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May 29, 2007

Why I Love My Big Nose

After years of wishing she had a button nose, Sarah Liston finally grew into her own.


Sarah Liston

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You might say I have a nose for fashion. This means I have a knack for finding a pair of 1960s Roger Vivier pumps in a bin at a thrift shop in exactly my size, and the best scrap-metal earrings on a Soho side street. You might also say I don't have a nose for fashion, if you're referring to the beakish, wide-nostrilled, skin-and-cartilage sculpture smack in the middle of my face.

I got my first inkling that I didn't possess a button nose at the age of 9. My mother was taking a photography course at the local college and used my sister and me as models. We posed at a mall among the mannequins, at the ends of tunnel slides at the park, and dangling from monkey bars with freakishly serious looks on our faces. But the photo that forever changed the way I saw myself was a portrait-me in profile, in which light pouring in from the dining-room window highlighted my nose rather alarmingly.

"You have an exotic look," relatives said when they stared at the framed print on the wall, "like a young Barbra Streisand." Somehow, I knew what that meant. I started looking at my profile constantly in a handheld mirror to see if I could see what others saw.

That summer, which was filled with endless reruns of Laverne & Shirley, my sister and I fought over which of us was the cute one-Shirley. After much debate, she leveled with me: "You be Laverne. You have the same nose."In junior high, at cheerleader tryouts, I noticed all the other girls had adorable, upturned noses-a beauty essential in our north Texas suburb.

Desperately riffling through a teen magazine, I saw an article describing how to contour a large snout. It suggested I glide a Q-Tip dipped in baby powder down the bridge of my nose and darken the sides with compact powder two shades deeper than my skin tone. I sat in my room, practicing in front of an illuminated mirror for hours. But instead of resembling Miss Texas, I looked like an endangered zoo animal. (By the way, I never did make the squad.)

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