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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Smart Girls Wear Glasses But...

I’ve never worn glasses before except for sunglasses which happen to be my favorite fashion accessory besides shoes. Everyone in my immediate family wears glasses. My mom has bifocals and my brother needed eye surgery when he was born. I had 20-20 vision. It was the only time in my life that I felt like something about me was actually perfect. I’ve had a chronic case of low self-esteem since I was a kid, but my eyes have always been the one feature that I’ve loved about myself. They are a unique shade of hazel with cool orange rings around the iris that I’ve always gotten compliments on, I’m pretty good at jazzing them up with eye makeup and big sunglasses, and since I’m a bit of perfectionist, knowing that I had that 20-20 vision meant a lot to me.

Except then I started noticing it wasn’t quite so perfect anymore. My boyfriend (who also wears glasses) and mother would be able to read signs of in the distance faster than I could. Mom had never been able to do that when I was a kid! And when I saw Juno last year, that note that Jennifer Garner has framed on her wall at the end, I had to seriously squint to read that on the big screen.

Okay, I rationalized, so maybe my perfect vision isn’t perfect anymore, but I'm sure it's still good enough. My mom was not so sure. “I’m sorry, but you just have really bad genes when it comes to vision.” (And acne, thanks Dad, and annoyingly wavy hair, thanks Mom.) Since I’m quitting my full-time job with the swanky state benefits including free vision insurance (my last day is tomorrow! You can read about all my angsty decision-making process on my blog here), she convinced me to go to the eye doctor while I could still do it for a mere 10 bucks. So last Saturday I went to my local Pearle Vision.

They sent me in with this doctor who, before he did anything, asked me if my last name was German and what it meant. I didn’t know what it meant, so he proceeded to get a German dictionary and look it up. No surprise, it wasn't in there. I mean is Smith in the English dictionary? It doesn’t mean anything, why would Kuehnert? As my mom would say he was a bit of a kook.

So he flashed lights in my eyes and everything was great except when I got to the very last line of the eye chart. Do it without squinting? Umm, no I can’t do that. Suddenly a thing is down in front of my face and he’s flipping little glasses lenses around. “Can you see better now? How about now? Say one or two.” With each “one” or “two,” my voice got a little bit more high-pitched. This guy was going to try to say I needed glasses just ‘cause I couldn’t read that freakin’ last line without, wasn’t he? I’ve never seen letters so small out in the real world. I shouldn’t need glasses just for that! But I had a horrible sick feeling that much like I’d been forced to learn useless forms of math that would never help me do real world things like taxes, I’d be forced into glasses.

Sure enough at the end, Dr. German Obsession declared that I was slightly near-sighted, but with no other problems, so I should go pick out some glasses.

“Uh, but I have no problem seeing things up close so I only need them when I’m driving or at the movies or something, right?”

He sighed with irritation, “Why does everyone always ask me that? These will only effect your vision when you’re viewing things a few meters away. I don’t know if that answers your question, but it’s technically correct.”

I want to scream at him, “No it doesn’t answer my goddamn question. I'm 29 years old, I've never had glasses and never wanted them. This is a dramatic change for me and I want to cry.” Instead I just eeked out, “What?”

He proceeded to define “technically correct,” but I cut him off and repeated my question. “Do I have to wear them all the time or only when I’m driving.”

“You should wear them when you’re driving, but of course I’d like it if you wore them all the time. I don't know why nobody ever wants to wear them.” he said with irritation.

I wandered out of his office in a daze and immediately the salesgirls descended. “Do you need frames?”

“I guess.” I explained the situation to her and said, “So I only need them for driving right?”

“Sure,” she agreed and then herded me over to the frame selection. I’m hardly able to focus on them, I’m trying so hard not to cry. I know it sounds silly. I know they say “Smart girls wear glasses,” and I know many smart girls who do and I kept trying to focus on that, but I'd finally become mostly comfortable with the way I looked and I didn't want to adjust to this. I didn't want people to notice my glasses, I want people to notice my eyes and my makeup and my hair and my smile . Basically I felt the way I assume most kids do when they are told they need glasses.

The salesgirl worked really hard to try to encourage me. "What sorts of styles do you like?"

