‘What Happened to Your Nose?’

ouchIt’s usually children and foreigners who ask: those who have no sense of propriety or privacy, or those who consider Westerners too uptight about all the wrong things, and, paradoxically, not uptight enough about others. The waiter at the Indian restaurant sympathetically gestures toward his own, toast-colored nose and inquires in heavily accented English, “Oooh… what happened?” The Palestinian gas station attendant, his hands wrapped in heavy woolen mittens, points vaguely and asks, “That hurt?”

Today, I smiled broadly at a pint-sized preschooler watching me from his mother’s grocery cart, but my friendliness wasn’t reciprocated. The child was perhaps three or four, dressed in a miniature plaid hunting jacket, and dark, tightly curled hair crowned his head like a button mushroom cap. He was swinging his winter boots dangerously close to the shelved bottled ketchup. But as his wide eyes fully took me in, his dangling legs quit their motion and he stared, stone-faced. He pointed at his own nose and frowned. Our conversation was silent and wordless: “What happened to your nose?” the boy seemed to ask suspiciously, his shiny dark eyes fixed on the center of my face. “I have a boo-boo,” I communicated back silently. “You look weird,” he summates, narrowing his gaze as if to say, “I don’t know who you are or where you came from, lady, but don’t take a step closer.”

Later, at the checkout, a teenage girl runs my things through the scanner and then, as she looks up to relay the price to me, startles and interrupts herself. “Whoa!” she asks. “What happened to you?” I’ve never met this girl before, but she asks as if she is surprised by the change in me, as if she’s slightly offended that I didn’t mention something before now. I’m instantly embarrassed and laugh a little nervously, “Oh, it’s nothing really,” I say, forcing a casual tone. “It’s just a… a cut.” A cut? From what? I imagine her wondering. From a fall? From shaving? Just what would necessitate a flesh-colored bandage that large, splayed across the bridge of a nose and spilling onto the cheeks?

The check-out girl studies me for a few seconds, and I can almost see her brain working. She’s taller than I am, with blue eyes, dirty-blond hair that falls to her shoulder, and a deep tan — even though it’s mid-winter in Boston and the sky is gray. Her lips are full and shellacked with a translucent pink lip gloss — so shiny that it looks as though a tiny Zamboni had driven over them and slicked up the surface.

I was about to dismiss her as the kind of pretty, popular girl I would have instinctively disliked in high school when suddenly a thought seemed to occur to her, and she knotted her eyebrows in some concern. She said in a bright, helpful tone, “Well, at least you have sort of a pretty face, so it doesn’t look that bad. It could be worse, you know, like if you were really ugly AND your nose looked like that. I mean, THAT would be awful,” she said. She paused, then added kindly, “Well, wouldn’t it?”

I nodded and handed her my credit card, admitting that it probably would: “Well, thanks,” I said, expressing gratitude as much for her kind intentions as for the receipt. The girl was right, though, she had a point. My nose will heal. In fact, it is healing. The skin cancer is gone, the skin graft to repair the gouge it left behind is taking. Unlike a few weeks ago, I’m back to eating solid food, and walking unsupported, and showering without fear of blacking out and hitting my head on the tile. I’m back to driving carpool, and working at my job, and walking the dogs, and, when Saturday night comes around, pulling the cork on a really nice bottle of red, and doing all of the other things that grown-ups enjoy doing.

My life has slowly returned, for the most part, to normal, except for the fact that this bandage crisscrosses the bridge of my nose like the police tape at a recent crime scene. “Do Not Cross,” it cries. “There’s some bad shit went down here.”

The bandage is banner that signals unrest, as if my nose has unfurled a defiant political sign from its perch. Something is different about me; something is broken and wrong.

I guess everyone has a story. Your friends know it, and so does your family. But the softest, most vulnerable bits of your story are usually private, hidden from strangers. You might spill it out in a bar over a bottle of tequila, or you might, in one of those moments of sudden intimacy, choose to share parts of it with someone who seems to get it. But for the most part, your story belongs to you.

I like it that way, in fact. I’ve lived decades with a tiny sentry posted at the doorway to my inner world whose job it is to protect me from emotional intruders — therapists, pastors, New Age counselors, the kinds of exhaustingly helpful people who believe in probing the confines and hauling whatever they find there out into the harsh light of day. There is healing in airing things out, in talking everything through, they believe. I’ve sometimes sat in their offices, attempting to convert myself to their way of thinking. But I always held a part of myself back; it’s just not me.

A few years ago, when my daughter was a Brownie Girl Scout, she wore a vest emblazoned with all the patches she has earned that spelled out the skills she had attained: A cloth patch of a tiny gray-haired grandmother rendered in thread said she was a regular visitor to a nursing home, while a miniature blaze circled by stones signaled her proficiency at building a campfire. I liked the idea of those patches sewn onto that vest, and the way that, when worn, they acted as a kind of shorthand for your abilities and accomplishments. The inclusion of certain patches acts as a kind of introduction to those around you about what makes you tick and, by the omission of other patches, what’s lacking.

