I am the proud owner of a big nose with a bump.
So I was the perfect projection screen for geographical, cultural and prejudiced nose identification theories.
My father, from Transylvania, in the past part of Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, Austria-Hungary and today of Romania, my father, who came from a tribe of German migrants from mediaeval times, but surely there were Hungarians and even Tatars in the family – I am thinking about my grandfather with his slant eyes – my father told me to be proud of my nose as it was a Roman nose.
So I grew up with pride about my nose, or let’s say, I was, and still am, happy and content with my nose.
When I was 18, a guy – just passing by my train compartment on a journey to a place I don’t remember – remarked, oh girl, you would be an exceptional beauty, but your nose, it is a bit big. I could see pity in his eyes. Nevertheless, I was happy with my nose. No dent in my self esteem, but surprise about his comment. After all it was my nose. I did not have another one.
In 1980 my nose was identified as Jewish by two older women at a market in East London, whose family had emigrated or had been forced to emigrate because of Nazi Germany, in this case Nazi Austria, as they were from Vienna, and if I recall correctly, their father had held some position at the Vienna Music Academy.
This brought me cake and tea at their home. I told them that I was not Jewish, at least not to my knowledge, but from Austria. This was good enough for a nice afternoon full of stories about the past. They were rather cheerful and somehow forgiving, but I felt sadness and anger about their family’s fate.
Quite a long time ago I was approached by a guy in the streets of Vienna, who told me that I must be his sister. I was a bit confused, but clearly he pointed out my nose, and he remarked that this was a very Slovenian nose. Strangely enough my mother’s family has Slovenian roots.
Many years ago one of my line managers at an art school casually mentioned that I had an English aristocratic nose. I did some research, and staying within geographical vicinity I discovered that this nose, my nose, could as well be classified as the nose of a Welsh farmer or worker.
In Italy, in Turin and Milan, my nose was seen as Italian nose.
And in Piraeus, the harbour near Athens, guys told me that I had a Greek nose.
So what is not to love about my nose. It/she is truly cosmopolitan, and I never wanted to have another one, but it made me think about stereotypes and how people can get trapped in their own mythologising.
A nose is a nose is a nose.
Nothing more and nothing less.