Dissertation on Noses

Cyrano de Bergerac, the dashing poet and warrior of the stage, had the charm, wit and manners every man possesses in his fantasies. But he had one devastating drawback, or maybe it was a pull forward. His gigantic nose ruled his life and decreed his destiny. The play has been a theatrical mainstay since it was written in1890, and has been produced in several movie versions. Apparently the nose thing strikes a universal chord. In America thousands of people every year spend $3,000 to $15,000 for rhinoplasty to improve the shape of their noses.

Nose consciousness is worldwide apparently. When our son Tom and his beautiful wife Alma had their first baby, her family who are from the Philippines was joyful that the little daughter had a longer nose than Asians usually have. Apparently this was because some of Tom’s ancestors (his mother’s side of course) had noses that made them wish they had some Asian DNA to temper their profile.

The Three D’s once performed as the warm up act for a Bob Hope show. Bob was one of the most successful comedians of the twentieth century. His career spanned vaudeville, radio, TV, movies, books and world wide junkets entertaining military men and women. His fast paced topical humor kept audiences rolling for most of his century-long life (1903-2003). He was also a savvy business man and marketer. He billed himself as Bob “Ski jump nose” Hope. His middle dipping proboscis was the result of taking too many punches as an amateur boxer in his youth. The deformity could have been an embarrassment to him. Instead he turned it into a trade mark. Successful people often get there by knocking the mis- off of misfortune.

I identify with Bob Hope. Except for the fame, success, money, and circumstances of nose breaking, our biographies are identical. I rearranged my profile at a much younger age than Bob did. I was so young, that other people have had to tell me how it happened. But I do remember a steep hill, some playmates in a wagon, me pushing them, the wagon going faster until I was hanging on not pushing. I remember thinking, “This not going to turn out well,” just before the sidewalk rushed up to meet my nose.”

The next phase of my facial makeover is blank to me since I was unconscious at the time. In those days, if a child sneezed it was time to take out his tonsils. I did, and they did. After the doctor scooped out the offending organs, my mother said, “While he is asleep, could you do something to straighten his broken nose?”

This being the days before doctors were justifiably paranoid about malpractice suits, he said, “Of course.”

I am told he then twisted my nose into various contortions. Things seemed to only get more deformed, so my mother suggested we let worse enough alone. As a result I have been blessed with a nose that appears to be adapted to smelling around corners. Actually that was the first break. The doctor’s handiwork made my nose appropriate for smelling around complicated freeway interchanges. In addition, if Bob’s nose was a ski jump, mine was now a roller coaster. But like Bob, and other successful people, I soldiered on wearing my disfigurement. Arising each morning I would go forth and fight the battles of ridicule, amazement, and smothering pity that I would face and conquer that day.

Actually I wasn’t that heroic. I forgot all about it. Doctors told my parents they couldn’t clear out the wreckage inside my nose until my face was fully grown, at about eighteen. Based on the first confrontation between the nose and the doctor, this was welcome news. I grew up breathing through the open side of my nose. Then at eighteen the doctor bored out the other side. I expected this would allow me to now slam dunk a basketball with either hand, play the piano, get straight A’s in school, run and not be weary and walk and not faint. Didn’t happen.

Years later a friend of mine, Dr. Blaine Hirschi who happened to be a world class plastic surgeon offered to straighten my nose for free. I declined. I thought, “I’m too busy, and the most important people in my life love and accept me. Why bother?”

Dr. Hirschi has since past on, so I guess the offer is over until the resurrection, and I suppose then hands even more gifted than his will have already done the job. In which case I may have to introduce my new nose to my old friends who may not recognize me.

In retrospect my turning down Dr. Hirschi may have been self centered. I was focused on me. He perhaps considered it a humanitarian gesture to make the world more beautiful and other people more comfortable. I rationalize my decision by quoting Abraham Lincoln about his own homely features. Lincoln would say, “I have the advantage of you because I am on this side of my face, and you are on that side.”