Sunday, January 19, 2014
Aunt Molly's Nose (A Story from Katja)*
Just about the time Hitler, Hirohito, Mussolini, and Stalin were attempting to change the political shape of the planet, my Aunt Molly was in the process of changing the size and shape of her nose. Both events were of tremendous importance to all concerned, especially to Molly.
At age seventeen, it became increasingly apparent that Molly was desperately unhappy with her breathing apparatus. In her view, her nose was increasing in size at an alarming rate, and it appeared to be moving off at an angle. To add to her fancied disfigurement, a small bump seemed to “pop up” on the bridge of her nose, the result of a sledding incident in childhood. This too was burgeoning in size.
Her dearth of “boy friends”, she surmised, was due to the “monster” growing out of her face. She became snappish, sullen, and morose. She damned her ancestors for bestowing this “thing” on her face which she was sure would condemn her to spinsterhood. Her mother Judith (my grandmother) sympathized with her. She knew full well that the road to connubial bliss depended on, among other attributes, a pretty face -- certainly not one marred by an enlarged and crooked nose. What to do?
In the forties, plastic surgery in Philadelphia was becoming well-known, and there were a few practitioners in Philadelphia who performed their magic and received an inordinate amount of publicity. The movie magazines, Sunday supplements and gossip columns printed stories of movie queens who had had their noses bobbed, chins properly clefted, dimples inserted where nothing existed before, warts and moles removed.
Among the cosmetic surgeons who received the most publicity and adulation in Philadelphia newspapers was Dr. Scott Rubin. Fortunately, for Molly, Dr. Rubin had his residence and his surgery on the most prestigious street in the city – Delancey Place. News concerning the famous physician infiltrated Molly’s home via the news media, and soon Molly and her mother were debating strategy.
Money, of course, was an important consideration, but secrecy had a higher priority. The reason being, if potential boyfriends knew that Molly’s nose had been tampered with, they might shy away. It was extremely important that no one know that Molly had a “nose job”: a girl had to be a “natural beauty”. Anything that smacked of coming out of a bottle or being treated by a scalpel would not be considered acceptable in the least.
Molly was the youngest child in a family of five. It is a testament to her mother that her upcoming surgery was kept a total secret from family and neighbors until three days after the procedure. Everyone was told that Molly was in the hospital having a tonsillectomy. When she returned home a week later, she was swathed in bandages and tape along with large discolored patches under each eye. She remained in her bedroom for two weeks, waiting for the swelling and discoloration to subside. A return visit to Dr. Rubin resulted in bandages and tape being removed. According to my grandmother, a Mona Lisa smile appeared when Molly saw her new self for the first time.
Molly was ecstatic. Her mother was now sure that the boys would buzz around her newfound beauty. Molly’s nose met everyone’s approval. It was shorter, straighter and had a lovely tilt at the end.
Each day, Molly’s nose assumed more normal proportions until at last she went out into the world. Her altered appearance no longer brought stares or curious looks from those who couldn’t quite put their finger on the change that had transformed the shy young girl who lived on the block into the smiling, bubbly seventeen year old who couldn’t stop talking. She was a joy to be around. She became relaxed and outgoing. She rarely bickered with other family members at the dinner table and there was a spirit of comraderie hitherto unknown in a family that rarely got along. All this because of a nose job! Incredible!
Mother and daughter turned out to be right. Soon, the boys started to notice the “born again” baby sister. The most promising of the lot was a fellow named Max. He was the most persistent. Unfortunately, he had been drafted and was about to leave for basic army training. One night around the dinner table, the family noticed that Molly had a lovely engagement ring on her finger. Happiness reigned supreme. The family couldn’t believe that this was all the result of a shortened, straightened nose.
Max left shortly for the army. The couple was married six months later. After a brief honeymoon, they were separated for three years by the needs of the war effort. Several months after Molly was married and had returned home to live with her family, an unusual series of events took place in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Record, a crusading local newspaper specializing in digging up political and social wrongs, reported the following shocker: Dr. Scott Rubin was a fake – an impostor who practiced medicine and plastic surgery without a license. He wasn’t an MD, a Chiropractor, a Podiatrist, or anything connected to health services. He had a diploma from a non-existent medical school as well as from a non-existent veterinary school in California!
The news created a sensation in the family. How was it possible for a charlatan to operate on hundreds of patients, including movie stars! Molly, the new bride, almost collapsed. The family was stunned. Gradually, the brouhaha subsided. Molly and my grandmother went on the offensive. So what if he was a quack! He sure knew how to alter a misshapen nose. Molly became a living example and advocate of his skill. She lost no opportunity telling everyone what a wonderful surgeon he really was. All she had to do was point at her lovely nose!
After the war, Max finally returned home and learned for the first time about the strange affair of Molly’s nose. He took it very calmly and seemed unconcerned about her having altered her appearance. After all, he had never known her before “the alteration”. Years later, Molly and Max had four lovely daughters – all of whom were made more beautiful by having their noses undergo what had by that time become a family tradition. And Molly and Max lived happily ever after.
*Pseudonyms used in this story.