I wonder whether we could learn a thing or two from the Girl Scouts, and institute a kind of national uniform that, when worn, might signal our own strengths and weaknesses to others. I imagined myself wearing a vest with a miniature pen rendered in thread (“Oh, so you’re a writer?” a stranger might ask on approach), and perhaps a tiny batch of muffins (“So you like to bake?”), or a tiny potato on a miniature couch (“Ah! A homebody!”). And other things, too: A miniature broken heart patch for the rougher parts of my relationships, a small green monster for my tendency to form petty jealousies, or a tiny inflexible ruler to signal my controlling tendencies. Taken together, our vests could tell a wordless story of each of us.

But the idea of a kind of emotional Brownie vest runs counter to my core, and so I considered it with a kind of titillation, in the way that a drunk might momentarily ponder a life of sobriety. (“Think of the money I’ll save that I’d otherwise spend on booze! And the time when I could be productive instead of passed out, sleeping it off! Imagine!”) But just as quickly, I reject it as ragtime crazy talk. In my family, we aren’t the kind of people who go around sharing our story with strangers. Traditionally, we offer only the best and most appealing parts of ourselves to our friends and neighbors.

Sometimes, we took vast care to cultivate our tale, and protect the most vulnerable parts of ourselves: My father wore a carefully pressed suit and tie when he left for his office every day. And when he was fired from his job — again — he dressed with the same careful precision when he went to stand in line at the unemployment office, because, my mother said, it was a kind of uniform that separated him from the losers there.

“Your father isn’t like those other bums,” my mother told me, when I asked why he bothered to don a fresh shirt and tie just to fill out more forms and to collect a meager check, then circle through the hot dog place for lunch and count the hours before returning home again. He arrived as close to the usual dinner hour as he could, so as not to raise the suspicion of neighbors. I didn’t argue with her, but I still I couldn’t help but wonder whether it was more of a costume than a uniform. Was my own hilarious and brilliant father, who lost three jobs in a decade because, at some point in each case, he stopped showing up to work sober, really all that different? And if so, well… how?

My bandaged nose is my latest story, writ large, and the first I’ve been forced to share against my will, to wear — literally, now — as a patch for all the world to see. In a practical sense, it makes me reluctant to interact with folks: to go out to dinner, or even to shop among strangers with my kid. But standing before the teenage cashier in the store, whose hopeful smile conveys only compassion and concern, makes me reconsider whether I’ve wrongly cast some roles in my story. I’m suddenly grateful to the girl for acknowledging the bandage on my nose. Yes, it’s embarrassing when people mention it. But it’s more embarrassing still when they don’t. It’s worse when they see it, look away, and change the subject. Maybe I’m older and a little bit wiser, or maybe I’m just feeling sheepish that I had read this girl all wrong. But whatever the case, it’s excruciating to pretend that nothing is wrong.

This insight calms me rather than upsets me, and reminds me that people, for the most part, are less mean-spirited and malicious than they are empathetic and kind. That’s something that the cashier, and kids, and others seem to know instinctively.

Me, it’s taking longer. Understanding that all of this is only temporary. A single moment in time.

As my mother would say, waiting dinner on the stove for my Dad, as she sighed into her gimlet, “This, too, shall pass.” Then she’d take a long drag on her Tarryton, blow the smoke over her shoulder, and address me, saying, “Right, Pussycat?” I looked up from my plate of boiled macaroni. “Uh-huh,” I’d agree, never knowing quite what it was, exactly, that would be passing.

But looking back, I think I understand what my mother meant: There are few wounds that don’t heal. Eventually. The world spins. The planets realign. And somewhere, silently, another patch is added to another vest.

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114 Responses to ‘What Happened to Your Nose?’

  1. deliriousgirl says:

    Absolutely brilliant!

    I have to say I love the idea of the badges, but we’d all probably be too mortified or dishonest about our inner selves for them to reflect reality.

    Thanks for the terrific insights and for sharing this with me. You’ve made my day!

  2. deliriousgirl says:

    Absolutely brilliant!

    I have to say I love the idea of the badges, but we’d all probably be too mortified or dishonest about our inner selves for them to reflect reality.

    Thanks for the terrific insights and for sharing this with me. You’ve made my day!

  3. Tim Berry says:

    So there I was browsing around on a bright cold Saturday morning, trying to focus, caught your tweet about this post, clicked, read, couldn’t stop reading, straight through to that final bring-it-all-together paragraph. Great writing. Thanks for this. Tim.

  4. Tim Berry says:

    So there I was browsing around on a bright cold Saturday morning, trying to focus, caught your tweet about this post, clicked, read, couldn’t stop reading, straight through to that final bring-it-all-together paragraph. Great writing. Thanks for this. Tim.

