Romancing the Nose: The Big Beak Benefits
“It must be wonderful to wake up in the morning and smell the coffee… In Brazil!”
In the 1987 film Roxanne, Steve Martin’s character Charlie is cursed with the biggest nose anybody in his town has ever seen. It’s not bulbous or warty or hooked; it just sticks straight out of his face like Pinocchio’s nose mid-lie. Through the whole film, based on the 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac, Charlie struggles to come to terms with his pronounced proboscis and win the girl of his dreams, astronomer Roxanne Kowalski. In a crowded bar and in front of the whole town, including Roxanne, a drunken fellow challenges Charlie to come up with twenty insults better than “big nose.” Each one of Charlie’s insults is self-deprecating and crude, but it brings up a good point; Charlie has a sense of humor about the size of his nose and it dissuades the real critics. Admittedly, I have always struggled with finding humor about my own large nose. The grievances are numerous: I hate having my photograph taken in profile, I have to wear sunscreen on my nose every time I go outside, every sneeze clears out my lungs, and I blow my nose like a moose in heat. I’m an actress and actresses are supposed to have small, button noses, even the same nose, carved by a gifted plastic surgeon in a process called “rhinoplasty.” I feel like a rhinoceros next to all the little button-faced women in auditions for plays, and it has caused me a lot of anxiety over the years. But what is so bad about a big nose? I am also blessed with large eyes and lips so my face is actually very dynamic onstage. I need less makeup and my facial expressions are easily discernable. I stand out in a line-up of button faces. Despite the fact that my nose has given me pause in the past, I endeavor to provide evidence that large noses are not only more advantageous than small noses, they are the best kind of nose to have.
History provides documentation of many brilliant big-nosed geniuses, each with a long list of accomplishments. If you look up ‘famous geniuses’ on Google, about 90% of the results have impressive shnozes and it calls to question whether a large nose contributes to the human cranial capacity for knowledge. Galileo Galilei, Albert Einstein, Edgar Allan Poe, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other brilliant people have given us some of the world’s greatest efforts, capped with magnanimous muzzles.
The people of ancient Egypt possessed a wealth of nose acreage, on top of being some of the greatest architects and scientists in the history of the world. During their mummification process, the brain was removed through the nasal cavity to prevent damaging the skull through surgical invasion and thus the nose was a vital part of the body. The great Sphinx statue at Giza had its nose removed by diligent thieves, evidenced by the long chisel marks on its face where the nose should be. A historian by the name of al-Maqrizi from the 15th century speculated that the removal of the nose was the result of vandalism at the hands of Muhammad Sa’im al-Dahr, a Sufi man who was so outraged to find peasants making offerings at the Sphinx’s feet that he had the nose of it destroyed. Egyptians greatly valued the preservation of the faces in their monuments and hieroglyphs because of their belief that what was manifest in their art would manifest in the afterlife; the defecation of the Sphinx would have brought shame to the people of Egypt.
Egyptian history shows a laundry list of powerful rulers with large noses, evidenced by the statuaries and hieroglyphs from the tombs of the pharaohs, but Egypt isn’t the only civilization to have great leaders with beaks worth mentioning. The first official President of the United States was George Washington, a man depicted in paintings of the time to have a prominent Roman-style nose. Queen Elizabeth II is the current ruler of Great Britain and she has a respectably large nose. There seems to be a greater number of rulers in history with prominent features, especially noses, as if to suggest that people elect their leaders based on what they look like. If a leader looks strong and able to lead a nation, the people are more likely to stand behind them. Granted, Queen Elizabeth II rose to the throne through blood rite, but it is within the power of Parliament to limit her power so completely that she becomes simply a figurehead. The people like her, and therefore she still retains a small amount of power in the United Kingdom. A large nose enables a person in a position of power to appear capable and strong.
If you’re not particularly intelligent or drawn to power, you may be asking yourself at this moment how else a large nose could benefit you. A study from the University of Iowa substantiated a claim that larger noses actually inhale 6.5% fewer allergens and dust particles, reducing the impact of hay fever and allergies on the body. The University of Iowa also suggested that big noses filter out bacteria and viruses before they get a chance to reach the mouth. This calls to question whether there may be even more heath benefits to having a large nose. It is an unfortunate truth that there are some negative medical effects to a large nose, including the increased probability of being struck in the nose while playing sports, sustaining nose injuries in car accidents, and septum deviation. Luckily for those of us with naturally large noses, all of these are easily dealt with through medical treatment.
Not only are large noses a mark of distinction amongst the button-faces of the world, they are something to be celebrated. Large noses allow politicians to gain a higher level of respect and distinguish geniuses from our history. Though it is certain that people with smaller noses can achieve equal ranks with their large nosed brethren, on the whole it is the big beaks that leave a lasting impression.