Maggie Wilson Author

Historical Non-Fiction in Northern Ontario

Vanity, thy Name…

I stole the heading from my Caroline Maben Flower article. Vanity, thy Name… was the working title for the chapter that described her meeting artist Herman Kiekebusch in October, 1895. The landscape painter was born in Berlin 1857 and worked in Norway, Germany, and other alpine countries. She posed for one of his other works, and then he began a portrait of her.

About two months later, Caroline and Kiekebusch had thanksgiving dinner and later took in a variety show. That evening, he presented her the finished portrait. Apparently, the work did not meet her approval because on December 9, “…the artist Kiekebusch brought my painting back.”

Herman Kiekebusch portrait of Caroline Maben; Berlin, 1895. 10 x 12″ oil on canvas; Gail Kuriger collection

Caroline’s great grand-niece owns the painting today. She suggests that Caroline’s nose as illustrated in the painting is a little more elongated and less turned up on the end, a feature that is quite pronounced in other pictures.

It is possible Caroline’s vanity and her desire to make the right impression was the reason for the “do over.”

Oh, man, I can relate.

Spring has finally arrived and I’ve been able to spend more time out of doors tramping through the backwoods without the need for sunscreen or insect repellent. Yesterday, we explored an abandoned mine site and found the foundations of a building. You can see I am safely shielded from UV rays and bugs.

Here I am sitting on the foundation of the Nova Scotia Mine manager’s house.

Except the schnozz.

“I have Jean’s nose,” I commented on social media.

Good grief, will I ever unlearn the embarrassment of my mother’s pleas to have a nose job?

But my agonizing over the size of facial features on Facebook didn’t stop there!

Everyone in my newsfeed was posting their new avatars. But I couldn’t figure out how to do it. I wanted to join in the fun!

After several false starts, I finally found instructions, downloaded the app, and began creating.

What a horrible exercise – first it asked for a selfie – good god, what a nightmare – who is the jowly ghoul looking back at me? The software had similar thoughts, apparently, because it didn’t use my contribution. Instead I had to start from scratch and tweak each and every feature – eye size, colour, placement… I refused to consult the mirror so that I could select the most accurate option. But you can be sure, my attention-to-detail gene was deeply offended.

When it came to selecting the nose size, I almost lost it. The tablet that is. Oh how I wanted to throw the dang thing clear across the room.

But I didn’t. I simply closed the app and deleted it.

One thing I learned, though – besides a love of nature and rugged northern scenery, Caroline and I have vanity in common. And we are both uncomfortable about our noses

***   ***   ***

Many thanks to Bart Swalm, Christine Brown, and Gail Kuriger for sharing the family photos with me.


Categories: Mining Heritage, Personal Growth

Tags: , , ,

34 replies

  1. I broke my nose about 40 years ago. It was already large and it had a bit of a hump that was going to be worse after they fixed the break. The guy asked if I wanted him to “fix it” while he was in there. I declined. The hump and the size are part of me now. Note how far away the photo for my avatar was taken 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The shell we carry to keep the icky bits inside is not who we are. We are beautiful to anyone who has the courage to look, including ourselves.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. There are always those things about our appearances that displease us, aren’t there? And it seems some bit of vanity will always be present, although in reality, we probably see those bits more than do others that are looking at us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh yes, absolutely – it’s a superpower of mine – a similar ability to noticing the cobwebs only when company comes.

      But I have to say, other people ARE noticing – at least other electronic data miners are watching – the very first site I visited after abandoning the avatar app was more than happy to suggest an exercise to deal with jowls. Can you imagine?

