Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dreaming of a Day Without Glasses

I've had to wear prescription eyeglasses since I was about seven or eight years old -- third grade, for Americans. I was first diagnosed as having problems with far-sighted vision, but it soon settled into full-on astigmatism. Basically, my whole world is blurry. It doesn't seem horrifically bad when I don't wear my glasses -- I'm not bumping into walls or talking to lamp posts like they're people -- but the prescription is an especially tricky one. So much so that I cannot wear contact lenses.

Always with the glasses, hmph.
And this truly grieves me. I've tried ever since high school, every few years, just in case the technology catches up with my eyeballs, but the lenses, either hard or soft, don't fit right & do not correct my vision enough so that the difference between wearing contact lenses & not wearing glasses is significant. It's not a comfort issue -- I find contacts perfectly comfortable. It's quite literally an issue of my vision prescription not working in any modern contact lens to the point where the lens will adequately correct my vision.

But I'm trying again right now. I have a sympathetic optometrist, who is going through the three brands of lenses on the market that can be made with my prescription, & she is trying to see if they will fit & actually work. So far, we've got a semi-decent result on the left eye, but the right eye is terrible. One last option is on order.

Throughout my life, I've been pretty resistant to popular norms of beauty. I'm quite satisfied with my short, chubby body, & I've only once attempted to change it, with results that backfired in the long run. I'm happy being pleasantly curvy. I know how to dress myself to my best advantage. I feel like my good appearance is one of my assets in life, maybe not my top one, but it's never a detriment. I've always been able to attract plenty of romantic partners & have been married to a devoted person for 12 years now. Intrinsically, I know I'm a beautiful, sexy, attractive woman when it comes to my looks. I don't feel any need to compete with the fashion-magazine cliches of what's "supposed" to be beautiful.

Except when it comes to my glasses. That always feels like the one thing holding me back. Nobody wears glasses anymore! Take a look around any public place, browse through fashion mags & blogs, even the alternative or gothic ones -- the best-dressed people, the trendy gals, the cool kids, really just anyone under 50, the majority of people Do.Not.Wear.Glasses most of the time.

Sure, there's the occasional hipster wearing fake black plastic frames (although trend-spotters say that fad is so over -- & let me tell you, having worn those exact glasses back in grade school, there's nothing hip about them).  Sometimes celebs sport "geek chick" fake glasses to give themselves cred. But the fact that these trendy glasses are always framed (hah) in terms such as "Poindexter look" & "uber-nerd" simply reinforces the ugly factor associated with glasses.  Hey, for decades, the standard-issue glasses in the U.S. Army were jokingly called "birth control" because they were so ugly. But it's not just that old plastic frame; it's that nobody really likes wearing glasses. They're unsexy & uncool.

The few folks wearing glasses without irony in public tend to be senior citizens or a random person "dressing down" while quickly running an errand. While almost half of the U.S. population uses corrective eyewear at some point in their lives, they sure don't appear to wear them on a regular basis. People with vision problems wear contact lenses when they want to look genuinely good. Because they can. I don't blame them.

I'm old enough to have grown up when "nerd" & "geek" were 100% negatives. Nobody wore an "I love dorks" T-shirt when I was in high school in the mid 1980s. Kids who wore glasses then were looked down on, called names like "four-eyed freak" (in addition to "nerd," "geek," & "dork") & generally shunned.

Dressed for a party, but still, glasses.
Even now, when geeks are supposedly cool, the stereotypes live on hard & fast. Pretty girls don't wear glasses. Nerdy girls wear glasses, "sexy librarian" types wear glasses, smart girls wear glasses. For example, there are countless rumors that Sarah Palin wears fake glasses to make herself look smarter.

When was the last time you saw a sexy Hollywood starlet wearing glasses on the red carpet? Name five recent non-nerdy female characters on TV shows who wear glasses & get laid regularly. Show me five magazine ad campaigns featuring women under age 50 wearing glasses -- & the products must be for things that are cool, sexy, or fun, not baby food, cleaning products, or mutual funds. Yeah, guys don't make passes at girls who wear glasses in mass media.

My current quest for contact lenses is far reduced from my lifelong frustration with the stereotypes. I understand that the available lenses won't give me enough visual acuity that I could go to the office or even go shopping. 20/20 vision with contacts is beyond my dreams, unfortunately.

