This was going to be a story of feminism and self-ownership:
The search for my nose began as a child. Mine was round and very unlike my mother’s regal Roman nose. My birth father was long gone, but old photographs bore evidence of a nose bent and flattened from repeated breaking, a hazard of soccer and Spanish blood run hot. My nose did not have the narrow British look of my grandmother’s nor the prominent Italian bulge of my grandfather’s. It had no match, no ancestry, no belonging.
That may seem an awful lot of meaning to attach to a single facial feature, but I have always been a deep feeler and a meaning-searcher, and even as a child I was never satisfied to look in the mirror and not recognize to whom my nose belonged.
The summer after my junior year of high school I took a trip to Spain, where my birth father’s family still lived. I met my paternal grandfather, a warm and gentle old man, small and gray, limited in English, eyes effusive with love 17 years in waiting. And this lovely old man had a round nose, just like mine.
I was so thrilled that I finally found my nose’s ancestry, that there was a face and a tradition and a culture to go with it. I quit worrying about where my nose came from, and I embraced it as my own.
So when I considered having it pierced, I felt fully within my rights. I’ve thought about having it done for much of my adult life, so earlier this week I decided it was time. I was curious whether my friends would agree that I could pull it off, so I tossed the question out into my social media circles.
I got twenty-six Facebook opinions and several from Twitter as well. Most people thought I should go for it, and I felt confirmed. There was just one problem: My husband hated the idea.
He has no problem with tattoos, mine or in general, so I was surprised that he felt so strongly against what was a much less permanent decoration. But he did feel strongly– he said that it really grossed him out. And of course this aggravated me because it was my nose and I could do with it what I wanted, dammit.
And it is, and I can. But I realized as I looked at the lengthy Facebook post that what twenty-six people think about how I look doesn’t really matter. There is only one person in the entire world for whom I care to be beautiful, and as it turns out, that one person is not me.
This was going to be a story of feminism and self-ownership. But as it turns out, it’s not.
The man who promised to love me for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, the man who continues to love me in my quirkiness and my madness, in my graying and my flabbiness– this is the one person whose opinion on my appearance matters, and the thought of my nose pierced really grosses him out.
So it’s my nose, and I want to pierce it, but I won’t. Because I love the man who would keep on loving me even if I did.
But I am definitely getting another tattoo.