I’m in the mood to open a can of worms today, so here we go.
I spent the morning at my local eye doctor/eye glasses shop, getting an exam and picking out new frames. It was painless process this time around, which was a pleasant surprise. Picking new glasses frames is the ultimate fashion choice since your glasses are the one thing you’ll always be wearing no matter what (well, except in the pool or in bed), so the choice can be a daunting one. This time, I only deliberated for around twenty minutes, a personal best. It didn’t seem like a big deal.
I remember a time when it was a huge deal because I was hugely self-conscious about my glasses. This was partly teenage and young adult appearance angst, but the outside world gave me no help whatsoever. I lost count of the number of times I was wearing contacts to perform in a show and some well-meaning but horribly insensitive person told me how much better I looked without glasses or passed along some inane comment about how it was too bad I usually hid my eyes. Please note at the time I had no choice whatsoever about wearing the glasses: contacts irritated my eyes so badly I’d be popping them in and out of my bright red eyes all day long, and this was before Lasik was available.
It was worse in college when one of my best friends told me how much better I’d look without them to “desensitize” me from other people’s rude comments. Or when another “friend” said I could never rate above average in appearance because the glasses took away so many beauty points. Or later on, when I was a young twenty-something dating and men would, and I kid you not, reach over and *take off* my glasses, without even asking, before commenting on my beauty. A few years ago, I even had a massage therapist, while performing what was supposed to be a relaxing massage, tell me that I should really consider ditching the glasses because I looked so good without them. Um, backhanded compliment much?
I’m telling you this not to whinge about my past trauma but to make a point: that as a woman, I was constantly bombarded by messages, from individuals as well as from the media, telling me that I could not look beautiful if I wore glasses. The very best I could hope for was a “sexy librarian” sort of look, which, after being subjected to years of being blasted by peoples’ negative opinions about glasses, honestly didn’t make this girl jump up and down for joy.
Since the idea of beauty is socially constructed, maybe these messages were, in their way, correct . Maybe I can never be beautiful in the way that everyone wanted me to be. (And here’s another question: why did so many people seem so invested in me looking a certain way, anyway?) But I don’t buy this imposed estrangement between me and beauty. Today, even though I have more choices (better, more comfortable contact lenses, possibility of corrective eye surgery), I wear my glasses without self-consciousness. They are a part of who I am. Personally, I think I’m just as beautiful with or without some stylish plastic on my face, in the same way that I’m just as intelligent either way. And people making random negative comments on my appearance are not only incorrect, but also rude and therefore do not deserve my attention.
So the next time you find yourself about to comment on how a woman’s glasses affect her beauty, try to see past how you think she’s “supposed” to look and appreciate instead how she does look. Maybe even notice how her eyeglasses enhance her natural features. All of us bespectacled women will love you for it.