Our Glasses, Ourselves: A Confession

As any four-eyed, near-sighted astigmatic knows, glasses have a unique transformative power.

Says the Guardian, "Vintage-looking spec-shapes have become an integral part of the sexy-nerd unisex look that has developed from the blending of the American Apparel aesthetic and the ongoing evolution of indie-kid chic." Maybe. But for some of us spec pioneers, that's bittersweet.

If I were doing that Facebook "25 Things" list, this might be about number 17: I can't wear contact lenses. My eye doctor says I'm the one patient they've ever had in the 20 years of the practice who's been unable to master the simple technique of slipping a lens off and on the eye. My eyes clench shut at the approach of any foreign object and even in those cases when I manage, with luck and prayer, to get the lens on, getting it off is another matter: the pinching of the eye is beyond me. This is no solitary attempt; more like 20, over the course of five years, in which my stress and self-disgust grew ever-greater. In that time, I looked into Lasic surgery, but my corneas are too thin and I was never able to spare the full week's recuperation period required for the more primitive PRK procedure, which in any case my eye surgeon father-in-law says is a bad idea.

So, I'm stuck with glasses. And being stuck with them, I embrace them - for one thing, they make me look a little older and help balance out my piping, girlish voice. When I first started sporting my oversized frames, children pointed, coworkers howled, and my mom cried. This was before Big Glasses were a Thing. Now, of course, every NYU student has a pair of vintage frames (maybe from American Apparel) in a hip pocket. I wanted big ones because they matched my big, curly hair; they suited the 70s grad student styles I liked, and as a tribute both to Isabelle Adjani in The Tenant and to the specs my father sported throughout my childhood. I also wanted a pair so big I couldn't lose it. It was amazing how the big glasses changed my life. The willingness to, as my mother puts it, "undergo voluntary disfigurement" automatically commands the respect of many ridiculous people whose opinions you don't value. I immediately became "the girl with the big glasses," far more memorable than ever before, like YSL! Or Clark Kent! In those days of the small frame, they prompted many a lame pick-up line and conversation starter ("your glasses are really big." And no, you can't try them on.)

Although the ubiquity of aggressive glasses these days is truly ludicrous - at a rock show last night I looked down on a veritable glass sea of Buddy Hollys and Carrie Donovans - I like glasses being viewed as fun, fashionable, even flattering. What is irksome is seeing someone plunk a pair of frames on her face that has no business being there: however cool the idea of cat-eyes or black plastic, this is not necessarily what everyone should be wearing! Aggressive glasses can wear a face like nobody's business and it's painful to see. I should know; I've made my mistakes in this regard before learning that my frames needed to verge on the horizontal and absolutely had to be in a soft brown palette. I'm always surprised when I hear friends say they can order frames off of eBay or somesuch; I'm much too gun-shy not to try them on in person, and try on a lot. I seldom come out with just what I came for. At this point I have a few pair in varying sizes and levels of aggression. The meekest are for my mother's benefit, but hardly serve to mollify her: in her eyes, I'm obscuring my "beautiful eyes" and trying not to be pretty.

All this said, I would welcome the option of dazzling the world with the allegedly-stunning eyes. I have always been ashamed of my contacts failure, and if anyone can suggest a helpful tip I'd greedily take it. I often worry I'm the only one in the world incompetent and neurotic enough not to master this simple process, and now that there are hundreds of other Girls With Big Glasses walking the streets, it might be liberating to have another guise. Then too, my mom is less than jazzed about the pale pink "wedding specs" I've suggested to go with my gown.


The return of face furniture
[Guardian]