My life in glasses — or lack thereof

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.

And wow.

The world.

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.

34 thoughts on “My life in glasses — or lack thereof

  1. Hahaha this is EXACTLY my life in glasses too! I look back at photos of myself from approximately age 5 to 15 and think – how COULD my mother pick those glasses for me? And this was made worse by the fact that she somehow believed that glasses should co-ordinate with/match my school uniform.
    Still, Spencer is right – your glasses are cute!


  2. Glasses are definitely cooler now than they were when I was in fifth grade and had to get them. Have you considered Lasik? My husband and I had the operation about ten years ago and it was a beautiful, beautiful thing.


  3. I love this post – I can completely relate. I almost never wear my glasses either. A few years ago, I went to the beach and went swimming – with my contacts in, which I was always told not to do. I got hit by a big wave and ended up losing one of my contacts. I flat-out refused to wear my glasses at the beach, so I spent the rest of the day (and drove home) with one eye closed. I looked weird, but I was not wearing my glasses.


  4. i am the same way! i got glasses when i was 10, and contacts when i was 13, and today i can’t see more than about a foot away without my glasses. and i hate wearing them, even though i like the pair i now have, i just hate the fact i can’t see as well.


  5. I have perfect vision despite my family history of horrific eyes. I have always always been jealous of people with glasses. To me, they were very cool. And I was always excluded from that club.


  6. Ehhhh… you look cute in them. But I totally understand the feeling. I got my first pair of contact lenses when I was in high school for the same reasons. Except mine were the old rigid style kind before soft ones were invented. It took real determination to get used to those babies.


  7. I wish I could send you picture of my little daughter (now mother of 2!) in first grade with HUGE round glasses on! What was I thinking? Did I really think that was stylish? She was teased relentlessly and even had her glasses put in the paste jar. I have nightmares over it- but I think in the end maybe it wasn’t so bad, she was, and is, tough and everyone knew the girl in the big glasses (is that a good thing?) But, you survived -and it seems nicely- and she certainly has so, alls well that ends well – I suppose-


  8. I loooove this post! I started wearing glasses at 3 years old, but I was lucky to have a condition that could be fixed over time. I got out of my glasses at 11. Now that I’m 30 I’m almost certain I’m on the way back into them, but it doesn’t seem like as much torture anymore since the frames are so adorable and chic now.

    By the way, you inspired me! I joined Postcrossing!


    • Awesome that you’ve had several decades of a corrective-lens-free life, Andi! I’m jealous. And so happy you joined Postcrossing — I hope you love it! Getting the mail each day is now a thrill instead of a chore. It’s nice to have something in there besides credit card offers and bills!


  9. I’m lucky I had both a mom and sister that were nearly blind long before me (of course, that meant I was also destined to have awful vision). But, my vision started getting poor in the 5th grade and less than a year later I was already into contacts…no hesitation by me or my parents there. I’ve used them for so long and it seemed such a natural thing when I was 11 that I can’t understand the hesitation of parents or kids to get contacts! My 7-year-old nephew wears them!

    I never wear my glasses, but it’s because I’m so blind that they give me a headache. With a prescription of -6.50, my peripheral vision is so blurry when wearing glasses that my perception is completely off and I’m always in a daze! Lasik, I will get you someday.


  10. Oh my gosh you look so cute in your glasses!! Sounds like you’ve been traumatized about glassess… I definitely prefer contacts too. I almost only wear glasses when I run out of contacts because I procrastinate on ordering more. But I do have a couple of “stylish” pairs even though I usually feel sort of frumpy in those too. So I understand! (I started with hard lenses though which were awful and my eye doctor is telling me I’m going to have to switch back to the hard lenses, ugh! I was actually going to post about that too one day, LOL).


  11. They have some awfully hip, cute specs these days… I never had to wear them, so I’m sure this is meaningless to you. BUT! I can see less and less, and now (before I even hit 30!) I think I need to go get some glasses! But you know what? I’m kind of excited. I’m a librarian, you see, and I think it’s a missing part of my uniform. 🙂 I can’t wait to try on different frames and all that. Contact lenses terrify me; specs it is.

    And I think you look very cute in that pic. Glasses can be totally flattering.


