There was a time — not too long ago — when a nose job was practically a given for a Jewish girl of means. But recent plastic surgery statistics show that 37 percent fewer Americans got nose jobs in 2011 than in 2000. Obviously there's the small matter of the financial crisis, which left most Americans with less cash to spend on unnecessary and expensive nips and tucks. Of all the various treatments, rhinoplasty saw the most dramatic drop: from 389,000 in 2000 to 244,000 in 2011. But while the overall numbers are down, rhinoplasties are increasingly popular among Hispanic and Asian American populations — "nose reshaping" is actually the most common cosmetic surgical procedure for the latter right now.
Rita Rubin, who crunched the numbers in an article for Tablet, puts it this way: "If the total number of nose jobs in America is rapidly declining, while their popularity rises among certain non-Jewish groups, one likely conclusion is that rhinoplasty is declining among Jews." Certain Jews, anyhow.
"I think it's because of increased ethnic pride and a decreased desire to stop looking Jewish and blend in," said Emory University physician and anthropologist Melvin Konner, author of The Jewish Body, "which is why rhinoplasty was invented." Another historian told Tablet that ethnic men and women, like Jews, Italians, and Greeks, used to feel pressure to look like WASPs due to anti-immigration sentiment. But now most U.S. children under a year old belong to racial or ethnic minorities, meaning upturned noses are increasingly less prominent — and, therefore, less desirable.
Rubin doesn't touch upon this, but I wonder if the downturn has anything to do with the proliferation of television shows and Tumblrs that send the message to young adults that it's okay — cool, even — to be unique. Kids don't care so much about looking "All American" anymore. Maybe Lea Michelle is the new Grace Kelly! (Okay, that could be a stretch. But, you know, aesthetically speaking.) "The ideal beauty can be anybody," said Babak Azizzadeh, a plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills, aka nose-job Mecca. "I think people actually don't want to assimilate as much." He writes on his practice's website that Jewish patients want to keep "their ethnic identity intact." Sure, he's still hawking cosmetic surgery, but it's interesting that his sales tactics have more to do with preserving one's culture and less to do with having a cookie-cutter nose.
At the same time, as national rates go down, more Orthodox Jews feel comfortable getting the surgery because modern rabbis are giving them the go-ahead. One doctor said less religious Jews ask him for eyelid lifts and chin implants, but Orthodox Jews always want nose jobs. One Miami surgeon, Dr. Michael Salzhauer, recently launched a "pro-bono campaign" for single men and women in the Orthodox community — if they're referred by their matchmakers and have their finances verified by a rabbi, they might be eligible for free rhinoplasty. That is, if Salzhauer thinks they need it. "There's a bunch where I've said, ‘You're beautiful, and you don't need rhinoplasty,'" he said. Wait, isn't this all about the nose-owner feeling self-confident?
The sentiment seems especially odd coming from the man who produced a pop-punk music video called "Jewcan Sam." Yes, you heard me — it's real, and it's spectacular. (And you really have to see it to believe it, but be warned: the catchy refrain will definitely get stuck in your head.) In the video, the lead singer's dream girl will only date him if he gets a nose job. "You've got a beak like Jewcan Sam. I only go with guys with perfect upturned noses … I will love you till forever if you get your nose circumcised," the song goes. At the end (SPOILER ALERT), the singer does get the operation — although he still doesn't get the girl, because she "only dates football players." What a shiksa. Everything turns out okay, though, because his teacher (a Jew, natch) tells him he looks "older" and asks him to call her. L'chaim.
A Nose Dive for Nose Jobs [Tablet]
Image via Chris Brindley/Shutterstock