Sometimes, living in hard places is nothing compared to doing hard things. Plastic surgery is hard. It doesn’t seem like it would be. You’d think it’s for the weak, but you’d be wrong. You have to be strong to admit that there’s something you don’t like about yourself; and brave enough to do something about it.
I loved my nose when I was a little girl. I loved all of me back then. My eyes reminded me of my cabbage patch doll and my chubby cheeks rounded into a chin with a point as sharp as a valentine’s day heart. But then things started to change. My face elongated and my eyes shrunk. I inherited the Sunderland nose from my dad, a gift of puberty. Slowly it changed from a gentle slope to a crooked hump.
I can’t remember when I first started talking about getting a nose job. I guess it was probably around age 11 or 12. I don’t think I ever actually planned to do it, though, mostly because I was afraid. It was something I would talk and dream about while the birthdays stacked up.
My track record for surgery is less than stellar. One of my earliest traumatic memories is of having tubes put in my ears at age 4. I woke up screaming after having my wisdom teeth removed at age 15, and again had to be pinned down to have my jaw wired shut the same year.
So how did I end up in Lebanon at Trad hospital wearing a paper gown, crying, about to have my face cut open once again?
Simply, I received an invitation.
I was making plans for my end of contract when my colleague asked me to go with her to Lebanon to get our noses done. It had never crossed my mind that she needed a nose job. If she (who didn’t need a nose job like I needed a nose job) could do it, why not me? And just like that, the ball was rolling. Of course, I wasn’t going to hang around until her end of contract in April when mine finished in March. But I could do it alone, couldn’t I? She made it sound so possible. Still, I procrastinated, emailing the doctor for the first time with less than a week before taking my last R&R. I was hoping he wouldn’t be available.
I decided to take the leap, just like bungee jumping in the Nile. My part would be easy. All I had to do was show up.
The work week was busy and I was out in the field for most of it. I started losing sleep around Monday, waking up with nightmares of other things that needed to be fixed – webbed feet, a third breast (in addition to real things like moles that needed to be removed and a neck that requires a little lifting).
On Friday I flew to Lebanon where the taxi driver took me directly to the Beirut Beauty Clinic for a consultation. I haphazardly poked the silicone implants on the desk while Dr. Roland quickly analyzed my features. I didn’t have time to pick out a designer nose, so I asked him just to fix the one I have. I asked if he could do anything about my “resting bitch face” while he was at it, but other than Botox the answer was no.
By 7:30 the next morning I was at the hospital starting to flip out. The cleaner thought I needed to use the restroom because of the way I was pacing and kicking my leg sporadically. Mercifully, the nurses gave me my own room and a pill to calm the nerves. I kept thinking how brave I was. Still, I managed to cry as soon as the team wheeled me into the operating room. I could swear they put me to sleep before the appointed time because I was unconscious before the doctor even changed into his scrubs.
And then it was over. Coming out of the medically induced coma that is anesthesia, I gave the thumbs up sign to indicate I was alive, promptly falling back asleep. A few hours later, the hospital fed me a steak dinner (seriously) and I was back at the hotel before dark.
If I had thought that my fears would subside after the operation, I was wrong. The night holds a whole host of terrors for those who can’t breathe through their nose and are afraid of smacking one’s face in the dark. I tried breathing through a straw and tucking my hands under my bum but neither proved to be a good idea. Leave it to me to turn sleeping into something stressful.
The morning after surgery revealed chipmunk cheeks and the jowls of a Mastiff. At least I didn’t have black eyes. Overall, the recovery period was much more difficult than I expected. My Google search bar filled with terms like “sneezing/death after rhinoplasty” and “does lubneh (Lebanese cream cheese offered at the breakfast buffet) have the same effect as yogurt on yeast infections?” Other than trips to the pharmacy, I barely left the hotel.
The cast finally came off yesterday. My nose is greenish-blue and the whole thing kind of looks like a sausage. The doctor says the swelling will go down in a couple of weeks. I can already tell it’s going to be great! I am happy.
Window shopping in the mall today, I felt like my true self. It crossed my mind that maybe what I was feeling was a tiny smidge of what it must be like for a transgender person when their outside finally matches their internal identity. Having a humped nose should not have defined me, but I let it. And it robbed me of confidence.
Tomorrow I go back to my hard place with a straight nose and a lot less shame. I am proud of myself for making the decision to fix what was broken, both inside and out. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.