What I'm hoping for right now is contact lenses that allow me to see well enough to recognize faces & read large signs -- & then I could at least wear contacts with historical costumes. Because few things annoy me more than non-period glasses (& women, before the 19th century, would avoid wearing glasses in public; firstly because only very wealthy women could afford them, & secondly because they'd only use them for reading or sewing, which were done at home).

Of course, I'd love to be able to go out for cocktails wearing a fancy dress & not need glasses. To finally be able to drop the sexy-librarian pose & just be sexy for a change. Just be pretty. *sigh*

Related links:
  • Girls Who Wear Glasses: A Tribute -- Jezebel looks at a few modern icons such as the ever-nerdy Daria, Lisa Leob, and Rachel Maddow.
  • Fetish Friday: Our Favorite Women Who Wear Glasses -- ComplexGirls manages to find (what I think are one-time) pix of starlets & even a pornstar wearing glasses, along with the obligatory Tina Fey & someone who played Velma in a Scooby-Doo movie.
  • Celebrity Spectacles: The Hottest Lenses in Hollywood -- Zimbio has some repeats & some men (who always get away with things women can't, hello patriarchy), plus relies on 'celeb wore glasses once!' type photos.
  • Celebs Who Wear Glasses -- Celebuzz has even more repeats & men, but the fresh pix are notable because the women are all clearly running errands, traveling, or carrying their children. An exception that's not an exception to the stereotype is Katy Perry going for a retro sexy librarian look.
  • Celebrities in Glasses -- Tres Sugar's descriptions reinforce every stereotype by nailing most of the women with terms like "geek chic," "nerd," "librarian,"  & even "schoolgirl."


  1. I wear glasses every single day, unironically. Except when I'm wearing costumes or dressing fancy for an evening. Any more than that gives me a headache though. So I totally get you - I hate that I have to wear them every day, and I've tried so many times to find a way to not have to wear them but wear them I must. Thanks for the links, nice to see them sexied up a bit. :-)

  2. You beat me to the punch! I was about to write about this exact thing on my blog lol. I have never once worn contact lenses, and I have been making it a point to model my designs and clothing on my blog wearing my glasses. I too want to break the stereotypes that come with wearing them. One woman in particular has inspired me to view glasses as pretty is Kassandra Leigh-- she is absolutely gorgeous and models with her glasses almost all the time.

    Thank you for writing this! =)

  3. I can only assume that this has something to do with where you live. I admit, you don't see many playmates, or hollywood starlets or rock musicians wearing glasses, but when I leave the house to go to work in my glasses every day I'm in good company.

    The number of people I see in glasses each day at work or in the supermarket or wherever is at least the same as the number of people I see without them. And no, I don't mean just the elderly or the uber-geeky. I mean fashionable young people, too. It seems that everyone from my co-worker's 8 year old daughter to my own best friend wear their glasses all the time.

    I actually find glasses to be a very nice way to frame my eyes without using so much makeup. On rare occasions where I go without glasses I have to take extra time to put on more eyeliner and shadow. When I really want to dress up, I do wear contacts. But I it's not because glasses are somehow frumpy and unattractive. It's because I like to wear very elaborate eye makeup when I get dolled up, and the frames break up the lines.

    I understand completely your desire to be able to wear your glasses when you WANT to, and not because you have to. I get that sometimes glasses are an annoyance. Still, I don't think describing glasses as, "unsexy & uncool," or saying that people, "wear contact lenses when they want to look genuinely good," is doing anyone any favors.

    Finally, I thought I'd add a link to the portfolio of beautiful gothic model Revel, (also known as Kassandra Leigh, and mentioned by Mari Mortem) who appears in almost all of her shots with her trademark glasses on. http://www.modelmayhem.com/126861

  4. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, California, U.S. Specifically Silicon Valley. I've lived in this area most of my life & also lived in the deep south of the U.S. I've spent a great deal of time around the entire West Coast of the U.S., from Seattle to Los Angeles. I've traveled around the world (literally -- all 7 continents including Antarctica) & have spent the most time in London, U.K., where my husband has family, but I've also visited most of the major European capitals. I've visited friends in many of the large American East Coast cities. In addition, I read voraciously, both print & online, & keep up with TV & movies. Oh & I work for one of the top 3 Internet news providers in the world. So you might understand that I have a pretty broad experience of how people are perceived & what stereotypes are common across current Western culture. I'm not speaking about what exists only in some small backwater -- & all of the links in my post serve to support my thesis (& that is a mere sampling).

