The Patient's Body
My first nose job was performed by an otolaryngologist (otherwise known as an ear, nose, and throat doctor) who, in concert with my mother, encouraged me to have surgery. Without consulting me, my mother made an appointment and then convinced me to go with her— just to see what he had to say. He had operated on the nose of a neighbor, and my mother liked her result.
Having a parent criticize a physical feature is a complicated emotional experience that induces both anger and guilt. You feel as though you have let the parent down. Why didn't you come out right? At the same time, the pervasive mythology of parent-child relations tells you that parents think their children are perfect, no matter what. From my mother's perspective, however, criticism of my nose didn't seem harmful because it wasn't permanent. Such problems could be resolved— fixed. Ballerina Allegra Kent writes about the nose job similarly imposed upon her by a mother invested in “conventional beauty” (79). “Allegra [said her mother], if you had a little more chin and a little less nose, you would be so much prettier” (78). And then: “Aren't you interested in a