Essay: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Recently, a Japanese newspaper reported the suicide of a housewife in Japan. According to the article, she had had plastic surgery on her face a few times in the past, but the results were far from what she had expected.  In particular, she thought that her new nose resembled that of a “gorilla”.  As a result, she fell prey to despair, eventually taking her own life.  The article also included the comment made by her plastic surgeon who had denied that the surgery had failed.  He asserted that the operation had been performed according to her wishes.  Whatever the truth, this article brought back vivid memories from my younger days.

I had suffered from chronic inflammation and blockage in my sinuses from early childhood and had been told by the specialist that I would eventually need surgery. When I turned 14, the doctor judged that my physical growth had more or less stopped and that it was time for me to have the operation.  When the day of the operation was set, I said to my father jokingly, “While they are doing my sinuses, they could perhaps make my nose a bit shapelier as well.”  As soon as I finished speaking, he screamed at me, “You, idiot!”  Actually I never expected him to consider it seriously, and the matter was never again raised in our conversation.

A few years earlier, during a performance, a Japanese singing superstar had been hit by a bottle containing hydrochloric acid, thrown by someone sitting in the front row.  The attacker was reported to have been jealous of the star’s success.  The singer suffered a burn on her face, on which plastic surgery was performed.  I remembered reading, or hearing, a gossipy story that she had had a little job done on her nose at the same time and had come back on stage with a prettier face.  That was why I had said those words to my father without giving any special thought to the idea.

Many people in this world are not satisfied with the face inherited from their parents.  That I wanted to have a shapelier nose, even as a joke, might have put me in that group.  I began feeling a little skepticism about my face as a child because one of our neighbors, for some reason, always began singing the popular children’s song about monkey palanquin bearers whenever he saw me.  It was as if he had somehow associated me with monkeys, and I felt hurt.  True, I was a restless girl, always in motion.  When I was five years old, I remember a visiting relative commenting that I could not sit still even for five minutes.

Thereafter, I believe I managed to attain both physical and mental maturity like everyone else.  While wondering about the connection between monkeys and myself, I became confident that I, too, had an average-looking face.  Indeed, I never felt I was beautiful, but a comment my roommate made one day changed me into a totally new person, one who was satisfied with my face.

I was then in my third year at university in the State of Wisconsin in the American Midwest and was sharing a dormitory room with a coed from that state.  She had got married after completing the sophomore year, and when we were sharing a room together, she used to travel home far away where her husband waited for her return every weekend.  She was blond and attractive with typical physical traits indicating that she was an American of northern European origin.

One day, when we were studying together at our desks facing each other, I noticed that she was observing my face carefully.  I felt a little embarrassed, but ignored her eyes and continued studying.  Suddenly, she said, “You have a cute nose.  I envy you.”  Wondering on what basis she made such a remark, I replied that I found her nose shapelier and better looking than mine and for that I envied her.  She then said that her nose was not pretty because its tip was a bit too big and hanging.

Indeed, the witches who appeared in fables almost always had ugly hooked noses, but that of my roommate appeared normal to me no matter how I looked at it.  I therefore asked her what she meant by “the tip of the nose hanging”.  According to her, when she saw herself in the mirror, she should be able to see her nostrils clearly.  If the tip of the nose was hanging, the nostrils would be hidden behind it, so she would not be able to see them well.  “I envy you because you can see your nostrils clearly,” she flattered me once again.

I had never before thought that anyone would find my nose one to be envious of, but she made me realize that it was not so bad after all.  This new recognition gave me a positive outlook on life thereafter.  One’s point of view can change one’s self-esteem entirely.  As for the housewife in the article, if she had been able to see herself from a different angle before undergoing her first plastic surgery, she might have had a completely different life.

This entry was posted in Humour, Japan, Multicultural, Philosophy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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