During her time at Berkeley, Firoozeh becomes obsessed with the big, ugly nose of a school librarian, whom Firoozeh nicknames the Toucan. What fascinates her most, however, is the Toucan’s effortless confidence—she walks around as if she’s a beauty queen. In Iran, women are judged based on their noses, and “nose jobs” are a huge industry. Firoozeh’s fraternal family members’ noses are large but “reasonable,” while her maternal family members’ noses are hooked. By the time Firoozeh was a teenager, it was clear that her nose wasn’t too hooked—meaning that she’d be able to marry a decent husband.
Throughout her life, Firoozeh has dealt with Americans commenting on her “odd” appearance. But in Iran as well, she now explains, women are trained from an early age to question their own beauty and work frantically to become as beautiful as possible, even reshaping their own bodies with expensive surgery. One could even argue that the fact that Firoozeh’s nickname for the librarian at Berkeley shows that she, too, has been trained to judge other women by their appearance.
At the age of eighteen, Kazem takes Firoozeh to a plastic surgeon to fix her nose. During her initial conference with the plastic surgeon, however, Firoozeh decides that she doesn’t like the idea of getting a nose job. Kazem is relieved, since he wasn’t looking forward to the idea of spending so much money. Firoozeh goes on to graduate college, marry, and have children, without having a nose job.
Firoozeh clearly takes fierce pride in the fact that she chose not to have a nose job at the age of eighteen—instead, she chose to focus on her education and her career, and ended up having both a happy marriage and a successful career.
One day, François and Firoozeh take a drive and stay in a hotel. Late at night, Firoozeh is watching television when she sees the Toucan—absolutely naked. She’s become a nudist, and lives in a North Californian nudist colony. She tells a reporter about the importance of nudity, and about how she’s come to accept her body—which Firoozeh interprets to mean her nose. Watching the interview, Firoozeh becomes deeply sad. She thinks about all the Iranian women she’s known, almost all of whom consented to have their noses reshaped just so that they could marry the right man.
Firoozeh emphasizes the sexism of Iranian society, in which women are encouraged to worry excessively about their physical beauty, simply so that they can get married and have children. It’s interesting that Firoozeh classifies this as Iranian sexism—one could argue that American women are also pressured to appear beautiful in order to satisfy men. But Firoozeh seems to suggest that, even if America isn’t perfect, women there have more opportunities for career success, and are more likely to be encouraged to take pride in their bodies.