  12. I always wanted glasses SO BAD. I still want them. I want to wear them around and look all cute and librarian-ish and smart. All my friends wore glasses. In fact, all my friends DO wear glasses (or contacts). I went to a really difficult high school and I was sure I just must not be studying as hard as everyone else, because obviously I would need glasses if I were. I realize this is all ridiculous. Of course, now, I’m probably going to have to get them for driving at night. Sometimes things far away, like road signs, are very fuzzy. Which is a problem when you’re trying to decide which exit to take. I might accidentally leave them on after driving… just to show them off.


  13. My husband has the exact same opinion about glasses. I didn’t even see him wearing glasses until we were married. And he looks so cute and studious with them on! Me on the other hand – I cannot survive without my glasses. I’ve tried contacts a few times over the last couple years and do not like them whatsoever. It’s not just jabbing myself in the eye. That I can do. But it’s knowing that there’s something stuck to my eyeballs that drives me nuts – I can constantly feel the pressure of them against my eyes. It’s probably all in my head (har har), but that doesn’t stop me from thinking “Get them off! Get them off!” all day long.


  14. I started wearing reading glasses in high school after I got headaches all the time from reading too much (surprised?). I only had to wear them for reading, obviously, but I actually liked them. Since then my eyes have gotten ever-so-slightly worse, and now I wear my glasses full time. I can go without them for a little bit when I feel like it — when I’m outside in the winter or while I’m at the gym — and can see just fine, so maybe that’s why I don’t mind them so much 🙂 I think they make me look smarter!


  15. I like your glasses! I think they look good on you.

    I got my first pair of glasses when I was in 4th grade and, like you, they were a big, plastic, multi-colored mess. I remember returning to school the day I got them and setting them in their case on my desk. The teacher stopped what she was doing and *made* me put them on. Talk about humiliating.

    Finally, in 7th grade, I did the one thing I thought impossible: I intentionally poked myself in both my eyes. I’ve been a contact girl ever since.

    Also like you, I will only wear my glasses in public in extreme situations, such as sickness and extreme head/eye pain. And even then I’m not happy about it. Even though I think mine are totally cute now, too.


  16. I have an extremely vivid memory of my mom with her contact (the hard, rigid kind in the 1970’s) stuck somewhere in her eye. She and my dad were in the bathroom, she was crying and in extreme pain as he was doing his best to get the darn thing out of her eye. I was about four years old and truly effected from that. To this day, over 30 years later, I am terrified (I know it’s irrational, but still) of contacts.

    I had to wear glasses from first grade on. I don’t know why but my parents always picked the ugliest darn frames with no consideration as to what I wanted. I cringe every time I see pictures of myself as a little girl with butt ugly glasses. When I was a junior in high school – I put my glasses away and refused to wear them. My mom was livid but I didn’t care. I could see enough to get by and I was done with ugly glasses.

    I only recently went back to wearing glasses – and fortunately, only when I’m reading. Even though that is, oh, you know, most of the time. And even though I like the frames/glasses that I picked out – I still refuse to wear them around anyone other than my husband and our children. It’s amazing the things we carry with us. Anyway, all of this to illustrate that I so understand how you and feel. Although, I think you look fine in your glasses and the pic of you and Spencer is adorable.


  17. HaHa…. Reading this post brought me back some memories of my old days. Like most, I got my glasses in 10th grade and I used to wear really most uncool (and to an extent weird looking spectacle). But back then; even those terrible looking spectacles were matter of little immature pride for me as I used to think people with spectacles are intellectual J.

    But now when I see my pictures of those days, I get frighten myself. Thank God, times have changed and spectacles too have evolution process J.

    You look SWEET in your glasses.


  18. Meg, I understand your deep rejection of glasses. My husband actually refers to mine as “cute glasses” but it hasn’t influenced me to wear them any more frequently. I’m ashamed to admit that this is in part because now that I own glasses that would qualify as “cute glasses” the field of vision is reasonably small and I am terribly bad at seeing. So bad in fact that once I take my contacts out I am incapable of FINDING my glasses. If I have an idea of where they are I can sort of grope them out but otherwise it’s a darn good thing I don’t live alone because I can’t see them at all. Sigh. Yours are adorable, but I will support anyone who wants to be without them.


  19. I think your glasses are cute!

    I wore contacts for years, but then I realized how much better glasses were at camouflaging the dark circles under my eyes.


  20. Your glasses look good. It is amazing the difference glasses can make for seeing everything.
    I hate wearing glasses also but I can’t see anything unless I am wearing contacts or glasses. So I stick with contacts unless it is at night and I am at home and not going anywhere. Then I put my glasses on.