    Even in your comment, you confirm my point: you say "When I really want to dress up, I do wear contacts" & "frames break up the lines" of fancy makeup.

    I'm happy to learn about Kassandra Leigh (she is lovely & inspiring), but one exception does not bust down a world of stereotypes. Especially since she clearly has not infiltrated the mass media. And even in her portfolio, she only wears glasses half the time (count the shots).

    It's great that you know of some girls who wear glasses. I hope they aren't getting told that glasses are *just* geeky or nerdy. Of course, they're only 8 right now, & they have a long way to go. It's a harsh world out there. They'll need help. If you can find some age-appropriate role models that aren't just Velmas, please do share that with those girls!

  5. Please do post -- I'd love to get more opinions! When I was searching for more commentary, I couldn't find much. There were a few columns about brides being "brave enough" to wear glasses on their wedding days -- bec., of course, women wearing glasses aren't considered beautiful & that would make a bride un-beautiful. UGH.

    Glad to hear about Kassandra Leigh -- she's amazing :)

  6. My eyesight is pretty bad also, but I'm fortunate enough that I can wear contacts. I remember going to the eye doc a few years ago and she asked me what the largest row I could read was. I said "E" and she said "okay, very funny, now really?" I said "Not joking. E." Now I can't even read that. :(

    I'm a software engineer and I would say a good half of my co-workers wear glasses. The women are in the minority, but there are still a few with glasses. I actually see a computer screen better in my contacts, so it isn't pure vanity on my part.

    I wish you luck with your optic endeavours. I've gone through a lot of trouble to find a lens that works for me, and I hope you'll find one that works. But if it doesn't work, have you looked into Lasik?

  7. Ye gods yes. It's *such* a little albatross around our necks. Or sitting on our noses!

  8. True, engineers might be the other category who wears glasses a lot -- altho' even here in Silicon Valley, a lot of them prefer not to wear glasses in their off hours, if they can!

    I think there was a window when Lasik might have been possible with my prescription, but I wasn't able to afford it. I've also heard a lot of horror stories from ppl with Lasik, like they lose significant night vision & such. A little scary.

  9. Oh, darn it. I think my intended meaning was lost a bit, and maybe I should clarify. My thought was that maybe precisely because you do reside in California, and have been to a lot of the larger cities, you generally see people who are more fashion conscious, and who do strive more to conform to mainstream beauty ideals. I cannot argue that the stereotypes about bespectacled women are not favorable, but I think that maybe this is an area where there is a bigger than usual gap between the ideal and the reality. In the same way that women in say, Los Angeles might conform more to the ideal of a sexy barbie doll type, maybe women in less metropolitan or more casual areas are more likely to wear their glasses out and about. Or maybe I am just assuming that you fashion bloggers are generally such a fabulous lot that you must be surrounded by only the most glamorous types of people all the time. :)

    Also, I love that you take the time to respond to comments on your blog. I look forward to your every post, and it's wonderful to have an opportunity to interact with someone I so admire.

  10. I am definitely talking of what's most common, bec. that's what is the problem, that's what causes the stereotype. I'm sure there are always people & communities who disagree with the prevailing norm. But most ppl live in that norm & have to deal with it everyday. Just like dealing with stereotypes about size & color & such (tho' I fully admit, glasses is not on the level of importance of those :-). I just wanted to voice my lifelong frustration about the stereotypes associated with women wearing glasses.

    Thanks for your comments, I really do appreciate it!

  11. It is posts like this that make this blog such a pleasure to read. While I don't wear glasses, I share similar frustrations (with being a short, curvy Latina). Especially the short part. I appreciate hearing your perspective on glasses and, while I know it is but a small voice in a cacophony of naysayers, there are those of us out there that find stylish glasses to be very sexy. I really enjoy how fun, stylish, smart, and thoughtful your blog is.

  12. I feel you. My astigmatism is well on the way to being uncorrectable with contacts - every year my optometrist has to try new brands to find ones that work. I try on an average of three kinds before we can put in an order. He is very patient.

