Her model-mother meant well, but Suzan Colón never forgot that offer.
Having a mother who was a model had predictable perks and drawbacks. As a child I was the envy of all the other kids when Mom came to pick me up at school; she looked like one of their Barbie dolls come to life. But a few years later, she could send my teenage inferiority complex into overdrive just by existing in all her blonde goddesslike perfection.

At that point, it seemed as if I'd inherited all the wrong genes. I had her height but not her bust size, her myopia but not her beauty; I was this tall, flat-chested kid with features way out of proportion to my face. My huge eyes were positively buggy behind my thick glasses; my already full lips were pushed out by my buckteeth. And then there was my nose—too long, too wide, and, well, too much.

Mom told me all the time that I was beautiful, but she was supposed to say that. Besides, what did she know? Her nose fit her face perfectly. As a teenager, it had been her only imperfect feature, but she'd gotten it "fixed," as people used to call it. So Mom didn't see a problem with interrupting one of my agonized rants about my looks: " could always get a nose job. It wouldn't be major surgery—just this." She gently pinched the sides of my nose, near the end where it tapered out, and tilted it upward.

My mother's offer of a nose job seemed confirmation that I needed one. But I was a rebellious kid, and my answer to every parental suggestion was "No!" The idea that there was something unattractive about my nose made me protective of it. I identified with it, sympathized with it—it was me and my nose against the world!

My feelings about that conversation changed as I got older. I understood my mother didn't really think there was anything wrong with how I looked. She was just offering to help me get past the awkward stage (or just trying to shut me up; I was an expert whiner back then). As my features settled and found harmony, I came to appreciate my strong nose, which balances everything else on my face.

Occasionally I pinch and tilt it the way Mom did that night, imagining what it would be like now if I'd gotten it fixed. I'd look like a weasel. It makes Mom and me laugh, which only makes us prettier.


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