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Hiking has been a soul saving endeavor of mine for years. The saving grace during this pandemic is that no face mask is needed for protection from Mother Nature.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Such a fun romp here, Maggie! Yes, Caroline is clearly busted with the photographic evidence. We surmise that she would probably not be pleased with your reporting here. 🙂

    I tried one of those Avatar-creation apps and had a similar experience to your own. I eventually made one the was passable; but then I thought for a moment and asked myself why am I “happy” with something that’s only passable? So I deleted it. And so it goes… – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    • You surmise correctly – Caroline was focussed on making good impressions and hiding the less savoury bits. She was also a master at self-promotion. Case in point – her wedding photo to Frederick Flower. She submitted it to the Musical Courier, a trade magazine for her industry – in a time when very few photos were published in the first place, and most featured men in the second, it is remarkable that her’s was accepted.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s interesting how you relate to your ancestor’s vanity. I’ve never thought to consider that when looking at old photos. I’ve not tried an avatar app but maybe I should. Just for the angst of it.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Like Dan, I too broke my already prominent nose about 40 years ago … actually now that I think about this, it WILL be 40 years this summer … and time has made me increasingly sensitive about the size of my schnozz. Yes, my Vanity Mode is fully installed, and high-functioning 😏

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Haha! Laughing with you, not at you. Sometimes I wonder what life would have been like if I’d never seen a mirror.😐

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I am unsurprised to learn about your nose, Maggie – and after all, it has caused you to be shunned by men, hasn;t it ? [grin]
    What a nidiot you are, woman !!!


  10. My nose used to be my least favorite part… now it’s my hair. Why is it easier to focus on (what we think are) our faults than our (probably multiple) positive attributes? Anyway, you are definitely not alone. I’ve seen lot of people posting their new avatars on Facebook but haven’t yet tried it myself. I guess I figure that somehow, some way, someone will end up gathering personal info about me that I’d rather they didn’t have.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had the same concern about data mining, Janis. I deliberately gave the wrong birthday information to mess with anyone trying to hack my accounts. But I obviously gave accurate enough information since the pop-up ads now suggest I need to work on my jowls and double chin. [eyeroll]

      Liked by 2 people

  11. You notice I have never changed my avatar from my adored Teemu. He of the cute little nose. 😀


  12. Great post and comments, Maggie. It seems he painted her quite a bit plumper than all those photos of her, too.
    Noses really do seem to generate a lot of self-criticism, don’t they? I wonder if anyone is ever pleased with the one they were born with.
    I used to think I could stop worry about blemishes by the time wrinkles rolled around – not so! I’ve been coming to a greater acceptance of my native, unvarnished appearance in recent years. It’s a good thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I find that she is almost unrecognizable in the painting, except for the tilt of her head. Perhaps Kiekebusch was better at landscapes than he was a people – I could find no other samples of his work that featured the human form.

      Love the term “unvarnished.” And I agree – it is a good thing.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Omg…Maggie! Clever how you introduced the vanity of the nose feature. So, why not use a photoshopped photo? Or a photo you like? I never heard about creating every facial feature for an avatar. I’d have had tech issues doing that. Your website photo is very nice. Looking at your happy smile, I never noticed a nose problem. 🎶📚 Christine

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Christine – glad you liked the way I tied Caroline’s story to mine – of course, as I research her life and questions crop up, sometimes the only answers are those suggested by my experiences. In this case, if what Caroline’s grand-niece suggested about a painter’s nose job is true, then Caroline and I have our profiles in common.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Oh Maggie, how I can relate! I broke my nose, probably more than once, the first time around 55 years ago? Your mother made you self-conscience, for me my defect has been pointed out many times by others, like when my little niece, staring at me with disdain, once asked ‘what is wrong with your nose?’ To make things worse, I have super crooked teeth, that refuse to whiten, to where my young grandson once asked me if I’m a vampire.

    These defects have haunted me my entire life so much that I have no photos of me with my children or grandchildren and I cringe every time someone attempts to take a photo so that the photo comes out 100 times worse. My teeth have kept me from speaking out in public. I could have a long conversation about this one. But I have to say I don’t mind wearing the masks, as it hides my worst defects, but I’m sad that it still prevents me from sharing a smile. This selfie age is torture for me. And as for marketing… forget about it.

    But I must say, your photo is great and I never noticed any problems with your nose. I still don’t. 🙂 Smile on, Maggie. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Truly, I am sorry to hear that you can relate to my story. I suppose we are our worst critics. I maintain, though, that if others hadn’t been so keen to alert us to our flaws and heap on the shame, the critic within may not have been so harsh and long-lived. Sure, we have a choice about how we respond to external and internal commentary, but I have no clue how to short circuit decades old wiring.

      Ironic, isn’t it, about the masks… glad to hear from you, and stay safe!


Your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s