Passing Glasses

dorothy-parker-quote-men-seldom-make-passes-at-girls-who-wear-glassesI was four or five when I started wearing glasses.

I hated them.

They were heavy—this was when glasses were made of Real Glass—and made my nose hurt and my eyes look too small and they lost themselves twice a day and  broke about twice a month.*

But it was either wear ’em or walk through a world that looked like it was covered in soft-lit fuzz, but still hurt when you tripped over it or walked into it,

So I endured steamed up lenses and sweat-slick frames and clip-on sunglasses and the conviction—supported by my gleeful sister, who didn’t have to have braces, either—that Dorothy Parker was right, until I turned fifteen** and my mother took me to an optometrist who specialized in contacts.


I was overjoyed.

Contacts hurt at first, but not as much as being the weird kid with the glasses.

Turns out, I was a weird kid anyway and it would have saved time and endless agony if Dorothy Parker had offered a longer list of all the other qualities boys passed over *** or wrote a pithy poem about how to overcome one’s crippling self-esteem issues enough to notice when a boy was making a rare pass.^

But I was unwilling to give up on my Dreams of Normalcy—as defined by my assumptions of what other people assumed it was—and somehow ended up with the core belief that I Could Not Wear My Glasses In Public, lest dogs howl, small children cry, or well-meaning adults say things like, “Smarts count more than looks, anyway.”

It didn’t matter that some of the popular girls  in high school and some of my cousins and friends wore glasses and looked really good in them—they had attractiveness to spare and obviously weren’t  battling my natural deficits.

So I wore contacts—or sometimes just one, if the other escaped down the drain or disintegrated—outside the house or in front of anyone outside of my immediate family, or my ophthalmology clinic, for twenty-eight years.^^  I could go months without wearing my glasses at all, especially when I switched to extended wear disposables, bless them.

But then some things happened.

I finally met some of my favorite online friends face-to-face and (reluctantly) agreed to have my picture taken by and with them.  I survived the experience, and so did the cameras.

My doctor told me that some of my headache problems were most likely caused by eyestrain from wearing contacts for too many hours at a time in front of too many electronic devices and backlit rolls of microfilm.  Since the lenses on my glasses are anti-glare, she suggested that I wear them more often.

I set a new personal budget that is a bit stricter than my previous non-existent one.

And I ran out of left contacts.

According to my budget, contacts are luxury items.  And until I save up enough to get more,^^^I’m stuck with my glasses.

Oddly, at this point, this was more of an annoyance than a devastating tragedy, maybe because I know have family and good friends  and a husband who don’t care what I look like—or actually think I look pretty good.

Or maybe I’ve matured along the way somewhere.  Or at least run out of non-essential give a damn, which appears to be much the same thing.

Regardless, I started wearing my glasses to work.

It’s been a surprising experience.

I’d already figured out that my teenage paranoia was unfounded and my glasses aren’t a sign that the Ugly has finally claimed Its Own. I knew my colleagues wouldn’t point and laugh or call me four-eyes, at least to my face. And I’m so used to thoughtless comments from patrons I wasn’t especially braced for ‘em.

But I never expected all the compliments.


Apparently, my big, black rimmed frames, chosen because they were cheap and relatively comfortable, aren’t considered BCGs¹ anymore—they’re retro.  In a good way.

In fact, according to most of the people who bothered to notice I was wearing them2, they’re flattering. They pull my “look” together.

How cool is that? I had no idea I had a “look”, let alone one that could be pulled together, but it’s a relief to know the specs don’t clash with whatever it is.

I even wore them to the Piano Guys concert, where I met another wonderful online friend, who looks awesome in her glasses.

So here I am.

Wearing glasses.

Having a “look.”

And yeah, these things still weigh on my nose and they steam up and slide down and smear and I can’t stick pencils behind my ear anymore, no matter how hard I try.  Chopping onions for the first time without the protection of contacts was definitely a Learning Experience™, as was opening the dishwasher, right after it stopped.

So was trying to put on sunglasses, which I attempted a few times before it dawned on me that the reason it wouldn’t work is that I hadn’t removed my pair.

