A colleague and I got to talking about eyeglasses.
The discussion was precipitated by a story he told me about breaking his only pair of glasses minutes before he was to cover a municipal meeting — one that he had never attended before.
In a panic and with no Super Glue in sight, he wrapped gray duct tape around the lens and frame and sped off to the meeting.
“You went to the meeting with duct tape on your glasses?” I asked in horror. “Did you tell anyone what had happened?”
“No,” he said. “There were only three people there.”
He showed me a photo on his iPhone of his duct-taped glasses and I began to laugh hysterically.
That’s because first, I was amazed that he was not the least bit embarrassed to face strangers with duct tape all over his glasses, and second, that he did not feel compelled to at least explain why he looked so funny.
Being blind as a bat myself without contact lenses or glasses, I related to his plight, but would have reacted much differently in the situation, I am sure.
Where he was unfazed about appearing in public like that, I would have been totally humiliated.
This insecurity about glasses goes a long, long way back.
When I was in second grade and was told I needed to wear glasses, it was a different story.
I was delighted to be following in the footsteps of my siblings. Wearing glasses meant I had made the rite of passage. I was grown up and distinguished looking.
As the years passed, however, my love affair with glasses morphed into just the opposite.
I hated them. I despised the pair I had to wear in the fifth grade when I broke my glasses and my optometrist gave me a pair of temporary, blue and silver metal cat-eye glasses. They looked horrible, and I cried when I saw them.
With every passing year, my near-sightedness got worse and the thickness of my lenses increased proportionately.
In the eighth-grade, I got a pair of oval, horn-rimmed glasses I thought were real stylish. I went to school all excited and happy, only to have our substitute English teacher, Mr. Campbell, look at me and say, “Miss Calder, don’t you know that men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses?”
My enthusiasm was deflated. I was mortified.
But not as mortified as the day Mr. Smith, my handsome and popular 10th-grade English teacher, used my glasses as an example to describe a character in a novel we were reading.
“He wore glasses as thick as Coke bottles, kind of like Ms. Calder’s here,” he said to laughter from the class.
That was soon after I had acquired the pricey, modern, rimless glasses with gold bows. At Mr. Smith’s comment, my face burned hot with humiliation and afterward, I avoided any situation in which someone could have a side view of my lenses and see how thick they were.
I laugh about it now, but to a self-conscious teenager, it was devastating.
It’s funny how your attitude changes over time — and how times have changed.
Where wearing glasses a few decades ago was considered gauche, now it’s hip. Some people even wear glasses with lenses that have no prescriptive strength, just because glasses are cool-looking. Go figure.
Think of all the women who donned Sarah Palin glasses after she emerged on the scene several years ago, popularizing that smart librarian look.
Who’d have guessed?
When I turned 18 and got my first pair of contact lenses, I felt liberated beyond belief.
I no longer was inextricably bound to those awful facial contraptions known as glasses.
I’ve discovered over the years, since that euphoric moment, that those of us who suffered from having to wear glasses are part of a private club whose members understand the immediate feeling of panic when we break a bow or lose a lens, feel sad for characters in movies who look geekish because they have to wear glasses and empathize with people who are incapacitated without them.
We also, finally, relate to the humor associated with being glasses wearers.
As I aged, I discovered I needed to wear reading glasses along with my contact lenses. If I take my contacts out at night and put my glasses on, I still need reading glasses, so I just put them on over my regular glasses.
One day, a visitor came to the door and looked at me askance.
I hadn’t a clue what was wrong until I looked in the mirror afterward and saw a crazy-looking woman wearing two pairs of glasses, one over the other. The sight sent me into a fit of uncontrollable laughter.
My colleague’s story about fixing his broken eyeglasses with duct tape and wearing them to a municipal meeting did, too, but if I had been in his shoes years ago, I’d have been horrified.
That’s the irony that comes with time and change, I guess.
Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 26 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]