  5. Wow – this one hits home once again. I had to laugh at the thought of what badges my vest would bear and how shocking some of them might be to those who stole a peek. Just love your writing – I think you’re inspiring me to start my own personal blog space…

  6. Wow – this one hits home once again. I had to laugh at the thought of what badges my vest would bear and how shocking some of them might be to those who stole a peek. Just love your writing – I think you’re inspiring me to start my own personal blog space…

  7. Zil says:

    Wow – an actual picture of you on your blog! I must agree with the cashier – you do look good despite the big (but at least flesh toned) bandage… I was waiting to read that you told the “tanned” cashier (despite the 3 feet of snow outside her store) to make sure she practices safe sun but should have known that you would never preach to much less “at” others. Thanks for sharing – as always. (…and I like the idea of the life vest)

  8. Zil says:

    Wow – an actual picture of you on your blog! I must agree with the cashier – you do look good despite the big (but at least flesh toned) bandage… I was waiting to read that you told the “tanned” cashier (despite the 3 feet of snow outside her store) to make sure she practices safe sun but should have known that you would never preach to much less “at” others. Thanks for sharing – as always. (…and I like the idea of the life vest)

  9. Mary Anne Shew says:

    You brought back 2 memories long forgotten.

    My own Junior Girl Scout vest was lost when our house was destroyed by fire during late high school, but your post makes me remember its vivid green. I see numerous rows of indistinct badges about which I was shy but very proud.

    Wearing that vest was one of the few ways in which my accomplishments were public without me being called a show-off or know-it-all, deathly painful terms in those days. A straight-A student in my small-town high school had to be very, very careful.

    The other memory you unearthed for me occurred years later in my first months as a brand-new employee at Kodak after college. I came to work the day after having my wisdom teeth extracted, unmistakeable chipmunk cheeks in full bloom. Not one person commented on them! I kept wondering, Does this mean they think I look like terrible all the time?? Very strange and disconcerting. And it’s not like you can point to the offending tissue and say, Hey! Whatcha think of these?, to get it out in the open.

    Great post, Ann! Score another one for the heart you put in every one.

  10. Mary Anne Shew says:

    You brought back 2 memories long forgotten.

    My own Junior Girl Scout vest was lost when our house was destroyed by fire during late high school, but your post makes me remember its vivid green. I see numerous rows of indistinct badges about which I was shy but very proud.

    Wearing that vest was one of the few ways in which my accomplishments were public without me being called a show-off or know-it-all, deathly painful terms in those days. A straight-A student in my small-town high school had to be very, very careful.

    The other memory you unearthed for me occurred years later in my first months as a brand-new employee at Kodak after college. I came to work the day after having my wisdom teeth extracted, unmistakeable chipmunk cheeks in full bloom. Not one person commented on them! I kept wondering, Does this mean they think I look like terrible all the time?? Very strange and disconcerting. And it’s not like you can point to the offending tissue and say, Hey! Whatcha think of these?, to get it out in the open.

    Great post, Ann! Score another one for the heart you put in every one.

  11. Woo woo! Time to celebrate! We should have a nose band-aid party or something… Maybe help you feel like you blend in a bit more… :-)

    Really glad everything went well!

  12. Woo woo! Time to celebrate! We should have a nose band-aid party or something… Maybe help you feel like you blend in a bit more… :-)

    Really glad everything went well!

  13. Brilliant as always, Ann. I think you’re right. We should all have our own patchwork vest of honor that we don each day. Some of the patches would be from achievements past, frayed from years of wear. Some would be newer with brighter embroidery and crisp edges. Each geometric shape demonstrating an accomplishment, a task completed, or a challenge overcome. Congrats to you for putting your post out there front and center for us all to read. It’s a true badge of courage!

  14. Brilliant as always, Ann. I think you’re right. We should all have our own patchwork vest of honor that we don each day. Some of the patches would be from achievements past, frayed from years of wear. Some would be newer with brighter embroidery and crisp edges. Each geometric shape demonstrating an accomplishment, a task completed, or a challenge overcome. Congrats to you for putting your post out there front and center for us all to read. It’s a true badge of courage!

  15. Peter Kim says:

    The band-aid makes you look dangerous, actually. Even though the look went out of style in hip-hop like seven years ago.

  16. Peter Kim says:

    The band-aid makes you look dangerous, actually. Even though the look went out of style in hip-hop like seven years ago.

  17. Thanks for this great piece.

    For me, having developed a lot of odd ticks since mushing a bit of my cerebellum, your experiences really hit home. Oddly, though, being so visibly messed up at times has made me more open not less. In fact, as people look at me clearly wondering whether I’m completely hammered but not smelling any booze and so clearly a little confused, I just tell ‘em, “Yup, had a brain injury,” and instantly people relax, maybe ask me a little about it, and we both go on with our day.

    And I sure hope your mom was right and that this too shall pass!

    Hope your post-surgery recovery continues to go smoothly.

    Jeff

  18. Thanks for this great piece.

    For me, having developed a lot of odd ticks since mushing a bit of my cerebellum, your experiences really hit home. Oddly, though, being so visibly messed up at times has made me more open not less. In fact, as people look at me clearly wondering whether I’m completely hammered but not smelling any booze and so clearly a little confused, I just tell ‘em, “Yup, had a brain injury,” and instantly people relax, maybe ask me a little about it, and we both go on with our day.

    And I sure hope your mom was right and that this too shall pass!

    Hope your post-surgery recovery continues to go smoothly.

    Jeff

  19. Aurora Brown says:

    Thanks for the wonderful post Ann. Everybody above has made great comments so I won’t say much, just that keeping a positive attitude and sense of humor goes a long ways towards helping things pass.

