I know I have a big nose because I can see it and because people have commented on it. Many times they comment in a way that can be described as unkind.
My senior year of high school, I was in the batter’s box at my softball game, warming up with practice swings, when some guys cheering the other team came to the third base line to yell at me. “Hey Horse Face! You got a horse face! Strike out, horse face!”
Did I get a hit? Did I strike out? Did I get on base with a walk? I don’t remember. I only remember their taunts and their laughing as they called me “horse face,” and how I prayed no one else could hear because I was indeed a 17-year-old girl with a big nose and their seeing my red-faced shame and tears would only make it more true. I was a horse face.
BNE > BDE
My gals and I took cans of rosé to see A Star Is Born on Sunday afternoon. I was prepared to love it and to cry, but I wasn’t prepared at how the plot point of Ally (Lady Gaga) and her nose would punch me in the gut and leave me upset long after the movie credits rolled. I knew there would be music and romance, but I didn’t know there would be Big Nose Energy (BNE) that would imprint on me and still echo within my insides 24 hours later.
When Ally first meets Jack (Bradley Copper), she explains to him that while she might have a great voice and good songs, she never sings them because she doesn’t like her nose. The music world is unkind to girls with strong noses, and she isn’t willing to endure rejection because of her face. Jack demurs, telling her that he loves her nose. Saying it’s not that big, as he runs his fingers along it. Ally probably thinks he is lying, but it’s the kind of lie you cling to—when someone tries to assuage your biggest insecurity with a compliment and a soft touch.
I don’t sing my own songs…I just don’t feel comfortable…Almost every single person has told me they like the way I sounded but that they didn’t like the way I looked.
When Jack drops her off at home and asks for another look at her, she makes sure he gets another look at her nose, by tracing her profile with her finger as she smiles. It’s a gesture she makes later in the movie. Tracing and acknowledging her deep fears about her nose is a foundation of their love story. She a tough broad, with a nasal weak spot.
It’s not a spoiler to say that Jack is a drunk and when he gets mean, he calls Ally “ugly” as she sits naked in a bathtub. He actually calls her “fucking ugly.” It’s an awful moment, but for me, there was one that was way worse.
When Jack eventually cleans up at rehab, Ally tries to give him an easy way out of their marriage. Surely, he could have only loved her and her face while he was drunk, and now that he is sober, he can see things — and her — more clearly. A sober Jack might agree with a drunk Jack that she is “fucking ugly,” and she is doing the emotional labor of protecting herself and bracing for her own rejection by telling him it’s okay that he leaves her. She wants to preempt her own hurt. She’s been carrying their relationship for years now, but she’s been carrying her nose all her life.
Hey Horse Face!
We carry the hurts and rejections of childhood into adulthood; this is “first day of therapy” stuff. I’m 44 and I still have the same strong nose. I like my face, but I don’t expect others will. I know from experience that men find me funny and attractive/fuckable. I don’t expect them to find me beautiful, and I don’t say that to garner sympathy or fish for compliments. I’m a tough broad, with a nasal weak spot.
My nose works, and my ears do, too; I can hear the words men use to describe me and what words they don’t. True, I haven’t heard horse face in a while. And before you try to say I’m pretty or cute, let me get out in front of it. Let me trace my face with my finger, from the top of my forehead, down the bridge and tip of my nose, past my lips to my chin. Let me look back at you and smile. That way you can relax and be in on the joke with me. Acknowledging my own BNE is the first line of defense. It’s my job to make you more comfortable with my face.
A Star Is Born is in theaters now.
Images courtesy of Warner Brothers