“She needs to get a nose job. That girl has a schnoz.”
If I heard it once in my teenage years, I heard it many times. As adolescence descended on me, my nose grew in not just larger than average, but hooked, and not just hooked, but visibly crooked. The first time I saw my face in profile via a three-way mirror, I cupped my hand over my mouth in horror.
Solomon may have complimented his beloved on her nose being “like a tower of Lebanon” (Song 7:4), but I can tell you from experience: big noses on women are seldom complimented. There’s a reason why even impossibly gorgeous women like Scarlett Johansson and Blake Lively have had nose jobs, why Lady Gaga’s character in the film A Star Is Born loudly laments her distinctive nose (and the real singer-turned-actress has taken her share of flack for stalwartly refusing to go under the knife). For my own part, it fills me with chagrin that Lady Gaga is Hollywood’s idea of “a woman with a large nose.”
God blessed me with youth leaders who raised me right. I spent my early adult years believing that the only true beauty was found in godliness, that “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” (Prov 31:30) I knew that, as they appeared in the media, the fashion models and pin-up girls were an insidious lie Satan whispers to us, an unobtainable trick of plastic surgery, make-up sorcery, and photoshop meant to engender doubt in our God-given identities and galvanize our vanity. I would read Max Lucado’s You Are Special again and again and remind myself that if I just spent enough time with “Eli” and put faith in what he thought of me, rather than what the world thought of me, the “grey dots” people kept trying to slap on my nose would not stick.
And yet, there were days that I would look in the mirror at a face that I otherwise liked marred by a large, crooked nose, and I would cry.
Cosmetic surgery for both genders is on the rise, but women continue to seek it out in much greater numbers than men. Prevalence aside, I agonized over whether plastic surgery for pure cosmetic reasons was something that a Christian woman should do. Was it not unadulterated vanity? How could I spend so much on something that was just for me? Could I not give the money to a better cause that I cared about, like the fight against human trafficking?
And—comical though it may seem—what if my old nose came back in the resurrection??
As far as that last question goes, it turns out that most of the church fathers who commented on resurrection bodies concluded that either all humanity would turn into genderless beings, or women would turn into men. With that I decided a nose was the last thing I needed to worry about growing in the resurrection.
A search of Christian blogs, apologetics sites, and magazines turned up about a dozen recent articles weighing in on the subject with a range of opinions from “of course it’s sinful and unchristian” to “it depends.” While many were willing to comment on the matter, few were willing to cop to actually doing it outside of medically indicated plastic surgery (which, in my opinion, is not the same thing).
My turning point arrived in the form of orthodontic braces. Not that I got braces (I’d had them years before), but in consideration of the disparate Christian attitude towards braces versus cosmetic surgery. For example, the Duggars, in all their fundamentalist glory, have spoken out against cosmetic surgery—yet some of the Duggar children had braces. Braces do have some medicinal value in bite alignment, but they are primarily marketed and sought after for their cosmetic potential.
We Christians accept easily enough that it can be psychologically damaging to go through life with crooked teeth, and we’re willing to spend thousands of dollars fixing the problem. So riddle me this: if it’s acceptable to fix crooked teeth, why is it unacceptable to fix a crooked nose?
I have a theory on that:
Braces are normalized and acceptable because men want them as well as women, while cosmetic surgery is desired primarily by women. If men wanted cosmetic surgery as much as women did, Christians of both genders would seek it out as needed without thinking twice. The Christian aversion to even once-in-a-lifetime plastic surgery to fix very obvious cosmetic defects is just garden-variety sexism.
On March 16, 2016, I drove to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois and dropped off the final defense copy of my master’s thesis. Then I made my way to the nearby Highland Park Hospital, my conscience clear, and said good-bye to my “old” nose forever. TEDS would not be the only thing I would graduate from that year.
I was single at the time, so my brother brought me home from the surgery, and even though my nose had a cast on it, the change was apparent. He did an actual double-take and complimented me on the improvement.
“You know, I always thought your old nose looked like a witch’s nose,” he confessed. “But I knew you couldn’t do anything about it and I didn’t want to hurt your feelings, so I never said anything.”
“That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me,” I replied.
And in my heart, I praised God.
Cosmetic Surgery to the Glory of God? — Her.meneutics
In Perspective: Plastic Surgery — New Identity Magazine
Should Christians Get Plastic Surgery? — Hot, Holy & Humorous
Is it Okay to Get Cosmetic Surgery as a Christian? — CARM
What does the Bible say about a Christian having plastic / cosmetic surgery? — Got Questions.Org
Is Plastic Surgery a Sin? Doctor Argues “Jesus Performed Plastic Surgery” — The Christian Post
The Duggars Don’t Want You To Get Plastic Surgery, Because God Might Have Meant For You To Feel Insecure — Crushable
Should A Christian Women [sic] Get A Breast Augmentation? — Unlocking Femininity
Is It Okay For a Christian Woman to Have Plastic Surgery? — The First Hundred