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.

molested1

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.

Glasses

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.

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*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.

Poetry Wednesday: A Short Ode to Small Poems, or Vice Versa (and a Contest)

I love poetry—you might have noticed—but sometimes I’m not in the mood for a lot of it.

Sometimes, I don’t have time to wade through  fancy language or symbolism or archaic references or, you know, words.^

And while I love me some haiku,  there are time when I’d rather not pay attention to form or count syllables on my fingers.

Sometimes, I just want to read a couple lines, smile and get on with my day.

HovelPeople who write novels
Often live  in hovels.

—Anne Lamott

One liners are good, too—even when they aren’t terribly true:

Passes GlassesMen seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.

—Dorothy Parker

doughnut cushionAnd of course, when they really, really are:

Thoughts after a 50 mile bike ride:
(Roy Wesson*)

My feet and seat are beat.

But not all supershort poems are funny, or meant to be.

Insomnia, old tree, when will you shed me?

—William MatthewsTrees

And not all are without symbolism, either, or opportunities for quiet reflection.

a dixie cup floats down the Nile

—Cor Van den Heuvel

But all of them capture a single thought or philosophy or mood as quickly as possible.

t w i l i g h t b l u e & p a l e g r e e n l e a v e s e v e r y w h e r e s c e n t o f w a t e r m e l o n s

—Anita Virgil

And some remind us that, for whatever reason, a single word can be powerful enough to upset a nation:

lighght

—Aram Saroyan

Mr. Saroyan, who was experimenting with minimalist poetry at the time, supposedly knocked off this one on the way to a night out with an impatient friend, but I suspect that most short poetry takes more effort.

Let’s test that theory with a contest, shall we?

The  rules are, as usual, simple:

Write me a one or two-line poem, fifteen word maximum.  Doesn’t have to rhyme, but it should be a poem, not a quip.

Post it in the comments of this post or e-mail it to me—the address is at the top of the sidebar.

If you accept the challenge, your name goes in the Pink Cowgirl Hat of Win** for a chance at a $10 Amazon gift card, sent to the e-mail address of your choice.

You have until Friday midnight,
Chicago time—go forth and write!***

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^Smaller amount of poetry can be safer, too.  This morning at the library, I shifted a lot of the 800s to make room for a new section of bookcases,  and the Little Book of English Poetry slid off the shelf and bounced off my forehead.  If it had been the BIG book of English Poetry, it would have killed me.

*My brother-in-law.  This poem was previously published in Sports Illustrated for Kids and a few other publications in the early eighties.  It’s totally autobiographical, by the way.

**Found it!  It’s sort of the Pink Cowgirl Pancake of Win at the moment, but I’m working on it

***That wasn’t meant to be a poem . . . and it probably isn’t.
.

Poetry Wednesday: Parker on Poetry

Travel, trouble, music, art,
A kiss, a frock, a rhyme-
I never said they feed my heart,
But still they pass my time.

—Dorothy Parker, “Faute De Mieux”

I’m on my way to Muncie, Indiana, and what with one thing and another, I had not world enough or time to do an in-depth poetry post—I know I’ve been saying that a lot lately, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

So I’m throwing myself on the relative mercy of Dorothy Parker, who had, as you might expect, a couple of things to say about verses and the writing thereof:

dorothy_parker

A Pig’s-Eye View Of Literature
(Dorothy Parker)

The Lives and Times of John Keats,
Percy Bysshe Shelley, and
George Gordon Noel, Lord Byron

Byron and Shelley and Keats
Were a trio of Lyrical treats.
The forehead of Shelley was cluttered with curls,
And Keats never was a descendant of earls,
And Byron walked out with a number of girls,
But it didn’t impair the poetical feats
Of Byron and Shelley,
Of Byron and Shelley,
Of Byron and Shelley and Keats.

Parker

For A Lady Who Must Write Verse
(Dorothy Parker)

Unto seventy years and seven,
Hide your double birthright well-
You, that are the brat of Heaven
And the pampered heir to Hell.

Let your rhymes be tinsel treasures,
Strung and seen and thrown aside.
Drill your apt and docile measures
Sternly as you drill your pride.

Show your quick, alarming skill in
Tidy mockeries of art;
Never, never dip your quill in
Ink that rushes from your heart.

When your pain must come to paper,
See it dust, before the day;
Let your night-light curl and caper,
Let it lick the words away.

Never print, poor child, a lay on
Love and tears and anguishing,
Lest a cooled, benignant Phaon
Murmur, “Silly little thing!”

parker-writing

Fighting Words*
(Dorothy Parker)

Say my love is easy had,
Say I’m bitten raw with pride,
Say I am too often sad—
Still behold me at your side.

