Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Guest Post: Journey of my Nose, by Gayle Kirschenbaum

Gayle Kirschenbaum is an Emmy award-winning filmmaker and TV producer.  You may have seen her work on HBO, the Discovery Channel, or in the international Jewish film festival of your choosing (namely in Toronto, DC, and the UK).  Gayle explores her relationship with her Jewish nose, a topic close to my heart, in this guest post.

According to my mother my nose was too big, my breasts were too small and my hair was too wild. In fact, there wasn’t much about me that she thought didn’t need fixing. I used to have dreams when I was a little girl that I’d wake up and my hair would be straight. I was sure God punished me by giving me curly, frizzy hair.

The pressures of growing up in an upwardly mobile neighborhood in the 60s and 70s and my mom’s strong conviction to control me and make me her “perfect” daughter were not a happy combo. I was born an artist, an individual thinker and was more interested in making macram√© belts, embroidering on work shirts and hanging out at the free school. Not exactly a match for my mom’s desires for me.

My junior high school yearbook and high school yearbook were before and after pictures for nose jobs. I didn’t see anything wrong with having one, if that’s what you wanted but it wasn’t what I wanted. However, after enough comments from my mom about my growing bump, I did become self-conscious if I knew someone was able to view my profile.

Then there was the rest of my body. I was a late developer and barely had breasts and mom was convinced that falsies were the way to go. The day that they came floating out in the swimming pool when I was getting a scuba diving lesson was most memorable and horrific. Nothing like being “found out”.

And my hair, huge fights over my hair. By the time I was in fourth grade they were having my hair professionally straightened. Soon thereafter, they switched to the home product, Curl Free. When that wore off, I was left spending hours straightening my hair using gigantic rollers and sitting under the bonnet hair dryer for hours with the tube burning my neck.

The summer I went to Europe to study art, I stopped straightening my hair. It was impossible to do it there. When I returned home with my long, thick curly hair you would have thought by my parents’ reaction that I was doing this to “put my father in his grave,” an expression he often used. Until the day he died, he was convinced that no man would marry me because of my unruly hair.

By junior year in high school, all I wanted was out, out of the house, away from the neighborhood and to be among like-minded people. At the end of my sixteenth year, I got into university and moved 200 miles away. I no longer had to come home to hear the criticism and be controlled and punished for being me. What a relief! Now, I needed to build my confidence, find out who I was and seek my own path.

Being an art major in a hippie school, which was a state university, I flourished and my friends and teachers all embraced my hair, my looks, my personality and my talents. I spent years, decades trying to figure out my mother and work on our relationship. There were many bumps in the road.

Eventually, I became a television producer and filmmaker and I turned the cameras on me. First, with my dog in the film A DOG’S LIFE: A DOGAMENTARY and then with my mother in MY NOSE, a short, funny film about her quest to get me to have a nose job. Based on the overwhelming response to the film, I realized I was dealing with a universal subject; that I had something to share that would help others -- learning how to accept and love a critical parent. I developed “The Seven Healing Tools” which I now teach in seminars (click here for more information).

I also realized that MY NOSE only scratched the surface of the highly complex and charged relationship between mother and daughter and I needed to go deeper. We are now completing the feature documentary, MY NOSE: THE BIGGER VERSION, which follows the evolution of my relationship with my mother from Mommie Dearest to Dear Mom, from hatred to love.

To learn more about the feature documentary please visit our Kickstarter campaign where we are raising our finishing funds.

Watch videos, read the story and join our community by becoming a backer.

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