I’d forgotten I had them on.



*Could someone please tell me why items made to assist people who can’t see well are held together with screws so tiny that fully sighted people have trouble manipulating them without the aid of a powerful magnifier and the devil’s own luck?  And heaven help you if you lose one in a carpeted room . . .

**Barring a brief time around fifth grade when something—probably the dawning of acute astigmatism—warped my eyeballs into something that approached normal until it went too far.

***Or perhaps added a simple couplet:  “Because, until they mature, / They’re asses.”

^ Or so I was told about twenty years after the fact.

^^ The one time I did wear my glasses out—I was off sick, but still had to drive the kids to school—I received my first and only traffic ticket for nearly sideswiping a county squad car during an improper lane change.  It wasn’t the 102-degree fever, you understand—it was the glasses.

^^^Or decide to rock the eyepatch look—or squint like Popeye—until I run out of righties.  Halloween IS coming up . . .

¹Birth Control Glasses.  It’s a military term, like SNAFU.

²It took my sixth grader three days.  My second grader immediately started wearing her lens-free fashion frames so she could be as “pretty as Mommy.” I feel like Queen Lear.


14 thoughts on “Passing Glasses

  1. I lost the battle with genetics in middle school, and at the time, it felt like the end of the world. I was so happy when I got contacts in high school!

    But sometime in grad school, when I was teaching in the morning and taking classes at night, and having to take out my contacts in the Science Building’s peculiar-smelling bathrooms, contacts lost their appeal.

    There’s downsides to everything, right? Like you can’t glare disapprovingly at someone while wearing contacts quite the same way as you can over the frames of your glasses.

  2. I’ve worn glasses non-stop since my senior year in high school. My doctor son recently got Lasiks and loves it, and he’s encouraged me to give it a try or at least wear contacts. I really don’t feel much need. Since I’ve lost some weight, my face is thinner, and the glasses I have seem too big, so when the time comes I’ll probably get a better design to suit my face. But beyond that, I don’t really mind having/wearing them. I even ran a marathon with my glasses on, and they were not a problem in the slightest. (I had plenty of other issues to deal with.) So I think I’ll remain a four-eyes.

    • I don’t think I’d go for Lasik—call me paranoid, but it’s still too new and too many people I know have to get it redone. Call me cheap, but I could buy a lot of contacts for that kind of money. 🙂

      I do hate sweating in my glasses, though . . . I’ve been spinning on my stationary bike without them, since there’s nothing to see and the read-out is four inches high.

  3. I’ve worn glasses only since age 30, and they have become a fashion accessory. (I don’t believe I’ve ever used that phrase in regards to me.) You should have heard me explain to the woman who works at the glasses shop that I was interested in slightly arty glasses, but not too arty. I’m a writer, not an artist!

  4. When I was in high school, I drove in a blizzard to get to the hospital to visit my mom. I had big, red, Sally Jesse Raphael glasses, yes, you know the ones, with glass lenses. I slid in the entryway when they fogged up upon walking through the door, and they slid off my nose and shattered due to the cold. I had to tape them up with some sports tape the nurse gave me just so I could get home. Yep, it was a good look.
    I am beyond thrilled that you are wearing them. It’s like having your picture taken. It isn’t about what it really looks like it’s about the fear of judgment. The more you step out there, the better life is. So, yay you, my friend. Rock those bad boys!

    • I’ve never snapped mine in half, but I’ve lost lenses, earpieces, and a pound of those tiny little screws.

      The fear of judgement—exactly! And this isn’t really the realization that people don’t really care, it’s that I don’t care if they do. o_O

  5. I can’t believe we didn’t take a picture that night. I’ve only had to wear glasses since my junior year in college. I’ve tried contacts, but they just aren’t for me. I am, however, constantly amazed at how much better I see when I remember to actually clean the glasses!

    • I was thinking the same thing about the pictures, but we’ll have other chances!

      And I kept rubbing my eyes today, wondering why I couldn’t focus, when I realized that my lenses were dirty. 😀

      You’re awesome, Dee. 🙂

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