Ill feelings and antipathy.

April 5, 2007

I’m getting a nose job.

I’m not sure when, and I have no plans yet to begin the whole process, but after years (a decade really) of thinking about it, I think I’m going to do it.

Josh and I were talking the other night, and I owned up to being a champion grudge-holder. To be fair, I acknowledged this problem at a fairly early age (I had a habit of being viciously punitive with my friends and peers when I felt I was being mistreated) and try to stay on top of it. Sometimes this backfires and I miss an opportunity to stand up for myself in the name of “letting things go” but that’s an entry for another day and today I want to talk about my nose.

When I was seven, my father lived somewhere in Sun City with my stepmother and stepbrother and our baby sister Brittany. My stepmother was pregnant with Bobbi Jo but us kids didn’t know it yet and it would be another six months before she was born. It was at this apartment out in the desert that I taught baby Brittany how to say the word “gross” when presented with yet another dinner of liver and onions, and also the apartment where I figured out that she’d eat all of mine for me if I could sneak it onto her plate without my stepmother seeing.

My brother and I had bunk beds – it probably serves as scene-building to mention that our parents didn’t have a bed at the time, they had two outdoor chaise lounges in the master bedroom and a lovely new sofa set in the living room. I am not entirely sure why – these things don’t strike you as odd when you’re seven. My dad had a brand new red Toyota truck. Knowing what I know now, I imagine he was in hock up to his eyebrows. You may not believe it, but I’m telling you these things to make him a more sympathetic character, to paint a clearer picture of the events.

I liked to sleep in the top bunk, and one night I fell out of bed. I was dreaming vividly, I remember, though I no longer remember what about. My face hit the dresser on the way down. There was blood everywhere.

I walked dazed and screaming out into the living room, scaring the hell out of my dad and poor stepmom with the blood and the noise – I was not a child who screamed frequently. She took me into the bathroom to try and calm us both down and clean me up. They argued over whether or not to take me to the hospital, and decided not to, though I was too hazy to pay attention and don’t remember why they decided not to. I remember my dad seemed upset, and it was the first time I’d ever seen him take one of my childhood injuries seriously in the sense that he didn’t tell me to try and walk it off. They took turns holding a washcloth to my face and comforting my screaming baby sister in the other room, whom I’d awakened with my fall. My brother was five and slept through the whole thing.

I slept the rest of the night bundled next to my brother, having swallowed two Tylenol and woken up one more time needing comfort. The next morning when I walked out into the rest of the house, the blood was still everywhere, dried smears that had been missed in the midnight cleanup. Spots on the carpet that didn’t ever come up and were left behind a few months later when they moved into a mobile home further out in the desert.

Anyway, I was there a few more days to finish out my scheduled summer visit, my nose bled a few more times including a magnificent scene in the swimming pool two days after the event. Both eyes were black with bruising, almost immediately after the fall. The bruises lasted for weeks. My dad teased me a little bit but was surprisingly gentle about all of it. Knowing me, I probably hammed it up to encourage more of that sympathy – it was a rare thing to get that kind of golden attention from him.

It wasn’t until I was about thirteen and my face had begun to settle into its grown up form that the extent of the break was readily apparent. By that point of course, there wasn’t much that could be done about it and the natural asymmetry of my face was further twisted by my lopsided nose. It wasn’t until I was sixteen that I began to see my own face as a symbol of the neglect of my father in my childhood. It wasn’t hard to funnel all of my rage into that memory so as to ignite it every time I looked into the mirror.

I know, right? I mean, neither of my parents had health insurance, and my mother COULD theoretically have taken me to the doctor a week later when I returned home though it would have been too late to set it, and it didn’t kill me or do anything other than make it difficult to breath out of the left side of my nose. But you know teenage girls. The ego is so wrapped in the physical, and I felt hideously deformed and was looking for blame. So I found a way to blame my father for being such a jackass that he couldn’t even take his own kid to the doctor after she lost a pint of blood through her face all over the lovely beige carpet.


My dad would have been the age I am now when that took place. He had three kids to take care of, at least two of them full time, and was not terribly fiscally responsible. A five person family can eat a lot of food in a week, and there is a significant chance that an unexpected hospital bill for a single-low-income family could put a serious hurt on the amount of food available to feed all five of those mouths.

What I’m saying is, I think at 27 I’m old enough recognize that I might have done the same thing or worse in his position, with reasonably good intentions, and that while I may have other valid reasons for disliking the man, I don’t think that should be one of them. Simply put, if the problem is that I don’t like my nose now, then I’m an adult and can take steps to fix it. And hell, with the whole not breathing out of one nostril thing, I might even not have to pay very much to do it.

Grudge holding is dangerous. It’s bad chess. A lot of things went down that make it a very good thing that I do not speak to my father as an adult, but I know now that this grudge was merely the clumsy tool I needed when I was younger and less sophisticated in order to properly protect myself. I’m reasonably mature now, and can satisfactorily maintain no contact while also not holding any rancor. And these grudges – they can backfire, too. I spent most of the last eleven years nipping any chance of contact in the bud, and last year, after growing frustrated at third-hand messages through my grandmother after my mother’s death, I told Josh “I know this is ridiculous, but even though I don’t ever want to speak to that man again, I am so angry at him right now for not calling me.”

And that’s pretty much how it is, right? All that anger and hurt protected me when I needed it, and I don’t need it anymore and can let go. I can remember him scaring me half to death on occasional Friday evenings driving drunk on our way to his house for my weekend visits, trying to see if he could get the speedometer to 120, with an open can of Bud in a foam beersleeve tucked in his lap – or I can remember early Monday mornings on the drive back home when the sun was barely risen and we had a whole hour of empty highways when we could talk and trade jokes and teach each other things and try to say enough to last until the next time we saw each other again, whenever that would be.

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