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***BIO*** Masha Tupitsyn is a fiction writer and feminist critic who lives in New York City She received her BA in Literature and Cultural Studies from The New School for Social Research, and her MA in Literature and Cultural Studies from the University of Sussex in England. In 2003, she moved back after fleeing the country and living in London for more than three years, while studying for an MA. She is a freelance writer and editor and is currently working as the Assistant Literary Editor at BOMB Magazine in New York City. She received a 1998 writing fellowship from the Edward Albee Foundation, a 1998 fellowship from the Millay Colony, a 2004 fellowship from the Djerrassi Program for Artists in California, and most recently, she received a fellowship from The Obras Colony For Artists in Portugal. She was also the 2004 winner of the 3rd LEGIBLE Open Competition Book Award. She has had her prose published in FAQ, Fancy, Provincetown Arts Magazine, and Eye Zine. She is has written one collection of fiction, Prone, is currently at work on a poetic novella, Said Afterlife, a ghost story about death, language, and the spectral, and a book of film-based stories entitled, Beauty Talk & Monsters.
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The Truth About Noses
(Beauty Talk & Monsters Series)
by Masha Tupitsyn
“How do you like your hero? Over easy or sunny side up?”
Last Tango in Paris
I can’t understand what makes a man. It takes another man to make me understand.

Depeche Mode

Tom was his best self with a dog. Anybody’s dog. If he saw one, he walked over to it. It’s not that animals bring out the best in people, or that they unthreateningly enable you to disclose what you’re really made of, it’s that animals are in fact all there is to most people. To Tom. Why go beyond a dog, thought Tom? Why strain yourself, why push your luck, why complicate, or maybe, Tom didn’t even think any of those things. Dogs were as good as Tom was going to get. People could see how attentive Tom was, after all, he didn’t have his own dog, so all of his care was always on open display, in front of other people. Riding horses is an act of extreme kindness. How can anyone doubt someone who spends all day in the company of so much shit and ignitable dried grass? They’re not doing it for fun. Tom believed that everyone thinks highly of you if you have a pet, space full of cats. A cat for every cat. In the movie
Lovely and Amazing that Tom had just seen, it’s the character that can’t say no to rescuing stray dogs who is told that she is “lovely and amazing.”

Tom was stroking something horizontal with fur--all animals are indirect, interstitial. A gutter you can install yourself into like a pipe. Tom could feel connected like plumbing, his heart flushing with water. Tom’s hand merely had to reach under something, and something like a dog would sneak out from somewhere unrelated. Tom acknowledged that, like Hollywood, dogs are intent on illustrating how total their interaction with you is, it’s like never wanting to have an affair again. Dogs, confirmed Tom, are the perfect breast.

Tom was drawing a breath, maybe through his nostrils, comparing noses in his mind and the unforgiving contexts of noses. Hollywood is a map of the face. There are borders everywhere, nothing is free, and either you can’t get in or can’t go back. It’s all anyone wants to see or pays attention to. It’s the conspicuousness of the face in relation to all other inconspicuous things. No one really gives a damn about the physiognomy of a dog. Tom paid attention to his own nose, and to the noses of the men who get away with everything. Being blonde and a Wasp, Robert Redford got away with his less than perfect proboscis, his facial bumps. Tom studied the surprise crack as Robert cocked his head in
Legal Eagles to watch Daryl Hannah enact performance art. But there was so much blonde and light in the room, no one noticed. People are less prone to noticing sun on a wheat field, than they are to buttercups along dark rivers. This was the difference between Robert and Tom.

Being rich and impervious, Tom Cruise pulls of his steep bridge. At least Tom earned his right, thought Tom. Tom probably didn’t always have it easy, lamented Tom. For years, Tom was torn up about his buckteeth that are caught on film forever in
The Outsiders and in Legend. But at least in Legend, Tom had mythology and sorcery on his side. And long hair like a curtain over the miserable outdoors. The gothic underbite vaporized by the swing of a sword. Everyone knows fantasy is rampant with imperfections. At least Tom knows what’s it’s like to suffer, to be just around the corner from ugliness. He was even wearing clear braces until as recently as 2003. Tom had seen Tom proudly flash his wiring on the red carpet, and yet Penelope Cruz gleamed anyway.

Tom has to work on things. Robert got a free ride just because of his colors. The sun bleaches things out. Alleviates inflexible edges. It goes with the territory, thought Tom. About Tom. What goes with mine? I need to make room on my face for any outside mistakes and disturbances, the face being the most social space there is. There wasn’t a day that went by in Tom’s life, that someone hadn’t seen it.