  20. Aurora Brown says:

    Thanks for the wonderful post Ann. Everybody above has made great comments so I won’t say much, just that keeping a positive attitude and sense of humor goes a long ways towards helping things pass.

  21. Lyn says:

    Ann, I absolutely love your style, wit and humour – your approach to life’s trials and tribulations. You are a poet and world class wordsmith. Thanks for your authenticity and honesty Ann.

  22. Lyn says:

    Ann, I absolutely love your style, wit and humour – your approach to life’s trials and tribulations. You are a poet and world class wordsmith. Thanks for your authenticity and honesty Ann.

  23. Rock star, you are– funky nose and all! I’m proud of the view of your “vest” . I feel like I would have loved your mom and I’m sure my own mom would have wanted to be friends with her too. Sub in a Viceroy and they would have been two peas.

    Great post!

  24. Rock star, you are– funky nose and all! I’m proud of the view of your “vest” . I feel like I would have loved your mom and I’m sure my own mom would have wanted to be friends with her too. Sub in a Viceroy and they would have been two peas.

    Great post!

  25. Ann Handley says:

    Thank you everyone — I kind of like the concept of a nose party — BYOB.. &B;! (Booze & Bandaid!)

    ; )

  26. Ann Handley says:

    Thank you everyone — I kind of like the concept of a nose party — BYOB.. &B! (Booze & Bandaid!)

    ; )

  27. warrenss says:

    Ann, it’s always a great day to see one of your posts in my Google reader. Thanks for sharing your transparency in much more than 140 characters. Glad that you are feeling much better and as the checkout girl said, “Well, at least you have sort of a pretty face, so it doesn’t look that bad”. Stay well and keep smiling, because that makes us smile.

  28. Ann, it’s always a great day to see one of your posts in my Google reader. Thanks for sharing your transparency in much more than 140 characters. Glad that you are feeling much better and as the checkout girl said, “Well, at least you have sort of a pretty face, so it doesn’t look that bad”. Stay well and keep smiling, because that makes us smile.

  29. Chris H. says:

    So it goes. Great post, Ann. I’m up for a nose party.

  30. Chris H. says:

    So it goes. Great post, Ann. I’m up for a nose party.

  31. Ellen Britt says:

    Oh Ann, your writing is so fine…I think you have touched on that tender spot that all of us carry in our hearts…only occasionally do we have to wear that spot out in public…

  32. Ellen Britt says:

    Oh Ann, your writing is so fine…I think you have touched on that tender spot that all of us carry in our hearts…only occasionally do we have to wear that spot out in public…

  33. Alan Wolk says:

    Zamboni metaphor is perfect. Nicely done.

    Funny how talking about physical appearance is such a taboo in our culture but not in others: during both pregnancies, random foreigners would come up to my wife, touch her belly and opine on the likely gender of the child and ups and downs of pregnancy.

    Glad to hear you are still on the mend.

  34. Alan Wolk says:

    Zamboni metaphor is perfect. Nicely done.

    Funny how talking about physical appearance is such a taboo in our culture but not in others: during both pregnancies, random foreigners would come up to my wife, touch her belly and opine on the likely gender of the child and ups and downs of pregnancy.

    Glad to hear you are still on the mend.

  35. Shelley says:

    Hey, here’s an idea for a Superbowl social event, Ann. Swap the bandaid for one of those jumbo-sized “breathe right” strips, put stripes of black tar under each eye, and tell everyone you’re a Steelers fan. Then leave it all on for several days and tell everyone you just want to keep reliving the game.

    Har — honestly, the tough-girl look was meant for you! You might become addicted to it. If I see you in March with the bandage still on, I’ll wonder…

  36. Shelley says:

    Hey, here’s an idea for a Superbowl social event, Ann. Swap the bandaid for one of those jumbo-sized “breathe right” strips, put stripes of black tar under each eye, and tell everyone you’re a Steelers fan. Then leave it all on for several days and tell everyone you just want to keep reliving the game.

    Har — honestly, the tough-girl look was meant for you! You might become addicted to it. If I see you in March with the bandage still on, I’ll wonder…

  37. Lori Magno says:

    Well done Miss Ann! That was lovely! As are you my friend, as are you!

  38. Lori Magno says:

    Well done Miss Ann! That was lovely! As are you my friend, as are you!

  39. Susan Ditz says:

    Ann…a really wonderful piece. So glad you’re feeling better. Love the badge concept and especially the poignant honesty. Hope your recovery continues to go well.

  40. Susan Ditz says:

    Ann…a really wonderful piece. So glad you’re feeling better. Love the badge concept and especially the poignant honesty. Hope your recovery continues to go well.

  41. Julie says:

    Sending you the biggest, warmest hug imaginable.

    What a wonderful image those vests covered in badges conjure up. You are such an inspiration Ann – do you even realize that?

    Love and strength to you and to Caroline and Evan – I’m so happy you’re healing. xxxxx

  42. Julie says:

    Sending you the biggest, warmest hug imaginable.

    What a wonderful image those vests covered in badges conjure up. You are such an inspiration Ann – do you even realize that?

