• Sadly, by Cindy Falteich

On the Noze: a Lesson in Humility


(Hey, it’s really hard to find a “Z” topic. Don’t judge.)

I used to have horses. Over the years, I discovered that owning a horse is far more enjoyable when someone else does all the work. It’s like the difference between giving birth to a child or playing with some random kid at the park. Granted, the latter can get a bit dicey. Parents get a bug up their ass when strangers pick up their kid. A good escape plan is strategic.

When I had horses, my husband, George, was a horseshoer. They’re also called farriers. Or, just like in the Old West, blacksmiths. Yes, those still exist and yes, they still use comparable tools and techniques like they did when cowboys road their horses to the shop for shoes. That’s because, as much as technology has advanced throughout history, horses have yet to adopt any of it.

Frequently, I would pick up each of my horse’s hooves and clean out the debris with my handy hoof pick. Then one day George, the hoof expert, mocked me for it. He insisted the feet were his department—with a smirk. But because every single equine magazine, book, instructor, trainer or expert has specifically instructed every horse owner ever, to pick the debris from a horse’s hooves daily, I found his advice, well… trifling.

Then he watched me pick up my horse’s back leg and cradle it on my knee, and said he definitely wouldn’t hover his face that close to a hoof. For someone who’d advised me against doing this altogether, I think it took balls to throw more shade. Then, just as I finished my eye roll… Bam. I’d pricked some tender tissue on my horse’s foot causing him to jerk and instantly got popped in the nose with a hoof.

At first I thought it was no big deal. Just a little stingy. I would have escaped with a graze except welded to the bottom of each shoe was a material called borium. In this stuff are hardened granules embedded in metal to give the shoe traction. It’s like mixing diamond fragments into the sole of a tennis shoe. Now, imagine if someone popped you in the nose with that.

Instead of a scuff, I had an open wound.

I don’t mind wounds. I’ve broken my nose, sprained ankles and even had a minor fracture. You get good mileage from a colorful wound or a set of crutches. It’s a conversation piece. A “tough guy” thing. You’re punchy. Except this particular wound didn’t lead to black eyes or vivid bruising or a plaster cast. This injury morphed over the course of a few days into what looked like a large festering zit.

On top of that, since I’d decided to do something about my overbite, I had braces. In my 40’s. My son’s comment on the first day he saw my wire-bound teeth, summed it up nicely: “Mom, you have more metal in your mouth than anyone I’ve ever seen.”

I’ve always been apprehensive about my appearance. I wasn’t born with a photogenic face, newscaster hair, supermodel height or Playboy breasts. There was little about me that was singularly extraordinary. But together, my assets created a relatively acceptable package. A flaw in any of them, however, could easily taint the presentation. Add to that a few undesirable changes in my post-40 body and you have someone with more self-consciousness than self-confidence. I would have rather hid in the house until my nose healed than risk public scorn, but we happened to have tickets to our favorite recording artist and George convinced me I was still the woman he’d fallen for.

It’s been said that I clean up well. So I did my best, deciding that an attempt to conceal the live eruption on my nose only emphasized my insecurity. With high heels, tight jeans, a leather jacket and flowing brunette hair, we headed to Atlantic City.

After dinner, George motioned to the john. His exit wasn’t accompanied by a gesture to indicate “number one” or “two” so as I waited on the mezzanine level, I walked to the ledge and looked out over the partition to hide my deformity from the passing crowd.

You might be thinking I’m exaggerating, but trust me when I say, few people that night could make eye contact with me. I was the woman with the raging eyesore on the end of her nose. Like a scene from a Will Ferrell movie, people couldn’t look away. It lured them in. It was a horrid kaleidoscope of ugly that could break the will of Hercules. Even those who were polite, couldn’t hide their knee-jerk reaction.

After an eternity, I felt a tap on my shoulder. Because of my wedding band, I assumed it was George. I turned with a relieved smile. What I saw was an older man, pushing 60, who had no doubt been contemplating his approach based solely on the appearance of my backside. I pegged him as a single, blue collar casino regular, a heavy drinker and smoker, who was willing to wager on my front side. For someone in his position, it would have appeared to carry little risk.

What I witnessed was a grown man with instant regret. Like me at a playground, he was desperate for an exit strategy.

I wish I was exaggerating when I say he cowered. I’m not. He cringed with scrunch-faced scorn like he’d seen Frankenstein. He cradled his hands at his chest like he was shielding his soul. With stiff, old man legs, all he could manage was a scoot-run, I’m sure to the closest bar. Oh, the stories he probably told.

George returned. The fact that he took my hand and led me to the venue at least sent people the impression that my wound was temporary. Or whatever wealth I had, made his sacrifice worthwhile. Or the poor guy got the bad luck of the draw when he married me. For once in his life, he walked the earth a hero.

I found solace in the fact that we were heading for a dark venue where I could hide my abnormality. What I wouldn’t have done for a big hat--anything to disguise the fact that, for a few more weeks, my face was a Halloween mask.

All this to say, if an industry professional gives you advice, it’s probably on the noze.

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© 2019 by Cindy Falteich

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