The bearer of bad news came in the form of a teenage girl wearing a stained baggy hoodie, track pants, and socks with slide-on sandals. I greeted her as she walked into class, and she paused as she noticed my glasses that I wore in lieu of my contacts.
“Whoa, I didn’t know you wore glasses, Ms. L!” She clucked her tongue and shook her head, “Man, those frames are DAY-ted. You should get yourself chic new frames. Be modern.”
I tried my best to not let my sarcasm come through as I thanked her for her completely unsolicited advice first thing in the morning. The day of knowing that I wore frumpy, old-fashioned frames that the Tyrannosaurus Rex wore before he met his end loomed ahead. “Could I make it through a day without seeing?” I wondered. Everyone’s looks would improve. If I could teach without my hearing aid, I could teach without my glasses… The very same glasses I use to read my students’ lips. Damn it.
My husband will tell you that I tend to hold onto things for
a bit way too long. In 2009 I finally replaced my sunglasses that I purchased in 1995 after someone asked, “Who do you think you are? John Lennon?”. My search for a new pair was long and hard (I know Michael Scott, “that’s what she said”), and no sunglass display was left unturned. It wasn’t until I made a “what-the-hell-why-not?” trip into a Honolulu Sunglass Hut that I found my new pair. Yes, I plan to get another 11 years out of them. In the meantime, I still wear the red sweatshirt I stole from Steve gave to me when we first started dating (also last century). The collar and cuffs are beyond frayed and there are big, gaping holes along the seams, but it’s still the first one I go to.
Today was my annual eye exam, and I knew it was time to retire my old, not-quite silver, wire frames. This pair was my second set of the same frames; the first set broke, and my ophthalmologist found the very last of pair available in the country to replace them. These are special glasses. I packed them into their case and took them with me.
Arriving early to my appointment, I used the extra time to survey the wall of bright, shiny, and “modern” frames. Fred, the man in charge of the glasses, greeted me. He looked dapper in his neatly pressed striped button down with his sleeves rolled up, his long silver hair pulled back into a pony-tail, and his frameless, sparkling spectacles perched casually on his nose.
“Can I help you find a certain pair?” he asked.
Overwhelmed and not quite sure what I was looking for, I responded, “No, I’m just trying to find a pair that won’t make me look completely like an English teacher.”
He raised an eyebrow, “Why not? The kinky look is in right now.”
My reflection caught my attention in the mirror and shot me a look that said, “Oh God, he did not just say that.” We appraised each other’s looks: wash-n-go hair that said “go” more than wash, minimal make-up, brown sunglasses, a shapeless brown polo atop a shapeless brown skirt, chewed fingernails, farmer-tanned legs in need of shaving, brown flip-flops on feet with unpainted toes, and one inner ankle that sported a freshly opened blister. This added up to kinky, how? Not to mention the fact that I now work in a kinky profession? It’s sentence diagramming, not diaphragming.
Wait… do I need kinky glasses if I teach Like Water For Chocolate? Gertrudis does mount that horse and the soldier riding it. Othello? “An old-black ram is tupping your white ewe”? “Making the beast with two backs”? Breathing deeply and channeling Regency England, Mr. Darcy, and Elizabeth Bennet (never mind Lydia and Wickham’s illicit elopement or the fact that Jane and Bingley go off alone into the bushes– who’s tupping who?), I reminded myself that I am not Tina Fey sexy-cool and finally chose a small brown, tortoise-shell frame. They would match anything and last me a decade.
I put them on and showed Fred. He appraised them shrugging his shoulders, “Eh.”
Eh? Now I really didn’t care what Fred said.
“Let me see if I can adjust those,” and he took the frames, returning quite a few minutes later smelling of orange chicken. I put them on again, and they did fit much better. Fred and I entered a conversation about people who have more than one pair of sunglasses; one woman I know has a pair to match every outfit.
“Some women have priorities,” replied Fred, “For some women it’s sunglasses, others it’s shoes, and some collect purses.” Hm. No, no, and no. Was Fred insinuating that I lack priorities? Did he think I needed to unleash my inner-Carrie Bradshaw? And I had to wonder, when it comes to shopping for glasses that really define us, how do we really see ourselves?
Fred painted a clear picture of what he saw. “These frames don’t really stand out. They just blend in.”
I leaned over the table that separated us and stage-whispered, “Sometimes I must travel incognito.”
“I-Spy, huh?” he chuckled as he wrote up my order.
Yes, oh yes, Fred. I spy a blog entry, and I will unleash my inner-Carrie Bradshaw– the one that writes.