    Love and strength to you and to Caroline and Evan – I’m so happy you’re healing. xxxxx

  43. jeanne says:

    beautifully written. and so touching. I totally want the girl scout vest.

    I can only hope to write 1/2 as well as you when i grow up. Good luck with the nose.

  44. jeanne says:

    beautifully written. and so touching. I totally want the girl scout vest.

    I can only hope to write 1/2 as well as you when i grow up. Good luck with the nose.

  45. Jack Hadley says:

    Thanks, Ann. Love your writing style and openness.

  46. Jack Hadley says:

    Thanks, Ann. Love your writing style and openness.

  47. Karen says:

    Powerful and poignant! Reminds me how what we really want when making connections with one another is to be seen – wholly seen – warts and all, and openly acknowledged rather than silently judged or glossed over. Thanks for you willingness to be seen. BTW, when’s the book coming?

  48. Karen says:

    Powerful and poignant! Reminds me how what we really want when making connections with one another is to be seen – wholly seen – warts and all, and openly acknowledged rather than silently judged or glossed over. Thanks for you willingness to be seen. BTW, when’s the book coming?

  49. Karen says:

    Don’t know what that picture of a guy is doing next to my post, but – oh well! (How ironic after talking about being authentically seen!)

  50. Karen says:

    Don’t know what that picture of a guy is doing next to my post, but – oh well! (How ironic after talking about being authentically seen!)

  51. Ann Handley says:

    Thanks you everyone. When I finally market that Brownie Girl Scout vest, you’ll be the first to know…

    AND– I totally love Chris H’s nose bandage in sympathy/solidarity… !

  52. Ann Handley says:

    Thanks you everyone. When I finally market that Brownie Girl Scout vest, you’ll be the first to know…

    AND– I totally love Chris H’s nose bandage in sympathy/solidarity… !

  53. jan says:

    My badge would say I’m a reader with good taste, and a little further down is a list of compelling authors as proof. You’re on that list… I’m glad you’re doing well now.

  54. jan says:

    My badge would say I’m a reader with good taste, and a little further down is a list of compelling authors as proof. You’re on that list… I’m glad you’re doing well now.

  55. Craig Sutton says:

    Ann,

    You’re a special person, thank you for sharing your story. I have learned a lot from you in our short time as friends, and suspect that I will continue to do so.

    Stay strong and focused as always, and Ps, your hot with or without a bandage! (Just sayin)

  56. Craig Sutton says:

    Ann,

    You’re a special person, thank you for sharing your story. I have learned a lot from you in our short time as friends, and suspect that I will continue to do so.

    Stay strong and focused as always, and Ps, your hot with or without a bandage! (Just sayin)

  57. Kerry says:

    Ann, I’ve nothing to say that hasn’t already been said here but wanted to add my thanks for this entry. I’ve got that tiny sentry you mention in my employ – and frankly I’d like to give him the sack!

  58. Kerry says:

    Ann, I’ve nothing to say that hasn’t already been said here but wanted to add my thanks for this entry. I’ve got that tiny sentry you mention in my employ – and frankly I’d like to give him the sack!

  59. Marta says:

    That line about your Dad wearing that suit to make it clear that he was different from those other bums? Oh my God. And I hear you: I have to recast almost everyone in my story. About the vest (I loved the vest!): If a writer embroiders a pen on her vest, what does a storyteller embroider? Last, thank you for writing!

  60. Marta says:

    That line about your Dad wearing that suit to make it clear that he was different from those other bums? Oh my God. And I hear you: I have to recast almost everyone in my story. About the vest (I loved the vest!): If a writer embroiders a pen on her vest, what does a storyteller embroider? Last, thank you for writing!

  61. Karen Swim says:

    Ann, I’m glad you’re feeling better. Your insight and ability to articulate leaves me breathless. Indeed the bandage on your nose is visible but we have embarrassing reminders of wounds that have or are healing. Thankfully, our pain and recuperation are often silently managed. But when we cannot hide them, I have found a humility and a new awareness that while not visible we all have them.

  62. Karen Swim says:

    Ann, I’m glad you’re feeling better. Your insight and ability to articulate leaves me breathless. Indeed the bandage on your nose is visible but we have embarrassing reminders of wounds that have or are healing. Thankfully, our pain and recuperation are often silently managed. But when we cannot hide them, I have found a humility and a new awareness that while not visible we all have them.

  63. Wow! This really is some very powerful story telling! You really have a way of caring me through the story and getting me connected to the “space” that you are in. Not being a westerner, I must say though, that my culture would also not be too inquisitive about what is happenning to other people. We would probably steal awkward glances and wait for you to spill the beans. On the other hand, I have the good fortune to be able to have amongst my friends and acquintances children and people with mental handicaps for whom ettiquette is a hindrance quite unknown. THEY would ask you the moment they saw you, and to them, infact, you cannot help but be an open book. They call it as they see it and they ask if they are curious about anything. Anything.
    Anyway, it is good to hear that you are doing much better. Keep shining, you inspire those of us who harbour dreams of one day being able to string together such wonderful pieces as you do, Ann.

