February 4, 2007

My friend Audrey is good about answering e-mails. When a few weeks went by and I hadn't heard from her, I worried. Then one day she wrote back: I'll call you, need to tell you something. I wondered what I'd done wrong.

I was nervous, convinced she was ending the friendship. She began with an explanation: "I know this will come as a shock, and the reason I didn't say anything before is because I didn't want you to talk me out of it."

I couldn't imagine what she was going to say. Was she getting married? Moving to LA? Or even worse - getting married and moving to LA?  "But now it's over and I just need you to be supportive because there's nothing I can do to change it."

I told her she was scaring me. "It's nothing bad." She paused. "I've had some work done." Some work done.
It sounded so Sharon Stone.

I couldn't imagine what she'd had fixed. We've been friends for years. Close friends. We've travelled together, lived together, micro-analysed every insecurity, lump, bump, blemish. We've had plenty of discussions about plastic surgery and there's nothing she'd ever mentioned wanting to change.

When she told me it was a nose job, my first reaction was to feel left out. All those years she'd been keeping this lack of confidence a secret. How could she not tell me she hated her nose? If there was anyone who'd understand not being happy, it was me. If only she had confided in me. We could have been miserable together.

Then something occurred to me. The last conversation we'd had, I'd asked her to look at my nose and tell me if she thought it looked bulbous. I'd gone online to a rosacea website, seen a photo of W C Fields, and discovered there was something called "W C Fields nose". Was I getting that?

"That conversation was tough," she said. "I wanted to tell you but I wasn't ready." She felt guilty. We had been on the nose topic and she hadn't said a thing. "That whole time, I was looking at you, wishing I had your nose."

Hang on. My nose? She was envious of my nose? Indeed. I couldn't believe it. It was like she'd been having an affair under my nose, with my nose.

That changed everything. She'd never envied anything about me before. Nobody has. Of course, if there's something about me that's enviable, it's bound to be deteriorating. From that moment on, I've been on W C Fields-nose watch.

And then there was the anxiety about Audrey changing. What if once she had her new nose, she wasn't self-deprecating any more? What if she starts going out all the time, feeling on top of the world? That would be horrible. I'd have nobody to talk to any more about not having a social life.

Then again, she wasn't exactly a shy wallflower before. Plus, she's 37.

I haven't seen the new nose yet, but I understand why she did it. If it makes her feel better about herself, why not? And she's lucky. There is a procedure available to her that allows her to improve. For me, it's not so easy.

It's not that there aren't things I wish I could change; it's that there are too many to count. I'm all for getting work done but doctors have yet to offer a personality transplant. When that's available, sign me up.