I don’t recall struggling to see the chalkboard in class, but my teacher told my parents she saw me squinting. To be fair, my dislike of being in the splash zone drove me to the back of the classroom, from where I eagerly pumped my hand into the air to offer the answers, but also had to squint to make out the teacher’s treacherousness handwriting.
That wasn’t enough for Teacher (or perhaps she sought revenge on me for making a comment about her chalkmanship), who took it upon herself to tell my parents that I needed to see an eye doctor. Naturally, they listened, and so my journey as a Four-Eyes began.
I was excited at first, for some reason. Hey, it was something new, even if it was socially devastating. We spent hours choosing frames after the eye doctor decided that my vision could use some enhancement. My first pair of glasses was a charming tortoiseshell that actually brought out my eyes.
My peers didn’t think so. Apparently, Southern kids have perfect hair, skin, and eyes, and indeed many of my classmates were never afflicted by the acne, gangly limbs, and poofy that the universe promised. Meanwhile, I slowly became uglier, as my blonde hair turned brown, my knees knobby, and my teeth crooked. Now I had glasses to boot. Add in a bad haircut and braces, and I was that stereotypical awkward girl from the cartoons. I wanted to be a Daphne — but I was Velma, and no one even appreciated my smarts.
And so I became … Four-Eyes, which sounds like a badass superhero name but is actually an insult for some reason. I always found the name stupid. It bothered me much more than kids couldn’t seem to look past appearances. That’s when I first learned how superficial people can be. I began to imagine my glasses as a floating wall in front of me that apparently blocked out my good features (poofy hair and braces aside).
One day, I grew sick of it and I took off the glasses. I was shocked to discover that I could barely see without them. What had happened? For years, I blamed the glasses for making me dependent upon them. I recently learned that glasses do not actually worsen your vision as part of some Big Optics scam to grab your money — although I’m not entirely convinced. Perhaps I was bound to become blinder as I aged. Either way, I haven’t been without glasses or contacts for more than 20 years.
I outgrew the glasses as my peers outgrew their namecalling. I still haven’t gotten a pair of cat-eye frames, as I mostly wear contact lenses, but I keep my old blue glasses close at hand. My prescription hasn’t changed, so Ol’ Blues have been one of the few reliable things in my life, as clothes faded, lovers went away, and jobs changed. I reach for them first thing in the morning, sometimes even before looking at my partner.
Sometimes, that thing that was a source of misery becomes a source of comfort. It happened with Brussels sprouts, it happened with olives, and it happened with glasses. That’s growing up, I suppose.