  64. Wow! This really is some very powerful story telling! You really have a way of caring me through the story and getting me connected to the “space” that you are in. Not being a westerner, I must say though, that my culture would also not be too inquisitive about what is happenning to other people. We would probably steal awkward glances and wait for you to spill the beans. On the other hand, I have the good fortune to be able to have amongst my friends and acquintances children and people with mental handicaps for whom ettiquette is a hindrance quite unknown. THEY would ask you the moment they saw you, and to them, infact, you cannot help but be an open book. They call it as they see it and they ask if they are curious about anything. Anything.
    Anyway, it is good to hear that you are doing much better. Keep shining, you inspire those of us who harbour dreams of one day being able to string together such wonderful pieces as you do, Ann.

  65. Mack Collier says:

    I think in many cases, people look to us for their cues in how they should handle something that ‘seems’ out of place. I saw a picture of a man wearing a full length mink coat last night, an image that sounds completely absurd. But that man was Joe Namath circa 1969, and he had this steely glare that just screamed ‘I make this look GOOD’. And he did.

    But I think that works better for the extroverts. As an introvert, the worst thing that could happen would be to stand out. Then suddenly you have all the attention on you, which is the last thing you want.

    BTW love the closing to this particular post, all of yours are great, but this one was exceptional.

  66. Mack Collier says:

    I think in many cases, people look to us for their cues in how they should handle something that ‘seems’ out of place. I saw a picture of a man wearing a full length mink coat last night, an image that sounds completely absurd. But that man was Joe Namath circa 1969, and he had this steely glare that just screamed ‘I make this look GOOD’. And he did.

    But I think that works better for the extroverts. As an introvert, the worst thing that could happen would be to stand out. Then suddenly you have all the attention on you, which is the last thing you want.

    BTW love the closing to this particular post, all of yours are great, but this one was exceptional.

  67. Ann,
    Damnit1 There you go again-making me do all of the “feeling” stuff, that I just hate doing for more than 3 seconds, or so.

    Yes, sometimes things pass, and sometimes they just stay on some secret shelf, waiting to be found every few years.

    Your nose will heal.

    Right?

    Joel Libava

  68. Joel Libava says:

    Ann,
    Damnit1 There you go again-making me do all of the “feeling” stuff, that I just hate doing for more than 3 seconds, or so.

    Yes, sometimes things pass, and sometimes they just stay on some secret shelf, waiting to be found every few years.

    Your nose will heal.

    Right?

    Joel Libava

  69. Stephanie says:

    Ann, thank you!

    I am sitting in a cafe reading your post and tears are streaming down my face. The kid at the table next to me looks at me and says, “Do you have a boo boo?” And I say, without thinking, “Doesn’t everyone?!” And she sort of giggles in that “oh God, Adults don’t get it” way, and so I shake myself and say to her – no boo boo, honey, thanks for asking. I was just reading something happy and sad at the same time – do you know?

    And she says, sort of like when you get the best swing just when recess is over?

    THANKS, Ann. You are a really wonderful writer and person.

  70. Stephanie says:

    Ann, thank you!

    I am sitting in a cafe reading your post and tears are streaming down my face. The kid at the table next to me looks at me and says, “Do you have a boo boo?” And I say, without thinking, “Doesn’t everyone?!” And she sort of giggles in that “oh God, Adults don’t get it” way, and so I shake myself and say to her – no boo boo, honey, thanks for asking. I was just reading something happy and sad at the same time – do you know?

    And she says, sort of like when you get the best swing just when recess is over?

    THANKS, Ann. You are a really wonderful writer and person.

  71. Ann, what an incredibly thought-provoking and vulnerable piece — thank you! This is my first time to your site but definitely won’t be my last!

    It’s funny — you seem to lament the fact that sharing your heart of hearts is counter to your nature; well, I’m the polar opposite. My life is an open book, both in my blog and in real life. Sometimes I wish I knew when to shut up!

    I don’t necessarily regret being that way in respect to my blog, but it never seems to sink into my thick skull that most people aren’t quite so transparent — that is, until I get ‘the look’ or worse: the “sorry, but that’s none of your damned business,” from people after asking them horrendously nosy personal questions that I myself wouldn’t give a second thought sharing with a complete stranger.

    So reading your story sort of reminded me of ‘how the other half thinks…’ :)

    Very touching; heartwarmingly thoughtful; a wonderful glimpse into your inner-crust (not to say that I think you’re crusty or nothin’…)

    Take care.

  72. Ann, what an incredibly thought-provoking and vulnerable piece — thank you! This is my first time to your site but definitely won’t be my last!

    It’s funny — you seem to lament the fact that sharing your heart of hearts is counter to your nature; well, I’m the polar opposite. My life is an open book, both in my blog and in real life. Sometimes I wish I knew when to shut up!

    I don’t necessarily regret being that way in respect to my blog, but it never seems to sink into my thick skull that most people aren’t quite so transparent — that is, until I get ‘the look’ or worse: the “sorry, but that’s none of your damned business,” from people after asking them horrendously nosy personal questions that I myself wouldn’t give a second thought sharing with a complete stranger.

    So reading your story sort of reminded me of ‘how the other half thinks…’ :)

    Very touching; heartwarmingly thoughtful; a wonderful glimpse into your inner-crust (not to say that I think you’re crusty or nothin’…)

    Take care.