Tom tried to think of more examples where the system had been beaten. The facial system, which is a microcosm for all other systems. If Tom could straighten this out in his nose, Tom would be free in other ways. At the café, there was bamboo that, like prison bars, separated things like food and cars parked in a lot. A nose was a lot like that, there’s no reason things have too be too close or too far away. A face should be like a good community, like a suburban row of house after house. Not hostile, like a recluse in a cabin.

There was a father at a table who gave his six-year old daughter two dollars to pay for ice cream at the counter beside him. She ordered Oreo cookie flavor while he ate a BLT. The little daughter, Jasmine, was getting something sweet, and so was the father, as he stared at a sixteen year old model that he didn’t know was a model, but wouldn’t have been at all surprised if she was, because if she wasn’t, he thought she should be. Maybe someone should tell her. Maybe he should, or would. It would be a crime not too, a waste. You don’t waste steak, you eat steak. You let steak decay in your intestines, the way all meat eventually gets ravished. Most of the time society doesn’t frown upon, or even notice, an older man advising a much younger women about things they pick up on. That would explain the staring, he was merely trying to conserve her. After all, the father was the one with the bacon.

At the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, Tom wandered around the Greco-Roman wing. The life-size sculptors, walls; the figures in the paintings, the saints, the gods, the angels, the anguished, the lovers, both the men and the women, all showed off their bighearted Roman profiles. No one gave these subjects a hard time, instead, they were invited to take a brush-stroked photograph. To show off what they had in angles. If the lips were red and warm, why shouldn’t the nose have as much charity in place? Scope? These oil visages were full of lush extent, even the oneric pre-Raphaelites by William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millias, Dante Gabriel Roseetti, forced Tom to pay attention to the microscopic detail of fullness on display. “Finally, a place, a time, where the nose was free to roam. To be. To just forget about itself and get on with it.” Whenever someone told Tom his nose was too big, or just big, which sounds just as bad, in a way that having big lips or eyes is never bad, Tom retaliated with his art education and reminded people of the nose entitlement the Romans had been treated to. “Weren’t these people considered beautiful?” insisted Tom. “Weren’t they the norm? Weren’t they beautiful enough to be immortalized and hung up, pinned to a wall?” People were either silent, or dismissive. “Okay, but this isn’t Roman times Tom. This is now. Things have changed, and those Romans were fat and ugly and needed a tan. They had no idea what a camera can put you through.” Actors said this, everyone says this.

Tom wondered if the love of the pet above all other things and loves, hadn’t translated into the realm of beauty. Like that woman, Jocelyne Wildenstein, who has undergone countless plastic surgeries in her quest to resemble her perfect ideal—a cat. A woman who shaved her nose like it was a peeled carrot dropping into a salad bowl. A block of bitter chocolate she couldn’t bear the bitter taste of. Tom was sure that he had heard the cat woman, as she is called, arguing that her facial restructuralizations were as healthy and loaded with emotional potency as any root vegetable. Tom looked at the cat woman’s nose-montage on 20/20, as the cat woman gradually abated and decongested the view. “You see how when I turn my head to the side, I disappear?” Jocelyne asked Barbara Walters. “You can only see me from the front, like a photograph.” Barbara could sympathize, she’d changed over the years too, and like any image, you could look at the differences and point them out. Barbara didn’t want to be caught looking Jewish for the rest of her life.

Who wants to look at a face and see a face anyway?  No body actually ever looks at a face. Instead, they hear about what faces should like look and try to keep up. In almost every case, there is room for change. Desire, like a nose, should never be fixed. Tom got annoyed and smirked as he thought about how no one had ever asked Robert Redford to change a thing, probably not even his acting style. It was only when Robert became an old man, did he feel any pressure. He pulled his face up like a pair of pants that were falling.
  
Tom Cruise fixed his teeth so he could look happier and less impacted. No one wants to look at face that always looks like it’s prohibited by food. Either Tom had to find a way to be like Tom, or Tom had to figure out how to be like Tom. Dye his hair, get blue eye contacts to cover up the real brown. How did Barbara Streisand find her way out? Tom thought it had to be a generational thing, as well as her voice, which drowned out the sound of her nose. Dustin Hoffman abandoned any hope of being looked at just before the
Graduate, so it never came up again. People were there to see Dustin drive circles through his characters, not please the eye. But what about Jewel or Jessica Simpson? It was true, the camera rarely settled on the side, but nevertheless the grooves were there. Some faces do more charity work, more negotiating, for the rest of the face than other faces do. But still, Tom had to show face with his face, and until he could find his way out of it, Tom had to face things.
Sept. 2005
48