I’ve been wearing glasses since I was 3 years old. I feel naked and vulnerable without them. They’re the first thing that I put on when I wake up, or I’d have difficulty finding the bathroom.
I’ve only lost my glasses twice in my life, and both times were when I was little. The first time, I was around 5 years old, and for some inexplicable reason my mother allowed me to hang out with a gang of older neighborhood kids, completely unsupervised. We decided to explore a house that was under construction. What could possibly go wrong? I don’t know why I took my glasses off. And I couldn’t remember where the house was when I was confronted by my furious mother.
The second time, I was around 7, and we went fishing on this lake that was so crystal clear that when I looked over the side, I could see my glasses drop down, down, down, into the sea grass about 40 feet below. It’s a wonder I survived to adulthood.
I suppose there was a time when I was self-conscious about my glasses. Kids hate to stand out. Now I don’t even think about it. I can’t be bothered.
But I do remember that my mother gave me a ceramic stand for my glasses when I was about 7. It was white, and it had a little white ceramic kitten that was wearing glasses, off to one side. Across the front, the stand said, “Men always make passes at cute girls with glasses.”
What a strange thing to give to your seven-year-old child. I’m sure she meant well, but what a mixed message. “Yes, it is basically a complete disaster that you have to wear glasses, but, cheer up, you’ll still be able to get a man, and in the end, that’s all that matters, innit?”
I know it was a different era, but jeez, that’s appalling.
Despite messages like this, and the ones found in movies like the old classic, “How to Marry a Millionaire”, in which Marilyn Monroe is so ashamed of her glasses that she prefers to bump into things, I knew exactly how I was supposed to feel about my glasses. There’s even this scene on the plane with David Wayne, in which she says, “Men aren’t attentive to girls who wear glasses.” In response to that, Wayne reassures her that she’s still a strudel, and you can see her fall instantly in love.
To this day, you see leading ladies wearing glasses in the movies at a much lower rate than you do in the general population. I’d stake my life on it. I’m sure it’s a lighting thing, but it would be nice to see my reality reflected on the silver screen every once in a while.
Fortunately, despite all messages to the contrary, I managed to get through life without pinning all my self-worth on getting snapped up by some man. As a matter of fact, I was pretty convinced that I had better learn how to survive on my own because I was never shown any male role models who where reliable in any way. A sad lesson that has served me well.
Self-reliant I became, but I’ve never seen myself as attractive, and I’m sure the stigma with glasses back then didn’t help. I’ve known several people who can accept compliments about their looks with nary a flinch or an equivocation. I’m not one of those people. I stand in awe of them.
We all need to pay careful attention to what we teach children. The consequences can be long lasting. Nobody should need glasses to see that.
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