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Her Nose is Different from Her Nose

June 19, 2019
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Average Rating: 3.08
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In a definitive moment in time, we are wont to think that we are ugly. We are not, of course; we are born beautiful with every particle perfectly assembled for success. However, the moment in which we become aware of our “imperfections” can occur at any time in life; it occurred for me the summer I obtained my US citizenship. To be black in America is generally considered bad news because of racism manifested through brutality, economic inequality, and social inequality.  For me, however, being black in America meant no longer being African, no longer having that mysterious air about me that had people wondering, “What are you?” in a curious way. Being an American black meant that I had the black nose, which was unacceptable because the black nose was not en vogue and to my way of thinking, never would be. After all, the enslavement of minorities is not over, merely changed in form.  

  

I was walking down the stairs of the immigration building on that hot summer day in 2017 with my long-coveted US citizenship certificate in hand when a lady bumped into me. She turned around to say sorry, as one would, and I was struck by the wideness of her nostrils. The flesh, which hung from that boneless structure like the layered fat on a piece of ham, seemed to tremble as if the vibrations of the sweet curving mouth irritated it beyond measure. Every death of a cell on that beautiful, deep, burnished honey skin could be observed in the swinging lobes of the nostrils, which flared round and full such that I could all but see her naked soul from the deep moisturized wells.


I did not have to ask to know that this was an African-American. Her nose was not the tender quivering giraffe nose of the African, whose innate curiosity about life was still intact. That same attribute, which in seconds pinpointed this woman (who in truth was very attractive) as an American black was the bars of a prison to who I was, who I am. I’m petrified of being defined so easily, terrified to be understood by a mere glance, ostracized in the sweat of my own vanity as I desperately fight off the notion that I am not different; I am not unique. I want so much to be extraordinary, so much  so that I explained my fear to my sister in our nightly conversations.

“You’re afraid of what?”

“Having a black person nose!”

“What are you talking about?”

I instantly pulled out my phone and pinterested two women, a Nigerian and an African-American.

“Her nose,” I pointed to the Nigerian woman, “is different from her nose!” The silence which followed was laden with what I thought was my sister’s judgement.

American social structure, whose standards of beauty are based solely on European values. A woman is, according to these values, beautiful if she is tall, thin, long-legged, big-breasted, long-haired, and above all, white. She is ugly if she is short, plump, small- breasted, big-lipped, kinky-haired, proudly-nostrilled, and above all black. My fear of having a black nose stemmed from the fact that I was afraid of not being unique enough and being too unique, of not being extraordinary enough and being too ordinary, of being misunderstood and understood too quickly, of not being pretty enough, smart enough, kind enough, womanly enough, white enough to be considered the right kind of human.


As this realization runs over me like an eighteen-wheeler on a busy interstate, my sister asks, “Do you think I look like a triangle?” My silence has the same effect that hers did on me and she stutters to enumerate.

“Are you afraid of being an American?”


The answer came so abruptly to my mind that I finally understood what true ugliness was. My fears did not really have anything to do with nostrils at all, but rather my identity in the “At gym, all the girls talk about looking like a triangle, you know, big shoulders to skinny legs. It’s so ugly!” I turn to look at her, fully in the face. I skip past her domed, perfectly-proportioned, forehead and the delicate arched brows that grace it like a crown. I skip past the thick-lashed eyes, pausing to take note of the lack of bridge on her nose, the shallow roundness of her nostrils and the delicate flaps that cover them, flickering like a prey scenting the air for danger. My sister has the black nose; she looks like an African-American.

“You are beautiful.”  

 

 

 


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A moving perspective on American beauty
coffeespoons rated this work:

June 25, 2019, 10:20 a.m.