  73. Joanie says:

    Ann,

    I had the Girl Scout “sash” back in the day. And actually, I hated those little patches. There was always some other girl with more “accomplishments” and it brought out a jealous streak of competitiveness in me that felt uncomfortable.

    And I was wondering what patch you would give Zamboni girl? Insensitive caring? The “dichotomy” patch?

  74. Joanie says:

    Ann,

    I had the Girl Scout “sash” back in the day. And actually, I hated those little patches. There was always some other girl with more “accomplishments” and it brought out a jealous streak of competitiveness in me that felt uncomfortable.

    And I was wondering what patch you would give Zamboni girl? Insensitive caring? The “dichotomy” patch?

  75. Laura says:

    That check-out girl did NOT say that to you…!!!???

    Did you tell her that 16-year-olds make beautiful corpses?

    Had I been there with you, I’d have taken her on. I coulda done it, too.

    XO,

    Lala

  76. Laura says:

    That check-out girl did NOT say that to you…!!!???

    Did you tell her that 16-year-olds make beautiful corpses?

    Had I been there with you, I’d have taken her on. I coulda done it, too.

    XO,

    Lala

  77. Cam Beck says:

    “The child was perhaps three or four, dressed in a miniature plaid hunting jacket, and dark, tightly curled hair crowned his head like a button mushroom cap. He was swinging his winter boots dangerously close to the shelved bottled ketchup. But as his wide eyes fully took me in, his dangling legs quit their motion and he stared, stone-faced. He pointed at his own nose and frowned. Our conversation was silent and wordless: ‘What happened to your nose?’ the boy seemed to ask suspiciously, his shiny dark eyes fixed on the center of my face. ‘I have a boo-boo,’ I communicated back silently. “You look weird,” he summates, narrowing his gaze as if to say, ‘I don’t know who you are or where you came from, lady, but don’t take a step closer.’”

    I can’t stop marveling at this paragraph. Whatever it is that you have, I hope someone finds a way to bottle it.

  78. Cam Beck says:

    “The child was perhaps three or four, dressed in a miniature plaid hunting jacket, and dark, tightly curled hair crowned his head like a button mushroom cap. He was swinging his winter boots dangerously close to the shelved bottled ketchup. But as his wide eyes fully took me in, his dangling legs quit their motion and he stared, stone-faced. He pointed at his own nose and frowned. Our conversation was silent and wordless: ‘What happened to your nose?’ the boy seemed to ask suspiciously, his shiny dark eyes fixed on the center of my face. ‘I have a boo-boo,’ I communicated back silently. “You look weird,” he summates, narrowing his gaze as if to say, ‘I don’t know who you are or where you came from, lady, but don’t take a step closer.’”

    I can’t stop marveling at this paragraph. Whatever it is that you have, I hope someone finds a way to bottle it.

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  80. ANNIE GIRL!

    You are WORKIN’ that bandage. WORK IT!

    Late to the party this week… but enjoyed every delectable bit of your post. As for the badges, I’d say that’s a novel idea. I’d also say that many of us who read you share more than a few.

    Thank you for daring to show us your beautiful heart.

    P.S. Miniature Zamboni? HAHAHAHA

  81. ANNIE GIRL!

    You are WORKIN’ that bandage. WORK IT!

    Late to the party this week… but enjoyed every delectable bit of your post. As for the badges, I’d say that’s a novel idea. I’d also say that many of us who read you share more than a few.

    Thank you for daring to show us your beautiful heart.

    P.S. Miniature Zamboni? HAHAHAHA

  82. Jim Storer says:

    One of these days I’ll leave a comment before the ink dries (or at least within 24 hours of the post).

    Your writing is like candy. Really good candy. Thanks for that. And it’s good to hear you’re on the mend and have “sort of a pretty face.”

    On the other hand, maybe I’ll be the guy that stops by a week late every time and, like the family that sends out holiday cards in mid January, won’t have to compete with everyone else.

    Jim | @jstorerj

  83. Jim Storer says:

    One of these days I’ll leave a comment before the ink dries (or at least within 24 hours of the post).

    Your writing is like candy. Really good candy. Thanks for that. And it’s good to hear you’re on the mend and have “sort of a pretty face.”

    On the other hand, maybe I’ll be the guy that stops by a week late every time and, like the family that sends out holiday cards in mid January, won’t have to compete with everyone else.

    Jim | @jstorerj

  84. B.L. Ochman says:

    Another great piece Ann! But that checkout girl was wrong. You have a beautiful face and a spirit to match. Had I been there, I might have decked her for saying that to you.
    xo
    BL

  85. B.L. Ochman says:

    Another great piece Ann! But that checkout girl was wrong. You have a beautiful face and a spirit to match. Had I been there, I might have decked her for saying that to you.
    xo
    BL

  86. Wow. Just, wow. I am not only enamored with your writing but admire your ability to share in such beautiful detail. Amazing – really.

    I am glad you are feeling better and on the road to recovery.

  87. Wow. Just, wow. I am not only enamored with your writing but admire your ability to share in such beautiful detail. Amazing – really.

    I am glad you are feeling better and on the road to recovery.

