I hated my nose. It was small, flat, wide and people would often tell me it was “cute”. I hated it when people said that, or would draw attention to it. It is a Filipino nose, inherited from my Dad’s side of the family – that distinctive nose that so many have and makes us easily recognizable when you know what to look for.
I longed for the pointed, triangular noses of my friends, pert and slightly rounded at the tip, not too long, with a smattering of freckles on it or none at all. Instead I had my nose – one that was often described as “hard to break” or that required me to wear glasses with nose pieces from the time I was a kid. I wanted to wear the glasses that didn’t have old-lady nose pads on them, didn’t have to be adjusted to keep them from sliding off my face, the cool ones, ones that came in different colours and patterns and shapes. I resented my nose, it’s flatness, the lack of a distinguishable bridge. It wasn’t like the noses that other people had and as a child, it seemed like it was just another thing that made me different and weird. Honestly? As a mixed-race kid in a small town filled with farmers, I didn’t need another reason to draw attention to myself. I tried to wish it away, to pinch the bridge of my one to make it more visible and pointy, thought that if I tried hard enough I could reshape it myself. But it was mine and I was stuck with it. I hated my nose.
As a teen, I dreamed of the day that I would be old enough to get a nose job and get rid of my little button nose once and for all. I didn’t know what it was that I wanted, but I knew that if I had something different on my face, it would make me look better somehow. I ignored the cries of my friends that it was part of what made me “cute” or “special” or “unique” and tried to picture myself with the perfect nose – the one you see on the models in magazines or on actresses in movies. Back then, though, I wanted to change myself to be someone else anyways, someone who was skinny, with the perfect hair and body, someone who would have no problems or drama and would have an amazing life. I thought that changing my body to make someone happy was what it was going to take. And I was going to start with the nose.
I became an adult. I began to see my nose as something that made me different and special, but in a way that was uniquely me. I didn’t want a bird beak nose, or one that could be broken, I wanted mine. It was no longer something to be teased about, but something to enjoy. It made me look just different enough that you knew that there was something special about me, something you might not be able to quite out your finger on, but something that was definitely there. Plus, it had freckles, which threw everyone off when they tried to guess my ethnicity and made it more of a game than a shame.
Then I had a child. A boy who looks so much like his daddy that I wonder if he got anything from me at all. A boy with perfectly bright blue eyes, and a symmetrical nose that fits his face exactly. A boy who looked so little like me that people would sometimes stop to ask if he was mine. Until one day I stopped to look more closely. There, on his little face, I saw me. I saw my Filipino nose, the one that had caused me so much grief, there on his face. It was perfect, and it was me. And my Dad, and his family. I saw the link and it punched me in the face in that very moment. The thing that I had hated so much was the thing that connected me to part of my family line. It was something that I should be proud of. I saw myself in my dad’s face, in the face of my relatives and people I didn’t know. I saw a thread that connected me to people I didn’t know, to a culture that was so much a part of me.
I recently took a picture of Q sitting on my uncle’s lap watching TV at my mom and dad’s house. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but days later I was looking at it and I saw how much Q looked like my uncle. I then looked at a picture of Q and my dad from the same day and I saw it again. He looked so much like him – I could see it in his face. It was one of the greatest things I have discovered in so long. Every parent wants to be able to see something of themselves in their child, and finally I could. And I could see something of my child in my parent too. Finally it made sense. A real, tangible link between the generations, something to wear with pride.
I hated my nose because I thought it made me different. I know now that I was right, only it is for that very reason that I now love it. I will always have a reminder of my dad and my culture every time I look in the mirror or at my boy. It will remind me who I am and where I come from, and to never forget that.