This piece is poignant. Narrowing your focus on the nose to talk about a broader topic was a elegant way to make this story both personal and universal to others who have had similar experiences. You have a strong voice that manages to convey emotion through even just a short piece like this. Which is why I'd love more showing and less telling, so us readers can get even more invested in a piece that comes even more to life.
That being said, some of the metaphors and imagery you use have language that presents something I don't think you were intending to present. For example, "The flesh, which hung from that boneless structure like the layered fat on a piece of ham, seemed to tremble as if the vibrations of the sweet curving mouth irritated it beyond measure. Every death of a cell on that beautiful, deep, burnished honey skin could be observed in the swinging lobes of the nostrils, which flared round and full such that I could all but see her naked soul from the deep moisturized wells." Regardless of whether you intended for this woman's nose to be portrayed as elegant or not, the language is too involved; it gives off a vaguely horrifying effect. Fat on ham isn't something you'd use to describe someone elegant, or death of a cell, or even deep moisturized wells. What emotions/ideas were you trying to convey in this description? You have clear, elegant descriptions in other parts of this piece ("I skip past her domed, perfectly-proportioned, forehead and the delicate arched brows that grace it like a crown" is well-written) which is why this description stuck out to me so much.
Also, I recommend tightening up transitions and sentences; there are places that are difficult to follow.
Constructive criticism aside, I want to note some sentences/phrases that stuck out to me in a good way:
"I want so much to be extraordinary, so much so that I explained my fear to my sister in our nightly conversations." Wow, is this me? I loved this. In fact, I wanted more sentences-- maybe even a scene-- going into more detail on why the narrator feels this way, what she does trying to achieve that desire, etc.
Also: "My fear of having a black nose stemmed from the fact that I was afraid of not being unique enough and being too unique, of not being extraordinary enough and being too ordinary, of being misunderstood and understood too quickly, of not being pretty enough, smart enough, kind enough, womanly enough, white enough to be considered the right kind of human." This was powerful. Wow. The entire piece is compelling for sure, but this sentence in particular stuck out to me.
Overall, this is a super interesting perspective between being an immigrant from the African continent moving to the US and being African-American. The diaspora has profound impact. I heard there was a contest about identity here and am just curious, is this a contest submission? It'd be a good candidate.

Pacing Voice Show Don't Tell Sentence Structure

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mariama16:

Thank you so much for your comment! Yes, this is supposed to be for identity contest. I hope I've submitted it correctly. I will look over all of your critiques and edit with them in mind. Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Interesting perspective. Work on focus!
naricorn rated this work:

June 24, 2019, 3:17 p.m.

Hey, thanks for uploading this! I took some notes as I read, so it's more of a brain-dump than logical progression of ideas. Hope that's okay.

*I think what would ground me more is elaboration. You make a lot of general statements that leave me wondering what they could mean. For example, "we are born beautiful with every particle perfectly assembled for success" is an interesting sentence but, thinking more about it, I don't really know what that means, exactly. Why are we born perfect? What's "success?" What is "a definitive moment in time?" It's all a bit vague.

*The angle of this story (the nose comparisons) is SO intriguing, but it gets muddled sometimes. Especially toward the beginning, the black nose was supposed to primarily differentiate the narrator's African and African-American cultures but it's interspersed with discussions of racism and slavery. Also, when you say "For me, however, being black in America" after you've said it's generally considered bad news sets up the expectation that you're disagreeing with that statement. Definitely, keep all those ideas in there, but consider attacking them not all at once.

*The first description of the lady's nose is evocative but has a lot of confusing images. I think you make too many comparisons and sacrifice clarity. Describing the boneless flesh and layered fat and cell death evokes horror and disgust, but then you describe beautiful, deep, burnished honey skin. Contradictions can work when done carefully, but the language is just too extreme to believably describe a stranger's nose.

*Being defined by your nose is so interesting a concept. Would just like to say that again.

*Loved the parallelism of "above all, white" and "above all, black."

*The switch from past to present tense is jarring. And then you switch back and forth.

Again, love the concept! I think there's a lot of potential for a compelling story here. I'd say you could make the introduction more concise and hone in on the nose. Maybe the narrator's past experiences with her nose, so her realization is more impactful at the end?

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Where Is The Story?
[email protected] rated this work:

July 9, 2019, 2:30 a.m.

This doesn't read like a story. It's more like a commentary on social issues. There are no names of characters. No one I can root for. The author is not without skill that didn't know how to evoke some imagery for the reader. It would have been nice to see imagery in a setting description. Where is the protagonist?
A scene should have a goal for its protagonist, and there should be a conflict that prevents the protagonist from achieving the goal and finally, either a resolution or disaster occurring at the end of the scene. I didn't get this. Be thoughtful of your reader and shorten your sentences. The sentences are long. I found one to be 60-words. With regards to the last sentence of dialogue, I don't know who the speaker is.

Plot Setting Show Don't Tell Sentence Structure

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