I Won't Apologise for Hating: The Glasses Shopping Edition
I love shopping. I have shopped for eight hours straight without stopping to pee. I can crack the shopping centre labyrinth faster than Alan Turing. I even have recurring dreams where I am randomly plucked from a talk show audience and tasked to spend $1000 in a minute at Target. Shopping is my cardio.
Shopping for glasses is different. I hate glasses shopping, specifically of the optical variety. I am totally accepting of the drinking vessel. I am short sighted and have an astigmatism in my eye, which my optometrist assured me is 100% normal. She also suggested I wear prescription sunglasses inside to protect my retinas.
I didn’t always wear glasses, they first entered my life when I was 11-years-old. The revelation that I was partially blind unfolded in the most Australian of settings – at a football game. Unable to read the scoreboard, I was forced to ask my dad to recite the scores repeatedly. Next thing you know I was ushered to the optometrist a week later and with it my appearance transformed. I went from being a normal looking 11-year-old to a precocious-glasses-wearing-11-year-old who should be cast in a film detailing the life of Mensa’s youngest member. I was so excited by my new face accessory I successfully forced my parents to buy me detachable clip-on sunglasses. Even then I knew protecting my retinas was very important.
There was a time I really enjoyed shopping for glasses.
Every year I would cash in on that health insurance optical rebate faster than a tornado engulfing a city. I eventually ditched the wire frames and clip-on sunglasses for a thicker plastic rectangular pair that had a blue to green ombre gradient. This combination when paired with my blue eyes made me look like an awkward adolescent exotic bird.
I hit my stride at 15. It was 2004, and after seeing a few too many Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese movies, discovering Tina Fey and listening to Lisa Loeb on repeat, it became plainly obvious to me that to be successful in life I needed a pair of thick rimmed oversized glasses immediately. I cashed in that rebate again, this time with a pair of modest black plastic square frames. Embossed on the left arm were the letters ‘FCUK’. Rearrange one letter and that’s a school suspension. The tactfully placed C meant I could wear these to school everyday, it ruled. Everyone wanted to try them on, which ruled a bit less.
University eventually descended and I upgraded to a slightly more sophisticated thicker frame, this time tortoise shell. These were the type of glasses that said ‘Even though I only have 12 uni contact hours a week and spend half of that time debating whether it is actually two or three classes you can skip to maintain the 80% attendance rate, I consider myself a Rhodes Scholar academic with these frames.’ No matter how haunting my HECS debt is now, it is also a constant reminder of how worth it was to spend all of my money on those IQ enhancer frames at the time.
Then came my first break up. Heartbreak needs only one cure and that is a new look. Most people usually segue into reinvention by cutting their hair and reading the first three chapters of a self-help book. I opted for new glasses instead. I may have lost a boyfriend, but in the process gained a thick pair of emerald green glasses that I have now been going steady with for eight years. Over time these frames have proven to be a blessing and a curse as I have deemed them irreplaceable.
This is where my glasses retrospective stops. I have plateaued, unable to find a suitable successor since purchasing these frames in 2007. I had such high hopes of adding a new pair to my collection each year until I would one day have a drawer full of glasses for every occasion. A functional pair for the kitchen with a demister lens so my glasses don’t fog up every time I opened the oven door, a malleable pair that would collapse into shape when I accidentally fell asleep with them on, and even a pair of repurposed cinema 3D glasses with a prescription lens that would eradicate my need to wear 3D glasses over my normal glasses in public. Instead I am battling an optical standoff with my face because trying to shop for the next pair is fruitless.
Glasses shopping is basically buying underwear for your face. It should be done in private and alone.
When walking into an optometrist I try to be covert as if I am a celebrity ordering Starbucks, instead I enter The Blind Person’s Colosseum. I am feeble prey, and the worst part is I actually can’t see who is coming to get me. I go unnoticed at first, which lulls me into a false sense of security. My alleged invisibility gives me the confidence to reach out and try on my first pair of glasses. I try on another pair nonchalantly, which is actually a bigger spectacle than I would hope. I can't see at all when trying on a pair of glasses that I am forced to essentially make out with the mirror to see what the frames actually look like on my face. Despite this minor setback, I internally start making a shortlist for second round try-ons.
Just when I think after a near decade long search I have finally found my match, unsolicited opinions are hurled my way like confetti at an Italian wedding: ‘Those? They are too big for your face. How about these? Try them on. Don’t worry I will not give up on you.’ Begrudgingly I try on the pair this stranger who I have known for a mere 20 seconds has selected for me. I kindly reject them, but more glasses are summoned bewitchingly.
The sales assistant speaks to me candidly like we are old friends, ‘Wow, you have a very petite nasal bridge. Your astigmatism is only noticeable to me. Your eyes are seriously blue, they remind me of an Enya song.’ My vision readjusting with every pair of glasses I obediently try on and take off, I start feeling queezy as if my eyes have been pulled out my sockets and played with in a competitive game of marbles ‘for keeps’. It is around about this time I consider my options: laser eye surgery, binocular bling or invest in a Golden Retriever. Then I look over to the shelf where my battered eight-year-old glasses are lopsidedly resting. I put them back on and feel like me. I quickly inspect the size of my nasal bridge in the mirror before making a beeline for the exit, and for that I won’t apologise.
Illustration by Alice Oehr.