Why I'll Always Be Honest About My Nose Job

Photo: Courtesy of AVA TUNNICLIFFE.
This story was originally published on June 10, 2015.

I remember when in seventh grade, my English teacher showed us the episode of The Twilight Zone in which a beautiful blonde bombshell gets plastic surgery in order to look more like the pig-nosed people around her. What relation this had to reading To Kill A Mockingbird, I will never know, but the image of a woman wrapped in bandages stayed with me for a long time. The older I got, the more aware I became of the depiction of plastic surgery in the media. It was something vapid, shameful, and vain — or, at least, that's what I was taught.

When I made the decision to get my nose job about a year ago, I couldn't help but feel like I was doing something I should be ashamed of. I began to question why it is that we place such a taboo on plastic surgery when, in fact, it is such common practice in this country. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), 14.6 million people went under the knife in the U.S. in 2012, with rhinoplasty being the most popular procedure. Almost 15 million others had also undergone elective surgery, yet I still felt alone in my decision, despite meditating on it for almost 10 years.

Making The Decision
The year I was 11 was wrought with changes for me. I moved from central London to the suburbs of New York, grew boobs, started menstruating, got braces, and, the icing on the cake, I grew the "family nose." It was drooped at the front, with a hard, large bump on top that made side-profile shots my worst nightmare. Considering I'm only five feet tall, with relatively small features, my nose was like a whole other entity. It consumed me. And it consumed my thoughts.

It was, for lack of better words, a complete pain in the ass. I'd hide from the camera at all costs, spend countless hours attempting to photoshop pictures of myself, and constantly untag Facebook photos. My nose wasn't only something that I saw, as the (now thankfully retired) Facebook Honesty Box feature allowed me to be privy to; anonymously, my classmates and peers were able to share their opinions on my looks, too. As someone ever-so-nicely put it for me, my "mountainous schnoz" made me look like "a horse."

It took years for me to come around to the idea of surgery. Whenever I tried to bring it up with any of my friends, I was automatically hit with, "You don't need it" or, "You're already pretty." Once in a while, someone would quote Amber from Clueless: “My plastic surgeon doesn’t want me doing any activity where balls fly at my nose.”

I understood why my friends fed me these responses, although I honestly just wanted someone to say, “That’s awesome!” But we have been so socialized to believe that plastic surgery is only for the Real Housewives of the world, that the idea of some nobody like me getting her face altered seemed outlandish. My life was fine. I was intelligent, and had good friends and a boyfriend. I knew that my large nose was something I could live with for the rest of my life, but I didn’t want to. While it’s true that you can't derive worth from your looks, my insecurities still dragged down my feelings about myself, destroying my confidence and assurance.

Going Under The Knife
About six months before my 21st birthday, I went in for a consultation with Sam Rizk, MD. With over 19 years of experience, Dr. Rizk comes highly recommended from every online testimonial. I decided to book an appointment with him first, ready to explore other options if necessary. Dr. Rizk showed me how my nose could look with a closed rhinoplasty procedure. The changes were subtle — just a lift of the tip and shaving down the bump — but I could already tell it was exactly what I wanted.

Dr. Rizk operates on a case-by-case basis, meaning that there are no generically manufactured, ski-slope bunny noses coming out of his office. “Nose shape would vary individually, and I give a customized nose to each patient depending on many reference points and facial structure,” he says. His meticulous attitude about getting to know each and every one of his patients was probably what won me over most. He explained that if he believes a patient has “unrealistic” goals “or would not achieve a good result,” then he doesn't operate. I felt that I was in safe hands.