Say I’m neither brave nor young,
Say I woo and coddle care,
Say the devil touched my tongue—
Still you have my heart to wear.

But say my verses do not scan,
And I get me another man!

 

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*I know I’ve shared this one before, but it bears repeating, ’cause it’s true.

Poetry Wednesday: Dorothy Parker

Observation
(Dorothy Parker)

If I don’t drive around the park,
I’m pretty sure to make my mark.
If I’m in bed each night by ten,
I may get back my looks again,
If I abstain from fun and such,
I’ll probably amount to much,
But I shall stay the way I am,
Because I do not give a damn.

What can one say about Dorothy Parker that hasn’t already been said?

She’s an icon, a feminist, a civil rights activist, a depressive, an alcoholic, a fighter, a brightly lipsticked mouth saying things ladies simply don’t say—or didn’t, before she showed us we could.

And a damned fine poet.

The problem was choosing my favorites . . . The best I could do was choose the ones that I liked best today. * If I’m missing your favorite, lay it on us in the comments!


Song of Perfect Propriety

(Dorothy Parker)
Oh, I should like to ride the seas,
A roaring buccaneer;
A cutlass banging at my knees,
A dirk behind my ear.
And when my captives’ chains would clank
I’d howl with glee and drink,
And then fling out the quivering plank
And watch the beggars sink.

I’d like to straddle gory decks,
And dig in laden sands,
And know the feel of throbbing necks
Between my knotted hands.
Oh, I should like to strut and curse
Among my blackguard crew….
But I am writing little verse,
As little ladies do.

Oh, I should like to dance and laugh
And pose and preen and sway,
And rip the hearts of men in half,
And toss the bits away.
I’d like to view the reeling years
Through unastonished eyes,
And dip my finger-tips in tears,
And give my smiles for sighs.

I’d stroll beyond the ancient bounds,
And tap at fastened gates,
And hear the prettiest of sound-
The clink of shattered fates.
My slaves I’d like to bind with thongs
That cut and burn and chill….
But I am writing little songs,
As little ladies will.


Neither Bloody Nor Bowed

(Dorothy Parker)

They say of me, and so they should,
It’s doubtful if I come to good.
I see acquaintances and friends
Accumulating dividends,
And making enviable names
In science, art, and parlor games.
But I, despite expert advice,
Keep doing things I think are nice,
And though to good I never come—
Inseparable my nose and thumb!

Threnody
(Dorothy Parker)

Lilacs blossom just as sweet
Now my heart is shattered.
If I bowled it down the street,
Who’s to say it mattered?
If there’s one that rode away
What would I be missing?
Lips that taste of tears, they say,
Are the best for kissing.
Eyes that watch the morning star
Seem a little brighter;
Arms held out to darkness are
Usually whiter.
Shall I bar the strolling guest,
Bind my brow with willow,
When, they say, the empty breast
Is the softer pillow?
That a heart falls tinkling down,
Never think it ceases.
Every likely lad in town
Gathers up the pieces.
If there’s one gone whistling by
Would I let it grieve me?
Let him wonder if I lie;
Let him half believe me.

Fighting Words
(Dorothy Parker)

Say my love is easy had,
Say I’m bitten raw with pride,
Say I am too often sad—
Still behold me at your side.

Say I’m neither brave nor young,
Say I woo and coddle care,
Say the devil touched my tongue—
Still you have my heart to wear.

But say my verses do not scan,
And I get me another man!

A Certain Lady
(Dorothy Parker)

Oh, I can smile for you, and tilt my head,
And drink your rushing words with eager lips,
And paint my mouth for you a fragrant red,
And trace your brows with tutored finger-tips.
When you rehearse your list of loves to me,
Oh, I can laugh and marvel, rapturous-eyed.
And you laugh back, nor can you ever see
The thousand little deaths my heart has died.
And you believe, so well I know my part,
That I am gay as morning, light as snow,
And all the straining things within my heart
You’ll never know.

Oh, I can laugh and listen, when we meet,
And you bring tales of fresh adventurings, —
Of ladies delicately indiscreet,
Of lingering hands, and gently whispered things.
And you are pleased with me, and strive anew
To sing me sagas of your late delights.
Thus do you want me — marveling, gay, and true,
Nor do you see my staring eyes of nights.
And when, in search of novelty, you stray,
Oh, I can kiss you blithely as you go ….
And what goes on, my love, while you’re away,
You’ll never know.

If you’d like to hear her read some of her other poems, records can be found over at Dot City, a website devoted to Dorothy Parker’s life in New York.

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* I’m apparently feeling pretty feisty for someone who had four hours sleep last night.