop myself from smelling your future failure as an emotionally stable and competent adult, perhaps I’d consider calling Dr. Mulholland for a consultation.”
Mic drop. Whitney RB over and out.