Monday, July 25, 2011

Seeing Me

I have a long history with wearing glasses. When I was a fourth grader I went to the eye doctor for the first time. I didn’t realize exactly how blind I’d become until that unforgettable day when the optician balanced that first pair of glasses on my face and said, “look out the window and tell me if that’s better…”

Wow. The trees had individual leaves? I’d not even realized that trees off in the distance weren’t just a smudge of greens. With these magical new glasses I could see each individual leaf. It was a moment I’ll never forget. The eye doctor, a family friend, had told my parents I might not be committed to wearing them, since my prescription wasn’t that strong, and most elementary aged kids strategically left them at home. But I was intoxicated with the brand new crisp clean lines of the world and I gladly wore them every day.

Then middle school hit. My older, very popular sisters kept chanting an ominous rhyme in my direction, ‘guys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses.’ I struggled enough, being the little kid sister to two Farrah Fawcett look alikes. Having glasses sure didn’t help my cause. Eventually I broke down and got past my squeamish side, gathering up the courage to poke two plastic discs directly into my eyes. Although switching to contacts didn’t magically improve my standings with the cute males on my radar, I eventually found a few nice guys who were willing to date me and not pine over my sisters. One of those nice guys became my lifetime best friend.

Then along came babies. With the upside down schedule of caring for two babies, born 12 months apart, I soon reverted back to wearing glasses full time. Not just any glasses. The huge round spectacles that I try to convince my children were popular in the early 90s.

Then it just became a habit. Glasses are easy, most of the time. There is no solution to buy, no mirror needed at night before you go to bed. If I have to get up in the night, I can pop them on in a second. As styles became more fun I almost looked forward to needing a new prescription, so I could try out some new frames. For almost 20 years I didn’t even consider wearing contacts.

But in recent years I’d started considering trying them again. Why not have a back up pair of contacts, that I could wear on certain occasions? It would be nice to have contacts when I wear goggles on the ski slopes. It would be nice to have contacts when we’re at the beach, or hiking, and I’m wiping sweat off my face on a regular basis. When it was time for my latest check up, I decided to dive in, and get the exam for contacts.

I was surprised at how easily I was able to put them in. Just like riding a bike, I guess. I wore home the trial pair and waited to see if my family would notice. Once I got home I looked at myself in the mirror. I didn’t look like me. Well, I looked like me, just an older, more tired version of me. I never realized how much I hid behind my glasses. Suddenly I noticed wrinkles I’d never seen before. And my eyes seemed to disappear on my face. Time to pull out the eye liner and mascara. I’m a pretty low key person and, hiding behind glasses, rarely used eye makeup. It was time to bring out the expired cosmetics.

The kids noticed, but didn’t seem to mind the difference. As long as dinner was on the table, they were fine with how mom looked. My husband noticed right away too. I think it might be the longest he’s gazed at me since we were dating. “Hmm….mama got out the eye make up!” The boys just groaned. All through dinner I kept catching him giving me long glances. He was trying to figure out if he liked this new, glasses free look.

I wore them for almost a week. Every day I diligently put them in, then applied the makeup that had been neglected for so many years. And even after a week, I still barely recognized myself when I looked in the mirror. I just didn’t seem like myself without glasses. It wasn’t just the hassle of having to accentuate tiny eyes that seem to disappear without a touch of eye liner, there was something missing about me. I began to realize that some of my personality might be tied to my glasses.

Finally I gave up. I threw in the towel and accepted the fact that I’m just a glasses person. I like the way I look in glasses. I like being able to pick a style by the frames I choose. I like not having to bother with little round containers and contact solution, especially when we’re traveling or camping. For some moral back up, I took my oldest teen son to the frames store with me. He helped me pick out the frames I’m wearing today. They are a bit more bold than I would have picked for myself, but I have really grown to love them.

I’m old enough now that I don’t make decisions based on whether it will get me dates or win me favor with others. I get to pick for myself. And I’ve come to peace with the fact that I’m a glasses person. And now, once again, I recognize myself when I look in the mirror.


theelfqueen said...

It's good to try things and it's good to know when they're not for you, too! I like your glasses.

Andrea Schwalm said...

The line about convincing the boys that those big glasses were cool made me laugh: I have pics from the 90's--oh, my: giant, round, goggle-y blue frames...and a perm. Mrow!

I like your glasses, too!

Anonymous said...

I am so with you! I got mine when I was 14 and now I don't recognise myself with contacts. I have had blue ones for the longest time now. I had other colours or plain ones in between but the blur frames are the real me.