'I may be striking – but I'd rather be pretty'

Since she was small, Katie Grant has felt self-conscious about her nose. Should she opt for surgery – or, as a Jew, would she be denying her cultural identity?

There's been an epidemic raging in Hollywood of late: Jennifer Aniston, Cameron Diaz, Ashley Tisdale – these are but a few of the stars allegedly afflicted by the outbreak of deviated septae sweeping Tinseltown. Of course, for the cynics among us, a "deviated septum" is clearly code – and not exactly Poe's Cryptographic Challenge at that – for "nose job" or a medically motivated "broken nose". From Scarlett Johansson to Blake Lively, denying rumours of cosmetic rhinoplasty seems to be something of a full-time job for many a starlet.

For most of my life, I've fantasised about trading in my prominent Jewish nose for a less conspicuous model. I distinctly remember craning my neck aged seven to examine my profile in the mirror one day, and noticing for the first time that, instead of following a clean geometric line ending in a neat point like the other girls in my class, my nose featured a noticeable hump on its bridge before curving downwards into an unsightly hook shape. "I'm the Wicked Witch of the West!" I realised, horrified. Determine to transform myself into Glinda the Good Witch, I spent weeks with my finger pressed against the bottom of my nose, pushing it up into an exaggerated pig snout, before I had the enterprising idea of Sellotaping it into place for a day in hopes that it would set permanently in this position.

"Striking", "exotic", "unique" – these are the kinds of adjectives friends, family and boyfriends have used over the years to describe my looks. I couldn't help but wonder, though, if these were just polite synonyms for "strange", "foreign" and "ugly". I didn't want to be unique, I wanted to be pretty and, if I couldn't be pretty, then I would settle for ordinary. Looking "Jewish", I decided, did not lend itself well to either of these things.

Perhaps it's no surprise I came to feel this way, since such an outlook has been deeply embedded within the collective Western psyche for centuries. In 1850, the surgeon and anthropologist Robert Knox declared, "the Jewish face can never [be] perfectly beautiful."

In recent years, I've been giving serious thought to undergoing surgery – purely for health reasons though, you understand – this deviated septum wreaks havoc with my airways. Thus, I made an appointment at a Harley Street clinic to explore the possibility of corrective rhinoplasty.

The bubbly nurse I met seemed to think I had made the right decision, assuring me it was a procedure perfectly suited to people such as myself with distinctively "ethnic" features. It would be very simple, not particularly painful and the results would be life-changing, she promised, thrusting a stack of forms under my ethnic nose for me to sign.

She booked me in to see Mr S, who came highly recommended by my nurse: "He did a brilliant job on my boobs!" she trilled.

After appraising my nose, Mr S advised me gravely that my problems were threefold: I had a droopy tip, dorsal hump and deviation to the left to contend with – in layman's terms I had a long, wonky, bumpy nose or, as he put it, a "typical Jewish nose".

In order to correct these "abnormalities" he would perform an open rhinoplasty, breaking my nose, before eliminating the bump, reducing the cartilage to shorten the tip, and straightening it out. Not quite the simple, relatively painless procedure the nurse had described, then.

I asked the surgeon a number of questions regarding pain, scarring and surgical complications, all of which he dismissed with a casual wave of his hand.

"How long will it take for the bruising to go down?" I finally inquired.

"Oh, a couple of weeks", he replied breezily, "and if people ask you what's happened, just tell them you were in a car crash."

I stared at Mr S in disbelief until, realising he may have said something slightly remiss, he attempted to smooth things over, adding, "Don't worry, you'll see a vast improvement. I can absolutely make your nose more beautiful, less Jewish and unattractive." I stormed out, furious. Shattered ego aside, I was appalled that Mr S clearly equated Jewishness with ugliness – it didn't strike me until later that he had in fact articulated my own private worries.

Over the years, the phrase "Jewish nose" has somehow become shorthand among medical practitioners to denote a race-based physical deformity. In the lead up to the Second World War, as anti-Semitism became increasingly widespread, it became commonplace for Jewish immigrants to undergo surgery to escape social and economic alienation.

In her essay The "Jewish Nose" and Plastic Surgery: Origins and Implications, Beth Preminger explains: "By incorporating this term into their clinical vocabulary, early plastic surgeons unwittingly lent scientific credibility to popular stereotypes about beauty and ethnicity."

Consequently, the "Jewish nose" was transformed into a "pathological condition for which there existed a medical protocol for correction".

Indeed, for decades it has been considered almost a rite of passage for many young, Jewish American girls of affluent backgrounds to go under the surgeon's knife. Surprisingly, though, recent statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons reveal a 37 per cent decline in nose jobs between 2000 and 2011.

Anthropologists and surgeons suggest this could be attributed to increased ethnic pride in would-be patients, and their rejection of traditional archetypes of Western beauty in favour of celebrating diversity.

Allowing Mr S to operate on me would have involved sacrificing, in part, my cultural identity, and validating his prejudiced and damaging outlook, cutting my nose off to spite my and every other "ethnic" face, be it black, Asian, Arabic or Jewish.

Nevertheless, my fear that a face like mine could never be considered beautiful persists, and it would be a lie to say I would never consider rhinoplasty. The truth is, if I found a surgeon skilful enough to modify my nose so it wasn't quite so prominent, while respecting the original characteristics enough to retain my cultural heritage, chances are I'd be knocked out on his operating table quicker than you could say the words "deviated septum". For the time being, though, mine is the only nose I pick.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey
Bafetibis Gomis of Swansea City is stretchered off at White Hart Lane
Jerry Seinfeld Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
peopleSitcom star urges men to be more supportive of women than ever
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
Jay Z
businessJay-Z's bid for Spotify rival could be blocked
footballLouis van Gaal is watching a different Manchester United and Wenger can still spring a surprise
The spider makes its break for freedom
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Arts and Entertainment
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United player ratings
Life and Style
love + sex
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Media Sales Executive - PR and Broadcast - OTE £35,000

    £16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has an exciting op...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor - Shifts

    £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This European market leader for security...

    Recruitment Genius: Freelance AutoCAD Technician

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Freelance AutoCAD Technician is required to ...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Order Processor

    £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This European market leader for security...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot