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 August 22, 2003 

Face Forward: Increase in nose jobs shows Armenians eager to undo nature's gift

The famous Armenian trait is being reshaped for a new fit..

Considering the Armenian face, let's face facts: We have big noses. Sometimes the distance from eyebrow to lipline is so great a hump is required to get there.

For many, it is an ethnic characteristic as in-extractible for our identity as our inability to be on time.

In his "Highly Respected Beggars" the great Armenian satirist Hakob Paronyan describes the central hero of his play, master Abisoghom.

"This traveler was endowed with a pair of big and black eyes, with a pair of thick, black and long eyebrows, with a pair of big ears and with a pair of noses… no, no… with one nose but it was so big that it could replace two noses; it was just too big and I was confused."

Many are proud of their nose bulk and count it a matter of ethnic pride. Many others, exposed to Westernized precepts of "beauty", are not.

And just as the opportunity for change exist on many previously unexpected levels, many Armenians are now taking advantage of the opportunity to change their physical appearance - specifically, those identifying appendages in the middle of their faces.

At the Saint Nerses the Great Medical Center (one of several places in Yerevan where plastic surgery is performed) an average of one nose a day is altered.

Eighteen year old student Lusine Harutyunyan was one of them.

Lusine didn't like her nose since childhood. It was not just hooked, but it was disfigured from an accident. Not only was she unhappy with the aesthetics, but she had problems breathing.

Four months ago she got a nose job.

"I feel so great with this new nose," the teenager says. "Plus, I became more beautiful now."

Saint Nerses was the first to offer such a surgery. But until about five years ago it never got more than about 10 cases a month.

"People have more money now," says the head of plastic surgery Karen Danielyan. "Plus we have the latest equipment and it allows patients to not even notice that they've had an operation."

Accord to one patient, a nose job can cost from $300 to $800.

"The main problem of all Armenians is a hump nose," Danielyan says. "Also Armenians are distinguished by a wide nose with fleshy and plump nose-tip. God provided Armenians abundantly and not scantily when it came to noses."

And some wish to undo what God did.

"God creates people the way he thinks it is right," says the mother of one 20-year old patient patient. "But if artificial interference helps to make them more beautiful then why not to do that?"

Her daughter, Anna (neither of them wanted to be photographed or identified), just had her nose operated on.

"My nose was a little bit long and I was feeling very bad because of that," Anna says. "Nobody knows that I've come to have an operation except my closest friends. If someone asks then I will say that my nose was injured and it was necessary to have an operation."

Danielyan says it is mostly 18-25 year olds who apply for surgery.

"Operation on the nose is not dangerous at the period of maturity," Danielyan says. "I've recently started to operate on 16 and 17 year olds and there were no complications. The only danger is that the part of the nose that is broken (for the surgery) might grow a little."

According to the plastic surgeon, if a nose is crooked then surgeons straighten its dividing partition and if a bone is crooked then they break it and place a bone in the center. If a hump is too big, they cut out gristle and break the bone to reshape it. About 95 percent of patients require this procedure.

Recent plastic surgery client Susanna Harutyunyan got rid of "the hump".

Nose surgery takes about two hours. After about three weeks patients can feel comfortable being seen in public. After about two months patients can wear glasses. After about six months the bones knit. The final result can be seen in one year.

Plastic surgeons must also be psychologists. Very often patients cannot get used to their new noses and doctors must counsel them on their new look.

Danielyan says that hump in Armenian noses isn't just for God's amusement. Nature has purposely provided Armenians with big hump noses and wide nostrils, he says. The air is dry in Armenia and inside the nose there are cells which exist to moisten the air before it reaches the lungs. Big noses equal big nostrils, equal big dampness, equal a happier Armenian in his dry country.

Fourteen-year old Narek Martirosyan was recently awaiting Danielyan's surgery to reduce the hump in his nose. With just a few hours to go before entering the operating room he said it would be "interesting to me how will I look with the other nose".

"When a patient comes the first question I ask is: 'What kind of nose do you want to have?' Mainly they know what they want but as a specialist you must advise them whether their choice is correct," says Danielyan. "Sometimes it happens that I don't operate when a nose suits a face and I explain it to a visitor. Often people with mental problems apply. They think that if their noses are changed then it will help to change something in their lives as well."

Thirty-five year old Artur Mkrtchyan isn't looking for any such changes. He says he is proud of his big nose and argues that it isn't really so big.

"The nose is an organ that attaches some specific posture to people's faces," Mkrthcyan says. "It accentuates their tempers and tells about a person's nature."

Danielyan says he sees about two patients a month from outside Armenia, who have the work done here because it costs about 10 times less in Armenia.

Reducing and reshaping nature's idea of what an Armenian nose ought to be is a rewarding task.

"Our work resembles the work of a sculptor," he says. "We just deal with people."



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