  21. first, you look uber cute in glasses! it’s how funny how you and i are total opposites as far as this topic goes. i ALWAYS wanted to wear glasses because my parents and sister wore them. honestly, i felt left out with my 20/20 vision. in high school i actually bought FAKE glasses–they started selling them at places like Claire’s in the mall–so i could cultivate a studious look. when i went off to college, i started to have trouble reading signs while driving. i was fitted for a glasses for distance but got tired of taking them on and off, so i left them on all the time. now i’m NEVER without glasses and my students are shocked when they see me in the halls without them. my vision has gotten worse because i’m now dependent on my glasses but contacts aren’t an option for me because of an issue with my eye slope (??!?!) according to my doc. long live FOUR EYES! 🙂


  22. Loved the post. I join with the group-totally adorable in glasses(and with Spencer). I’ve been in glasses since the 5th grade and I have always loved them. Well, except for some unfortunate style choices. Whoever thought glasses as big as dinner plates were a good idea should be put up against the wall. No one, absolutely no one looked good in those. But I disliked those only in hindsight. For my wedding I wore contacts but did not enjoy the experience at all. So, while I understand your feeling I have to respectfully disagree.

    Oh, and I had a little giggle at: c) When I want to nap but not deal with sore eyes afterward. I have a pair of glasses my husband calls my “sleepin’ specs” I wear when I’m watching tv or reading and I’m pretty sure I’m going to fall asleep so no damages are done to my “real” glasses.


  23. Girl, you look awesome in glasses! But hahaha, I know that’s not at all what you want to hear! Because, I have the same phobia towards glasses. Those are the only 3 times you’ll see me with glasses either – and even then with my family only. I once tried to wear glasses to work. I felt like I just walked straight to work in my PJs. Everyone was like – since when do you wear glasses. Right.


  24. You don’t know me, but I’ve read your blog for a while now—love it. And I’m glad you didn’t explode while you were out in your glasses.

    I was a contact lens girl myself (still am some days) until I found Zenni Optical. Their frames are super inexpensive, so I can justify buying fun, quirky glasses that I’d never spend hundreds of dollars on at the dr’s. They take forever to ship, but it’s an okay trade-off: I bought four pairs for about 40 bucks. If you ever change your mind, maybe check them out.


  25. I started wearing glasses in the fourth grade, but I actually kind of liked them, although I went around without them periodically in hopes that my vision would correct itself like the guy in the second Anne of Green Gables movie hoped for his daughter. Didn’t work. The few times I go without my glasses, I usually end up bumping into something. I’ve been thinking about contacts for awhile now, but for someone who can’t manage to put eye-drops in without help from another, it doesn’t seem like the smartest idea. Plus, I’m super forgetful. I’m hoping when it’s legal for me I’ll get LASIK done, if I’m eligible.

    The big thing for me is braces. When I first got mine on, I refused to smile for a couple of weeks. Braces and glasses? What in the world did I do to the Universe?


  26. I had the Sally Jesse Rafael glasses throughout all of high school. My Mom finally let me get contacts the summer before I went to college, and I’ve never gone back to glasses. I have an emergency pair, but I only need them a few days a year.


  27. This is a cute and funny story. You might think I’m crazy, but I always wanted to wear glasses. My mom always wore them, so whenever we went to the optometrist and my mom was picking out a new pair, I would spend 30 minutes or more trying on frame after frame after frame. When my sister and I were teenagers, she had to get some (and yes, she doesn’t wear them when she can avoid it). For the last five years, even my dad has had a pair. My eyes are still too good, so there’s absolutely no reason that I need corrective lenses.

    But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t try to get the geeky cool look from time to time. In my second year of university, I bought a pair of what were supposed to be sunglasses, but they didn’t have tinted lenses. Were they really protecting my retinas from sun damage? I have no idea, and really, I didn’t really care. The point was to have a cool pair of geeky-chic glasses without going to the extreme of buying a pair of real frames with only glass as the lenses. (I actually know someone who did this believe it or not.) I loved them, but because I wasn’t used to wearing glasses, they gave me a bit of a headache at times. Still…I wore them quite often back then. And while I don’t have them anymore, the idea that maybe I need a pair of glasses…ah…it’s still a dream to me.


  28. I have LOVED reading everyone’s stories about glasses — thank you all for sharing! Whether we’re in the same boat or jealous of others’ lovely spectacles, y’all rock.


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