  88. grace says:

    seems thou doth protest too much…for as much as you write about a sentry at your door, guarding your sacred privacy, you spend your days sharing with all of us your life experiences. perhaps you would reply, but i share what i choose. yes, you make the choice, but you still like to let us into your world. you do it every time you post.

    it is, as always, a pleasure to read your writing…you are quite good. just a little food for thought.

  89. grace says:

    seems thou doth protest too much…for as much as you write about a sentry at your door, guarding your sacred privacy, you spend your days sharing with all of us your life experiences. perhaps you would reply, but i share what i choose. yes, you make the choice, but you still like to let us into your world. you do it every time you post.

    it is, as always, a pleasure to read your writing…you are quite good. just a little food for thought.

  90. GiGi says:

    Annie,
    Great post. Once again, we’re starting off talking about something on the surface (pardon the pun), and then before we know it, we’re doing a deep dive into the real stuff. After I finished reading this, I shouted, “yes!” BTW, Jim had this surgery recently, too, and has moved beyond the Jimmy Durante phase! Gi

  91. GiGi says:

    Annie,
    Great post. Once again, we’re starting off talking about something on the surface (pardon the pun), and then before we know it, we’re doing a deep dive into the real stuff. After I finished reading this, I shouted, “yes!” BTW, Jim had this surgery recently, too, and has moved beyond the Jimmy Durante phase! Gi

  92. Terri says:

    Amazing. Just amazing.

    and please get even better soon.

  93. Terri says:

    Amazing. Just amazing.

    and please get even better soon.

  94. I’m with Laura…she told you that you were ‘sort of’ pretty?! Like she’s ‘sort of’ smart? I might have considered taking her on too, except I wouldn’t want to ruin anyone’s lip gloss patch.

  95. I’m with Laura…she told you that you were ‘sort of’ pretty?! Like she’s ‘sort of’ smart? I might have considered taking her on too, except I wouldn’t want to ruin anyone’s lip gloss patch.

  96. Kisane says:

    I loved your post Ann & the concept of the emotional brownie vest.

    Did you know that in Russia gangsters in the Russian Mafia have tattoos on their backs that tell the complete history or story of their crimes. This is so that anyone else knows where they have been and what they have done. This is especially vital for when they go to prison, so everyone knows what their credentials are! Interesting huh?!

  97. Kisane says:

    I loved your post Ann & the concept of the emotional brownie vest.

    Did you know that in Russia gangsters in the Russian Mafia have tattoos on their backs that tell the complete history or story of their crimes. This is so that anyone else knows where they have been and what they have done. This is especially vital for when they go to prison, so everyone knows what their credentials are! Interesting huh?!

  98. Greg Straface says:

    Ann, yet another fantastic post. You have a quality of writing that I truly enjoy to read. Loved the zamboni bit! Hope your nose is healing.

  99. Greg Straface says:

    Ann, yet another fantastic post. You have a quality of writing that I truly enjoy to read. Loved the zamboni bit! Hope your nose is healing.

  100. Ann,

    Although I’ve known of you from MarketingProfs, I just discovered your blog and am glad of it! Thanks for your beautifully written piece and the warmth of emotion behind it. There’s so much in your piece that I could identify with, especially in regards to familial reticence to open up to others. Your idea for each of us to wear badges is wonderful.

    Maybe it’s a sign of maturity but I find it much easier to be transparent as I’ve gotten older than I ever would have as a youth. Your mother has the right of it with “this too shall pass.” After enough passages, I think we reach the stage of being able to wear a survivor’s badge with as much panache as any other badgey skill.

    Best of luck with your continued healing!

  101. Ann,

    Although I’ve known of you from MarketingProfs, I just discovered your blog and am glad of it! Thanks for your beautifully written piece and the warmth of emotion behind it. There’s so much in your piece that I could identify with, especially in regards to familial reticence to open up to others. Your idea for each of us to wear badges is wonderful.

    Maybe it’s a sign of maturity but I find it much easier to be transparent as I’ve gotten older than I ever would have as a youth. Your mother has the right of it with “this too shall pass.” After enough passages, I think we reach the stage of being able to wear a survivor’s badge with as much panache as any other badgey skill.

    Best of luck with your continued healing!

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  105. Ed Pearsall says:

    Went to your web site, wow…you are indeed a writer. My wife just finished her 4th plastic reconstruction to fix her nose, where the skin cancer was before January. We can relate.
    (the younger restaurant waitresses and store clerks DID ask, here also)

  106. Ed Pearsall says:

    Went to your web site, wow…you are indeed a writer. My wife just finished her 4th plastic reconstruction to fix her nose, where the skin cancer was before January. We can relate.
    (the younger restaurant waitresses and store clerks DID ask, here also)

  107. iknowthefeeling says:

    i feel for you as i have a bandage on my nose for the last 6 months,,
    as i had a large skin graft to my nose,,, it looks terrible, id rather cover it then look at it,,, i do get the stares and questions,,, i hate it,,,im livin the nightmare,,, i will never look the same…
    u look great,,, you should see me,,, i look like a burn victim with skin graft patches all over my face,, and im only 35 yrs old,,, my life is over,,,

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