I went in for my surgery a week after turning 21. There is no way to sugarcoat it: It was terrifying. There was a moment when I was laying on the hospital bed with a needle in my arm, waiting to be wheeled into the surgery room, when I actually considered leaping up, ripping the needle out, running out of the hospital, and not looking back. But, before I knew it, I was waking up hooked up to a morphine drip with a nurse feeding me water through a straw. I felt surprisingly fine. It was day two, after the morphine and oxycodone started to wear off, when I started to feel like I had been hit by a bus. There wasn’t any sharp pain, just a dull throbbing. My head, mouth, and nose felt congested. It was like having the worst cold imaginable. My face looked completely swollen, and my eyelids were puffy and a violent shade of purple (I jokingly called it my eyeshadow), which was made even worse by my fair skin. I’d imagined discomfort, but it was a worse and more bizarre sensation than I could ever have imagined.
Photo: Courtesy of AVA TUNNICLIFFE.
I had decided to be public about my nose job long before I went under the knife. If something went wrong, then it would all be documented. I wanted to be open about it not for the attention, but to help remove the stigma attached to elective surgeries. As someone who has a relatively large social media presence, hiding it also seemed like an inconvenience. The few other people I know who have had their noses done have gone to great lengths to hide any evidence of their previous noses, as if it's some secret past life that must be buried. Personally, I didn't want to dig through over seven years of my Facebook archive in order to delete every photo where you may be able to see my past nose, so instead I took my followers on my journey with me. I posted before and after pictures, as well as graphic images of my bruising face, on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Tumblr, and Tinder. Even when I felt groggy, I knew I had to keep posting. I had committed to this.

Down With The Stigma
I never expected the positive feedback and support that I received from my friends, coworkers, and acquaintances, especially considering the stigma attached to elective plastic surgery. I received an influx of Facebook messages, as well as direct messages on Instagram and Twitter, from close friends and even people I had never met. People were genuinely curious about how my recovery was going, asking me about nitty-gritty details that aren’t always available online (for example, the new mouth-breathing technique I was forced to adopt and the new meaning Q-tips took on in my life). Surprisingly, many people even confided in me that they want to someday get nose jobs. I felt a sense of unanticipated relief in posting my photos. If I was the first one to make fun of my swollen eyes, bloody nose tip, and complete inability to talk without sounding like I had a cotton ball in my throat, then what else could anyone else say? At times, my posts were raw and gross — as plastic surgery recovery is — but, I always tried to keep a level of humor about it. I never wanted to be pitied as, after all, this was my choice.

People often talk about how crucial it is to have autonomy over one’s body, but why is that same thinking not extended to one’s choice to change an element of their appearance? We’re allowed to change our hair color, so by the same logic we should be able to alter our noses if our natural ones displease us. This fear of ridicule and shame was greatly echoed in my conversations with others who were considering surgery. By keeping plastic surgery such a no-go topic, those who wish to get surgery are left with few places to turn. My best friend for finding out information was Reddit, but I wished that I could have a real-life nose buddy to tell me not to freak out about the blood-soaked gauze that would sit under my nose for a week, or the fact that recovery feels like the most intense sinus infection, ever. Instead, it was just me, the Internet, and my doctor. It was lonely, but it shouldn’t have been, especially considering the fact that nose jobs have been the most popular plastic surgery for at least five years.

We need to remove the stigma. We should be able to alter whatever we please, free of the judgment of others. It’s already a huge and calculated decision to undergo the risks of plastic surgery without the added fear of ridicule. No one should be shamed for the decisions they make with their own body. I will never be shameful of my nose job. The relief of not spending every day fixating on a singular feature was worth the blood, tears, and pain. Because it’s my body and my choice.

Deciding to go under the knife is no easy feat. It’s something that people often meditate on for years before even telling anyone, meaning that when they do finally open up, they’re only looking for your support. Even if you are personally against surgically altering yourself, it doesn’t mean you should always share it, especially if someone has already made this difficult decision.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone makes comments like, “That girl's nose is definitely fake.” Although you may think the surgery looks botched, there is a chance that the individual is actually pleased with the outcome. One of the scariest elements of my rhinoplasty was the fear that I still wouldn’t like how my nose looked after. Luckily, I loved it right away, but there is always the chance that it'll take a while to get used to (especially given the initial swelling). The best way to talk to a coworker or friend who has gone through this experience is to compliment them on their bravery, even if you don’t personally believe in plastic surgery. Who doesn’t like to hear that they look nice?

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