    I had really thick glasses from junior high on, and I had to use thick plastic frames. I wasn't able to get the "invisible" frames until someone invented a lighter lens material - and even then the lenses popped out all the time.

    I have some bimonthly contacts that work really well, now. I don't remember the brand, but I could look when I get home if you're interested.

  13. My BIL keeps telling me I should get LASIK, it's so awesome, but then tells me how he was in severe pain from dry eyes for two years afterward. But it's been great since that stopped! Umm, no thanks.

  14. Good luck! I hope you can get them. I wear square black rectangle frames, but I admit I only wear them all day when I'm out of contacts. I will also admit that I feel a bit "less Goth" when I wear them, altho' I like to joke that it's because vampires don't need glasses.
    Also I think it's a bit amusing when I go to the optometrist and they have all these pictures of glamorous models who you know wouldn't be caught dead in glasses if they didn't have to sell them.

  15. Anon guest comment is from me ^_^

  16. Oh yes, thick glasses & astigmatism, I hear you!

  17. LOL those "glamor shots" at the optometrist are hilarious :)

  18. I wear my glasses every day. My prescription is now more comfortable in glasses than in contact lenses. I never thought of my glasses making me look less attractive or fashionable. I will be 49 this year so maybe I have just grown past the age when wearing them seems less than cute. I did not have to wear glasses though until my mid twenties so I missed the lovely childhood experience of being bullied for wearing glasses. Plenty of other things were used to bully me but not that.
    I wish you success on your quest to not have to wear them all the time. I think those things that are not quite how we want them to be can be some of the most unhappy to deal with. No one else may notice what we do but we certainly notice it.


    In all seriousness. I also am not able to wear contacts. I have a lazy eye which is worse when I'm not wearing my specs, contacts or no. I recently found a photoset of my face on Tumblr that has over 200 notes on it, many of which were via blogs featuring nerd porn and 'sexy geeks'...so because I wear glasses I'm stuck with the sexy geek label? A naughty secretary or teacher? I hate it. I do lovely eye makeup and glasses hide it. Going out to a bar I have to wear my specs or deal with a wandering eye and not being able to see very well. I've been asked to do pro photo shoots before, but have turned them down because the camera catches out my stupid eye and makes it hella obvious when not wearing my glasses.

    Nerd and geeks being sexy? Please. I was picked on for my sight impairment and now it's cool?

    If there was ONE thing about my appearance that I could change, it would be that. I'm glad I'm not the only one that feels that way and I really hope you can get some contacts that work for you!

  20. OMG, the nerd porn & such kills me! It's limiting, it's a big ol' cliche, & for other ppl to pin it on you is just so rude! And yeah, that glasses are sexy? To about 1% of the population, huh. Fight the power, sista!

  21. Oh yes, you missed those so-influential childhood years, luckily. Glasses are like the frosting on the cake of things mean kids can pick on others for.

  22. With a kid in the hospital, I got way behind on my blog-reading, but your post resonated with me. I am legally blind with a ridiculous astigmatism - but I don't look nearly as good as you do in glasses. I've always worn contacts, but none have every fully corrected my astigmatism. So I've been wearing reading glasses for a decade, and actually have a lot of fun buying really cool ones. I do have bifocals and wow is the world blindingly clear, but I hate the frames. I plan to buy another pair, but am sticking to my contacts/reading glasses combo for the public :) I hope you find contacts that work for you.

  23. Sorry this is so late (catching up on my blog readin'), but for the past ten years, I've chosen my glasses over contacts. Even though I'm perfectly fine to wear contacts (wore them all throughout high school, no prob), I feel like my face is so boring without them! Every single time I put my contacts in, it's like, blahhhhhhh. Boring face. Of course, I wear heavy black frames, bright purple frames, electric blue, etc. It's like a fun everyday accessory for your peepers.

    Anyway, my point is, don't feel bad, OWN them things, girl! Get you a pair of bright burgundy frames-- you look fantastic in burgundy. (Unless they're already burgundy; I can't tell from the pic *squint*). Blackened purple. Smokey black. Black/white stripes/swirls. Whatever you want! Glasses got hella-stylish over the past ten years-- I love it!