I sometimes look back fondly on my old nose: its wide bridge with a hump, the spherical tip and dented, asymmetric side. But I think that's because I've forgotten what it was like to actually live with it.
Five years ago, after many months of research and consultations, I booked in for a nose job. You hear about people regretting plastic surgery all the time, but not a day goes by where I rue my decision – even if it did eat up half of my life savings. While my 'new' nose is not flawless (then again, a perfectionist is never truly happy), the slimmer nasal bone, defined sides and very subtle 'ski slope' tip have been transformative. My self-esteem has skyrocketed. I no longer cringe in photos.
To those who have met me since then, my nose is just a normal nose. There is nothing extraordinary or shocking about it. However I can't help but notice that it bothers people, specifically those who knew me before I chose to have rhinoplasty. Interestingly, no one realised the difference at first. But a year or so down the line, the snide remarks and offensive comments started to crop up in everyday conversation.
"Oh why did you do that to yourself, my darling?" sighed a tearful elderly relative, pointing at my nose over the dinner table. With all eyes on me at that moment, I remember an aunt (fully supportive of my decision) retort that my nose would have garnered less of a despairing reaction if I'd asked the surgeon to remove it entirely and attach it to the top of my head.
Then came the reaction that most of those who have gone under the knife fear. "I think it's quite obvious you've had it done, like, you can really tell," spat a former colleague over drinks once, while others have thrown around expressions including 'fake' and 'plastic'. I even began to adopt these words myself whenever anyone asked. "Oh, my fake nose? Yeah, I had it done a few years back. No, it didn't really hurt at all."
Nowadays, surgery is seriously smart. Choose a reputable surgeon who is a member of all the right associations and your nose job could be virtually undetectable. This is partly why I settled for one particular clinic. Nose jobs are no longer one size fits all and a good surgeon will subtly tweak a feature so that it suits your face: no more overly pinched Jacko-esque tips or what experts call the 'Pinocchio effect'. No foreign materials and obviously zero plastic, despite what the name suggests.
Sometimes I catch sight of my nose in the mirror or in pictures and I'm taken aback by how well it fits me. It's just right – a better version of the nose I had before. So why does it feel as though so many people hate it? I asked Mr Naveen Cavale, consultant plastic and reconstructive surgeon and clinical director at King's College Hospital to shed some light on the matter. It isn't as straightforward as it seems. "For older generations especially, hospitals are dangerous places and surgery is a dangerous thing," he told me. "There is also a generational 'get on with it' and 'be thankful for what you've got' attitude. But nowadays, we are in a position to change things if we want to." This makes a lot of sense, considering some of the comments have come from much older relatives.
Yet there is just as much judgement from my millennial friends. "While attitudes for cosmetic surgery have changed a lot, there is still a stigma," says Mr Cavale. "Often, people say 'ah, she must have been really vain to have that done' or 'why can’t people just be happy with what they were born with?' But the reason why I do cosmetic surgery is not to tackle people's vanities. In fact, 99% of the time it’s not about ego; people simply want to feel better and look better for themselves."
Mr Cavale also mentions that some people are curious and worried when it comes to surgery and that it is not uncommon for friends and family members to use those who have had tweaks as a sounding board. "With breast surgery especially, young women compare themselves a lot. I have often seen people using others to suss out whether they are brave enough to do the same. Word of mouth is really powerful."
I can't help but think that ethnic attitudes also factor into the equation, as Mr Cavale seconds. The Kilikita nose is full of 'character' after all. Did friends and family think I wanted to shed my identity or that I wasn't proud of it? Of course, that's not why I did it at all; I simply wasn't happy with the way my nose looked. Rhinoplasty hasn't torn up my roots.
I received comments about my distinctive nose even before surgery; I couldn't win, even then. Chances are, if someone has changed something about their appearance, they were unhappy to begin with. Commenting further could add to that unhappiness and even perhaps create a new insecurity. This goes for any procedure, whether it's a nose job, Botox or lip filler.
Mr Cavale sums it up well: "People do make odd comments without thinking sometimes, especially on social media where they may be frontal and unfiltered thanks to being protected by a screen." However he mentions that, generally, people are interested and even a little bit anxious in regards to cosmetic surgery. While there may be a handful of people who can't seem to get their head around it, both Mr Cavale and I stress the importance of having a support network around you if you are thinking of surgery. "Take your time and discuss it with trusted family members," says Mr Cavale. "Having backup is essential."
It takes a special kind of 'no fucks given' attitude not to be fazed by negative observations regarding your appearance. My decision to have a nose job makes me feel as brave as it does happy. And if you don't like my nose, that's alright. It's not yours, anyway.