My friend posted a picture of her smile on Facebook yesterday. It is a cropped photo of just her smile. Full lips and her bright pearly whites, showcasing her wide gap in her front two teeth. It is beautiful. More striking is a comment she made in response to someone who wrote, “That GAP though,” with a smiley face. She replied, “It’s my favorite part of me.”
When I was younger, like a lot kids, I was self-conscious about many of my features. Even though my Mom assured me my freckles were, “kisses from God,” I wasn’t a huge fan. When I looked at my sisters and brothers who tanned so easily with their olive complexions, I just knew I drew the short straw in the DNA distribution pool. I also was hyper conscious of the bump on my nose. My mom told me she had a suspicion that it was broken during delivery. I always felt sympathy towards my little infant self, coming into the world under such violent circumstances, until I realized that nothing in my Mom’s story really added up. Like, why didn’t she press the issue and find out if it ACTUALLY was broken, right? Just seems like the logical, motherly thing to do, but I digress. The point is, I felt so insecure about my nose that I purposely wouldn’t smile wide in photographs, or I would tilt my head at an angle I thought was more flattering. As an adult, I now feel sympathy for my awkward adolescent self. That’s just sad.
Jennifer Grey, AKA, “Baby,” from Dirty Dancing helped transform my perspective on my nose. Dirty Dancing was a movie I had seen at least 50 times by the time I was 9. I memorized the lines and would practice dance moves while listening to the soundtrack on my cassette player boom box. They had Fred and Ginger, we had Johnny and Baby. And Baby was awesome. She was awkward, kind of clumsy. She had great hair, but was kind of short and was thin, but not too thin. Her half-moon eyes would shine when she smiled and she would often snort was she belted out a laugh. She was perfectly imperfect and every adolescent girl’s hero. Perhaps the most defining feature on Baby was her nose. She had a prominent nose that kind of arched downwards with a slight bump on the bridge. Then, sometime in the early 90s when I was about 12, years after the Dirty Dancing craze, Jennifer resurfaced after having rhinoplasty surgery. She had gotten a nose job. I’m sure she considered the operation to be a success. She had a, “perfect,” petite new little nose. I was devastated. Horrified even. It was as if my BFF had died. She looked just like everybody else and had completely lost her charm and her uniqueness to the point of being almost unrecognizable. She lost her magic. It made me mad, and at the same time I felt sorry for her. I remember wondering, Why did she feel compelled to change her face? Did someone tell her it would be good for her career? I envisioned her sitting in front of the mirror, tilting her head at angles, imagining a nose that was feminine and petite, just like I had done countless times. She was still pretty post-surgery, but she just didn’t have that same spark.
Yet, something magical happened when Jennifer lost her magic. I began to own my nose. I became fiercely protective. Around fifteen I remember my mom bringing up the possibility to me of having a surgery and she asked, knowing how sensitive I was about it prior, if that was something I would be interested in. I told her no way, no how. That was my nose and I was sticking to it. I no longer felt the desire to tilt or hide. I realized that that bump was me and I began to dig it.
I love bumps, gaps, crooked, asymmetrical traits. I mean, how badass was Frida Kahlo, rocking that unibrow and mustache? Like the late great Leonard Cohen stated, “Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. It’s how the light gets in.” Damn straight, Leonard. There’s no need to fill that gap or fix that nose. We are not broken. Each of us are crooked and, “cracked,” in our own ways. It’s those defining features that gives us that spark. Allow it to shine.