I started wearing glasses when I was eight years old, when Nehru jackets were cool, baby, and The Beatles were becoming hot. I remember moving from (at the time) rural Bakersfield down to southern California, where my second grade teacher eventually caught me squinting at the chalkboard (yes, chalk, not dry erase markers).
I cried when I was told I needed glasses. Well, I cried a lot when I was little, probably the aftereffects of moving to a new place. But I got the hippest pair of blue, cat eye glasses a second-grader could have. I loved being able to see and not have to sit in the front row in the classroom anymore. Until one day a big fourth grade boy called me “Four Eyes” on the playground, which made me cry, which then had me dubbed as a crybaby…You get the picture, right? In 20/20 Technicolor?
I grew up in a time when different did not mean better. The glasses set me apart, and, while many children and adults were kind and positive about my transformation, still others were not. Four Eyes, bookworm, nerd… all those unkind labels became part and parcel of my adolescence. It was a well-known adage back then that “women(or girls) with glasses seldom get passes” (hence the title to this piece).
When I turned fifteen, contact lenses were the rage. They’d been around before then, but my vision changed so much year to year that I was advised to wait until my teens before I could trade in my frames for contacts. I could hardly wait.
I got my first pair of soft contacts that summer, and it was an instant love affair. When I started high school that fall, no one knew who I was! After all, I’d been stuck behind Coke bottle lenses and braces for far too long. I was an immediate success. I got my first date that October, to Homecoming, and the rest of my high school years were a blur of social engagements and good grades. The ugly duckling (or so I thought) had turned into a swan, and all because of two little circular lenses.
My contacts were my constant companion throughout my dating career. I only wore my glasses at home. I dated a lot, and was sure it had to do with my less studious appearance. Remember, “girls with glasses…” You know the saying by now. It was only after I was safely married to a man who loved me “warts and all” (and still does), that I at last began to admit that my eyes were too dry to comfortably wear contacts. I returned to my glasses and haven’t regretted it.
The point I’m trying to make is this: be comfortable in who you are. It’s a hard lesson to learn, and I’m still learning it. If you like and can wear contact lenses, more power to you. But if you are only wearing them to impress people, at the expense of your personal comfort, think again. Chasing that Holy Grail of perfection only leads to dissatisfaction; I know. If you are happy and satisfied with yourself, that outlook transfers into everything you do. And people react to it positively.
Society does judge us by superficial appearances. I could be the best English teacher in California, but I still can’t walk into a classroom in my muumuu and gardening clogs and expect to teach. So, yes, looks do matter according to certain situations. But not at the expense of our psyche and comfort.
In my book, Prisoner of Love, the main character, Lucy, judges herself by society’s standards and comes up short. She wears glasses and is about ten pounds overweight. When sexy Jake Dalton shows an interest in her, she can’t believe it. After all, hot-looking guys like him have always passed right by her. She’s been programmed to accept her lot in life, and it’s painful to see how she accepts that image the general public has placed on her. How she grows and comes out of that debilitating shell is a big part of this romance novel.
“Women in glasses never get passes” is an outdated adage that doesn’t hold true nowadays, thank goodness. If it ever did. Most people look past the superficial trappings to see the real person underneath. But if even one person still believes the myth, our work isn’t done. Our children’s future, and their world’s future, depends on the judgment of deeds, and not appearances. Only then can there be true equality.