"I don't know. I never considered this." I looked helplessly at the glasses. None of them were fun big sunglasses, those are the only glasses I like. If I wear glasses all the time, I can't wear them. It's only for driving and things at a distance, I reminded myself, but still I was basically sucking back tears the entire time. Even after the salesgirl told me I reminded her of her sister's roller derby girl friends (I wish I was roller derby girl cool!). She helped me narrow it down to two pairs that she felt suited my personality. A pair of Candies' cat eye glasses and a pair of Lulu Guinness glasses that looked like sparkly fishnets along the sides. I leaned toward the cat-eye because that is a sunglass style I like, but I was unsure. The salesgirl got a colleague. They both thought I should go with the Lulu Guinness because there was less unnecessary frame hiding my face. They also said they were envious of me being able to pull off black frames. I didn't think I could pull them off or any other glasses for that matter, but I handed over my credit card (my stupid state insurance didn't cover that much so I still paid 250$ and that's why I didn't get a contacts exam because it didn't cover that at all). These are the glasses, but in black.

When I went outside I called my mom and cried. Yeah, I know pathetic, but there it is. Mom reassured me that I really do only have to wear them when driving, it won't hurt my eyes or anything (and she's a nurse so I trust her). The next day my co-worker Kathy was actually excited for me. She said, "I love getting glasses! It's a new accessory!" She also reassured me that she had the exact same condition as me only used them for driving, when she even remembered to do that.

I'm still up and down about it. But here I am in my new frames, expressing my initial feelings with a pout:

My boyfriend says I'm cuter when I'm not pouting though, so here I am not pouting, but I gotta say I don't feel like I look like myself in this pic at all:

I'm sure I'll get used to it and come to think of it how Kathy does. What about you guys, do you wear glasses or contacts? And did you react like I did when I first got them? (though probably most of you were kids, so the childishness was more acceptable. My poor boyfriend probably wanted to strangle me for whining so much the first couple days) If you don't have glasses, did you ever have to go back to school sporting a new look you weren't so sure about?


Maxwell said...

Steph dear..

Firstly: *Hugs*

Secondly: A Smith is a worker of metal and yes somewhere in history their family were Smiths. I used to be a Dyer once myself.

Thirdly: Why didn't you get contacts if wearing glasses bothered you?

Max Mesham

Jennifer Echols said...

Oh poor Steph. Pout not, you look adorable. Very hip.

My vision started to go south when I was in college (damn English classes) and has continued its downward spiral. Lucky me, I have astigmatism, which is harder to correct. So I have (1) glasses that don't work great and (2) those special weighted contacts that hurt. Actually it's not all that bad and I can see fine without assistance. I just can't necessarily tell you what your nametag says, with glasses or without. And reading--forget it.

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Max- Thanks for the hugs. You are right, Smith was a poor example. I should have thought of another one. And I didn't get contacts because I didn't have 120$ to spend on the exam to get them plus the price of the contacts and since I really do only need them for driving it doesn't matter.

Jenn, thanks for the reassurances and I feel your pain (and also blame all the college reading lol). Apparently I have some mild astigmatism as well. They didn't tell me this at the exam but when I picked up the glasses and complained that they made things close up a little blurry, they claimed that was the reason. All the more reason to only wear them when I'm driving I guess. As long as my reading vision doesn't go, I'm ok. Sorry that reading is difficult for you!

Vivi Anna said...

I wear glasses. Had them since I turned 29. Must be something at that age.

I'm near sighted as well. But I'm going to go get lasic done on them this year, so I won't have to wear them anymore.

You look cute with them. I like those frames.

Barbara Caridad Ferrer said...

It's all a matter of perspective.

I think it's cool that you can pull off such interesting glasses on the first try. I had poor vision my entire life, to the point where I was wearing contacts by the time I was twelve, not because I wanted to, but because my glasses were so heavy, they caused migraine headaches. And forget cute frames-- there were only a select, exceedingly geeky few that could accommodate the thickness of my lenses. By the time I was in my early thirties I had to have what amounted to cataract surgery, both of my natural lenses replaced by artificial lenses in my eyes. So bifocals became a regular part of my life, although ironically, I don't have to wear them for driving.

I'll probably have to have surgery every ten or fifteen years for the rest of my life, but on the upside, all the cute frames I wanted to wear are available to me now.

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Wow, Barb, you really really really put things into perspective. No more whining from me! I'm sorry you have to go through all the surgeries and everything!

Vivi Anna- Must be something about 29! And thanks for the compliment :)

Danielle Joseph said...

Steph, first of all, your glasses are so cute!
I am one of those people that have had glasses forver! I got them when I was six months old! I had a lazy eye but had an operation when I was three months old. I got contacts in college and wear them more than my glasses now. But I've never felt 100% comfortable in them.
I can see how you would be disappointed but you really pull them off!

The Emperor said...

There goes Stephanie with the Cryabetes. Waaa, I look cute with glasses, waaa. I can't think of a single instance where a girl hasn't looked cute in glasses. I'm jealous, I think I look cute in glasses, but I don't need them, so I just feel lame with the fakies. When does the next book come out? I want to read it with my perfect eagle vision.