______I am about to tell you all a story--a story about appearances. A story about a nose. A story about my nose.
______I promise it won't involve boogers, or dust mites, or other unmentionable nasties that adhere to nose hairs. And I promise that it's not about how my nose is actually a creature that detaches itself from my face and scuttles through the night, meticulously sweeping the shadows for prey to feed upon.
______Because you don't need to possess that type of sacred, awkward knowledge.
______You see, my nose didn't used to have this crook on it. It used to be nice and straight, and up until the day that it was not nice and straight, I didn't think much of it. During the times which my nose was properly level, there was a kid on my bus who frequently reminded me that my ears poked out of my hair in a really weird way. I had a huge crush on him and his freckles and curly copper hair, and so I hated how he thought my ears poked out.
______To make myself feel better about his opinion of my appearance, I justified, "Hey, as long as my nose is straight, you can't really tell that my ears poke out of my hair." In my mind, my nose made everything about the rest of my appearance be reduced to a completely neutral state, and as long as one part of me wouldn't magically grow a few cubic millimeters overnight, my life would be all right, and the balance would remain at zero.
______This story takes place in the seventh grade. I was in gym class, and our class was outside on the football field. A concrete stadium and a chain-link fence patched with sponsor posters crowded us in. Clouds stretched across the blue canvas sky like wispy cotton balls, and a hot breeze whistled through the stadium.
______For such a decent day, you wouldn't think my aforementioned face theory was about to be completely obliterated.
______In the center of the football field, some of the "cool" guys began a frisbee tournament. Other students were jumping rope on the sidelines, lazing on the grass (and quickly springing to their feet when the coaches noticed their lack of physical activity), or circling the track and gossiping about who's dating who, because that's totally the most important topic in middle school. I was throwing a frisbee back and forth within a small square of girls. The gym coaches decided we didn't need to run the mile like we did most Fridays, and that alone made class swell that day.
______Of course, all good things must end. Or be cut short, in my case.
______After tossing the frisbee to one of my friends, I heard a bustle of boyish shouts and screams. I turned my head and saw a radiant red something flashing toward me; it was growing larger and redder, and I kept watching it, absorbed by it, and not at all questioning whether or not it would hit my face. What was that thing? Whatever it was, it would definitely hit my face. It was coming right at me. Yup, gonna hit my face, any minute now. My gaze was as fixated on this red object as a pudgy police officer's at the donut counter. I wouldn't budge. I don't think I had time to budge. Why didn't I budge?
______Wham! A red frisbee smacked me in the face, and a flash of silver infiltrated my vision. I heard a slight cracking noise echo from my nose to my forehead to my temples, and I flopped down to the ground quicker than a soggy pancake in a downpour. My face felt a little bit fuzzy and numb.
______My nose fizzed and throbbed for a moment, and my friends circled around me, mouths and eyes wide in response to my frisbee-battered nose. Glancing to my right, I saw a group of guys pointing at me on a tilted horizon, and some were grinning nervously (did they think it was funny?), and others looked a bit concerned. Even to this day, I don't remember who they were, or even their faces; they all looked like clones in their drab grey and black gym uniforms. Each one dispersed quickly after I met his gaze.
______I managed to pick myself up with the help of one of my friends, and the gym coach ran over to me and instructed my friend to accompany me to the restroom to clean myself up. My face and nose were beating red, and of course I cried a great lake or two, but after I sponged the blood off and patted my face dry with those scratchy, cardboard colored paper towels, I was back to normal.
______I thought my nose was still going to be in tip-top shape other than some temporary bruising, and that the nosebleed was but a nosebleed; however, a few days after the hectic frisbee incident, I became dreadfully aware that wasn't the case. Turns out the frisbee changed the blueprints of my nose. Some cartilage shifted due to the red frisbee, the one which greedily bore into my face, of all the targets in the world. From the front, my nose leaned to the right, and from the side, it protruded outward like a camel's hump. I felt extremely bird-like and self-conscious about this change in appearance, and felt as if a permanent pimple had sprouted in the center of my face for all the world to see.
______It seemed as if every one of my facial features somehow redirected any onlooker's attention to my nose, pointing a glowing neon sign toward it labeled, "Ali's Huge Nose--This Way!" This crooked nose was a new exhibit introduced to the art gallery that was my face and it wouldn't be removed anytime soon, no matter how popular it was not.
_____ Upon the realization that I would never have a straight nose again, seventh grade me dubbed my existence null--I now not only had stick-y out-y ears, but I had stick-y out-y ears and a crooked nose. What a bummer. I was woeful and did everything in my ability to counteract the appearance of my nose, paying special attention to everything I decorated myself with. Collars on shirts would redirect attention to my ears like a turn signal. Certain necklaces could have the same effect. Glasses were okay, but only if they were rimless. Wearing my hair up was a big no-no; when my ponytail was parallel to my nose, my nose would seem to stretch in size, creating an unnaturally lengthy ponytail-to-nose ratio. Hoop earrings? Doubtful, because large things only make you notice other large things, don'tcha know?
______Everything I wore became a potential enemy, and all thanks to my nose.
______I suppose things remedied themselves over time, though scars will always remain scars. Eighth grade me didn't much like my nose, though ninth grade me was a little more okay with it, and soon I grew weary of trying to conceal its appearance through cleverly planned outfits and hairstyles. I could only do so much, and there were only so many different things to wear with my nose at that time. Eventually, I forced myself to forget about it. Forget about the nose, forget about it completely, ignore it in the mirrors, ignore it in when I glanced down and saw that nose-blur in my line of vision.
______They say mentality is half the battle; if you can convince yourself you don't care about what something looks like, just like if you can convince yourself you can speak in front of a couple hundred people without imagining what each person is thinking of you, you'll probably begin to believe it.
______They were right.
______It took me a long time to tolerate my new nose. But somehow, nuance by nuance, that tolerance shifted into acceptance. One day, I woke up and decided the way it looked didn't bother me. Heck, I sometimes even liked the way it looked. Something went right with my frisbee-induced nose job. As I aged, my facial features seemed to develop around my nose in a decent manner, and it became less and less a centerpiece of my face, and more and more a mere piece of it. Just another facial feature. A nose and nothing more.
______Today, I have a strange fondness for my off-kilter nose, kind of like the strange fondness one may have for tattered books that are stained with time and a musky scent. I yucked at my nose for so long, yet somehow it ended up being a flaw I was satisfied with. Maybe not from every angle, maybe not every day, but I'm definitely coping with it better than seventh grade me did.
______And that boy with the hair and freckles? Well, let's just say that his curls don't bounce like they used to, and his freckles are less comparable to chocolate sprinkles on a dainty cupcake and more like raisins on a crumbly, month-old cookie. A very moldy cookie. With worms and grubs and other gross, wiggly things festering in it. That's been stomped on and regurgitated by a half-dying armadillo.
______Is there something about yourself that took a long time to accept, or that you're still struggling to accept?
Dress: Free People (I got it for $39 at Nordstrom; originally it was $128, yeah!)
Necklace: c/o ShopBevel
Oxford heels: Jeffrey Campbell
Rose earrings: Charming Charlie
Hair: my momma did it because she is perfect