I got my first pair of glasses in third grade. They were tiny with multicolored rims — delicate things my parents warned me to never lose track of and never set down where they could get broken.
To paraphrase Ralphie in “A Christmas Story,” nothing strikes fear in a child’s heart like a pair of shattered spectacles.
Well, I never broke my glasses, friends — but there have been plenty of times over the years that I’ve wanted to. From the ugly multicolored frames I graduated to an oversized pair of red glasses that would have made Sally Jessy Raphael weep with jealousy. In fifth grade, I wore them only under extreme duress — like, when we were taking a test and I had to see what my teacher, a kind woman who took a shine to my many “stories,” was writing on the board.
The rest of the time, I suffered.
The world was a hazy, blurry mess by the time I reached high school. I’d gotten it into my head that I hated my glasses — any glasses, all glasses — and would never wear them. My vision has deteriorated to “eh, sort of sucky” to flat-out incapable of seeing my hand in front of my face. Without corrective lenses, at 25, the world is nothing but a mass of shapes of varying sizes and levels of shadow. I can’t see a thing.
So walking around without glasses — even then? Ridiculous.
But tell that to 15-year-old me. By my sophomore year, I’d gotten used to muddling through my day and squinting at the board in school. If people thought I was a snob because I didn’t say “hi” to them in the hallways, so what? That said more about them than me, right? And not being able to see beyond the stage was a major boon when, acting in high school plays, I didn’t have to worry about making eye contact with the audience.
Things continued in this vein for a while. My little gold-framed spectacles stayed firmly in their protective pouch as I looked at the world through waxy glass. I made no bones about my stubborn refusal to wear my glasses. At one point, the eye doctor I saw yearly looked me square in the face and said, “I can’t believe you’re walking around like this.”
But I was.
Until my parents issued an ultimatum.
The day of reckoning was upon us. At 15 and 9 months, I was eligible to get my Maryland learner’s permit — and I wanted nothing more than to slip behind the wheel of my dad’s old Toyota and hit the open road. So I had to be home by 10 p.m. And I couldn’t drive with other teenagers — or my sister — in the car. And maybe that old thing didn’t have a working CD player for a while. Who cares? When you’re 15, the world unfolds before you like a fan.
You just have to be able to see it.
So I finally caved, friends. There was absolutely no way that I was driving without corrective lenses, of course. My parents finally took me to get fitted for contacts — beautiful, glorious, invisible contacts! And after hours of attempting to poke myself in the eye with little pieces of plastic, I started to get the hang of it.
It was so big. And so clear. And just . . . there. For the taking. Blades of grass; fluffy clouds; litter on the side of the road. Everywhere. Tangible.
I’ve now worn contacts for more than 10 years. In the beginning, I woke up early — at 5:30 a.m. — to try and get my contacts in with trembling fingers. The whole process takes less than 20 seconds now, start to finish, and I can even pop those babies out at my desk.
What I still don’t do?
Wear my glasses.
I still have a pair for emergencies — and I do wear them from time to time. Not where anyone but my boyfriend or family can see, of course, but they do exist. My frames now are infinitely cooler than when I was 10, though I still can barely stomach them. They’re pictured above — black and white; oval; maybe a little (little) hip. If I may be so bold to say, I don’t look terrible in them.
But I feel terrible.
On Valentine’s Day this year, I came down with a wicked cold. I’d come home early from work, changed into pajamas, thrown my hair into a ponytail and popped out my contacts when I got home. The only time you’ll catch me in glasses is:
a) When I’m terribly ill;
b) When my eyes are incredibly sore;
c) When I want to nap but not deal with sore eyes afterward.
Valentine’s Day fell into the first two categories — but it was my first Feb. 14 with Spencer. Maybe it’s gimmicky and silly and commercial, but eh — it’s fun! I’d celebrated in a much bigger way with men I didn’t care half as much about. I wasn’t going to call it a night and eat takeout on the couch that Monday unless I was desperate — and I could buck up. Spence and I were going out. After shuffling around some plans, Spencer and I decided to get sushi at a nearby restaurant.
Only problem? No way could I get my contacts back in.
So I went out, friends. In public. In my glasses. For quite possibly the first time since high school.
And you know? I didn’t explode. My face didn’t ignite or disintegrate. No one pointed at me or laughed, snapping photos to post on Twitter.
Because no one cares.
It’s not that big a deal, I know. I’m not an ogre. Sometimes they even make me feel a little funky and artsy — smart; cool; sophisticated. The glasses, Spencer asserts, give me the cute librarian look. And in my weak, non-self-conscious moments? I almost agree with him.
. . . Almost.