University of Baltimore Asst. Prof. and Bohemian Rhapsody Columnist Marion Winik gets nosy…

These days, no aging star appears on my television without getting the verdict. She’s had a little work, I’d say.

But before I go too far in my vilification of Steven Tyler’s cheek fillers and whatever sad experiments have been conducted on Jessica Lange and Ellen Barkin, let me come clean.

I have already had work. Like today’s movie stars, I started young. And as with their modifications, things are not holding up as well as one might hope.


From the outset, my parents saw me as a fixer-upper, and engaged many contractors to rehab my lazy eye, crooked teeth, pigeon toes, persistent chubbiness, and so on. The prow of the whole pontoon was my nose. It was big, humped at the bridge, fleshy at the tip. A slightly more refined version of it looks excellent on my 23-year-old son, but my parents were not wrong in thinking that it didn’t suit a 13-year-old girl. They may have been a little wrong in taking me in for a nose job as a birthday present.

I looked through the book of noses the doctor showed me and knew two things — if I did this, I would end up with a miniature pig snout like certain unfortunates in my Hebrew school class, and my parents did not love me.

My nose remained proudly untouched for nearly a decade. During this period, I went to college and got a boyfriend named Jan. He was a filmmaker, an ice hockey player, and an aspiring expatriate. Chameleon girlfriend that I was, I embraced all these interests. Having had little success in the cinema and as an expat, I tried ice hockey, joining a previously all-male league at the ice rink in Austin, Texas. The entire league was made up of Canadians who had been transferred to Texas by IBM. I did not even know how to skate when I started, but soon developed my own version of a move called the “submarine check,” which basically involved trying to get other players to trip over me.

I was an audience draw, I believe, but it all came screeching to a halt the day I took a slap shot in the face.

This career-ending injury resulted in a whole new conformation for my nose. Now I looked like the bastard child of Barbra Streisand and Wayne Gretzky.

Ever stalwart, I did not seek medical attention until several years later. Ironically enough, I was trying to demonstrate my submarine check maneuver to a new beau on a sidewalk outside a bar. Caught up in my demonstration, I pretend-skated right into a fire hydrant and mangled my knee.

At the emergency room I was treated by an ex-Army doc named Davis. Davis’s specialty in the service had been trauma/plastic surgery and he asked if he might examine my odd-looking nose. The gist of his report was that it was all messed up inside from the hockey accident, and I would have problems in later years — to the point that a rhinoplasty might even be paid for by insurance.

Well, that did it. Up in New Jersey, my mother was horrified that I was having my nose done by a battlefield medic. She completely embarrassed me by vetting all his licenses and credentials, then flew down for the operation and its aftermath, ready to pass on the wraparound sunglasses she had worn after her eye lift.

When it was over, I had the nose of my dreams — small and cute but not too small and cute, somehow conveying a pleasant memory of whatever had been okay about the original. For 30 years, the finely proportioned nose Dr. Davis gave me has been the cornerstone of my self-esteem.

Recently, however, I have come to feel there might still be something a little weird about the inside of my beautiful nose. Annoying dryness and stuffiness culminated last spring in a distressing 24-hour nosebleed. This landed me in the emergency room yet again where a brutal doctor named Cooramaswamy shoved my head between her giant breasts to muffle my shrieks as she inserted an apparatus through my nostrils into the center of my brain. Various tampon-like appendages and tubes hung down in front to my chin. She told me to go home and come back and see her Monday to have it removed.

I couldn’t believe she expected me either to walk around all weekend like that or to voluntarily return.

I got home to find the members of a pre-arranged dinner party waiting for me, so disguised the lower half of my face with a bandanna and proceeded to serve the boeuf bourguignon as the Frito Bandito on Percodan. Later that evening, alone in my bed, I steeled myself to perform a delicate yet unflinching removal of the unsightly item I have since learned to call a Rapid Rhino 351 Epistaxis Device.

Dr. Cooramaswamy had been unimpressed when I tried to tell her about Dr. Davis’s long-ago concerns for my future nose health, and the ENT specialist she referred me to was even less interested in my back-story. From the moment he walked into the room, his ruddy complexion and sculpted hairdo saying “televangelist,” I felt uneasy.

He took one look up my nose and said disgustedly, “Do you do coke?”

“Well,” I said, taken aback, “not for quite a while. Decades, really.”

“I can’t help you,” he told me. “You have a hole in your septum the size of a Buffalo nickel and your only hope is reconstructive plastic surgery. There’s just one man who can do it.”

He scribbled the name of this superhero on a prescription pad, handed it to me, and left without another word.

I was so humiliated by these incidents that when I had a similar nosebleed a year later (i.e., last month) I decided to treat it at home no matter what.

A week after I successfully stopped the nosebleed with my homemade version of the Rapid Rhino 351 Epstaxis Device, I began to smell something very foul with every breath. Somehow a piece of Kleenex remained floating around deep in my sinuses and damned if it didn’t take a third trip to the emergency room to have it removed.

The wages of sin and narcissism just keep rolling in!

In closing let me say I don’t think I did that much coke, really, and even my sister, who tends to have a sharper take on such matters, agrees with me. However, if my beautiful nose keeps up like this I may be forced to call the rhinoplast of last resort. Alert the tabloids.

Marion Winik writes “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a column about life, love, and the pursuit of self-awareness. Check out her heartbreakingly honest and funny essays twice a month on Baltimore Fishbowl.

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Marion Winik

University of Baltimore Professor Marion Winik is the author of "The Big Book of the Dead,” “First Comes Love,” and several other books, and the host of The Weekly Reader on WYPR. Sign up for her...


  1. I wondered about that nose of yours. Hope it’s strong enough to keep you from bleeding out. How embarrassing would that be?

  2. Marion, I remember when this happened to you last year and am sorry to hear it’s a recurring thing.

    Hey, remember those episodes about plastic surgery on The Twilight Zone? Rod Serling was a genius. But if he’d had you as co-writer, he would’ve thrown in a lot more wacky humor!

  3. Wow, Marion. I love your narrative voice; your careful choice of words, selected like a surgeon’s tool, make the experience come alive. I also admire the way you infuse levity to diffuse the weightiness of the narrative. Brava. I look forward to the next episode of your Bohemian life.

  4. Oh the stories we can swap, Marion! I’ve been in quite the predicament myself and reading the humor you brought to the egos and humiliation brightened my spirits today. Thanks!

  5. At least I can still shoot out my nose whatever I’m eating when I read these. By the introduction of Dr. Cooramaswamy the charoses was history, really.

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