Enjoy this essay from fellow accessory-hunter, Amy Braziller!
A New Accessory
I wanted to blame it on Piers Plowman, Sir Gawain, and Sir Thomas Malory. After all, their wordy Middle English texts demanded lingering, careful study, and an attention to detail that challenged my thirty-year-old eyes. When the massive pile of books grew into weekends of ten-plus-hour daily reading marathons, I could no longer ignore the red splotches that dotted the whites of my eyes.
For thirty years, I could race my way through eye charts, smug with my powers to recite their bottom line without squinting, delighted in my ability to proclaim I possessed twenty-twenty vision. Unlike my sister, I did not suffer the youthful shame of looking nerdy before it proved cool to be a geek, did not worry about swimming into someone’s legs while in a public pool, and did not imagine a life where my two eyes doubled into four.
A fashionable flair...
Armed with my prescription for reading glasses (I still could proclaim twenty-twenty vision for distant sight), I headed off to Cohen’s Fashion Optical, determined that my first pair of glasses would accessorize with a fashionable flair. Overwhelmed by the choices of frames and prices, I decided on a simple pair of black oval-shaped frames suitable for an edgy intellect. For my three years of graduate school, these glasses shielded my eyes, leaving the whites free of red fatigue. Once the marathon reading dwindled into a daily newspaper and weekly book, I returned to a life free from the frame.
I kept the eyeglasses away until my forties intruded, and the bloodshot strain of my eyes returned, unwelcomed. Not only had reading books become difficult, but now even the slightly larger print in magazines and newspapers caused squinting; reading became a carefully orchestrated dance of my arms slowly distancing the page from my face until I had reached just the right arm length to barely read the words.
Once deciphering the numbers in the crossword puzzle added an unnecessary challenge to the Sunday New York Times puzzIe, I surrendered to the optometrist and the fact that aging and glasses were going to be an ongoing part of my reading history. I considered that a lifetime of reading glasses might not be especially problematic; after all, I welcomed the opportunity to change my look depending upon the attitude I wanted to portray. The problems revolved around purses, packing, and a plethora of unmarked reading glasses in a variety of strengths.
Finding reading a challenge…
I have never carried purses, firmly believing these oversized containers of hidden contents just didn’t suit the image of an intellectual dyke, worried they would send the wrong signal to potential dates on the street. Most of the time, I did not need glasses outside of the house, so a lack of a purse proved manageable. But, when my reading glasses went from 1.0 to 1.25 to 1.50 to 2.00, I found reading a menu a challenge. I am much too obsessed with food and options in restaurants to rely on ordering based on a bits of a dinner entrée I could read; I wanted to read every morsel of description, knowing whether the sauce held fennel, orange, or leeks.
When the weather required a coat, I had an instant purse, pockets big enough to hold my reading glasses. Even when the weather only hinted at the need for a jacket, I would carry it as my camouflaged purse. Eventually, though, summer would arrive and I needed to find a solution. Army surplus stores held the answer; the green canvas bags did not scream femme and happily could hold my glasses, along with room for a wallet, pen, and journal.
For every occasion…
Now that I was no longer plagued by how to carry my glasses, I found myself with a new eyeglass affliction—multiple pairs for various occasions. When I packed for a cold cloudy climate, I only needed one pair of reading glasses. Going to the sunny beach, though, proved more cumbersome; I now needed sunglasses, reading sunglasses, and reading glasses. And most recently, I added another to the mix—computer reading glasses.
Littered about the house are all these glasses. My 50+-year-old eyes use 1.00 for the computer, 1.50 for outdoor reading, and 2.00 for indoor reading. These eyeglasses do not possess little tags announcing their strength, so I am forced to rely on memory of their looks, knowing that the yellow and black framed ones are for indoor reading and the multicolored 50s vintage are for outdoor reading. And yes, I’ve heard of bifocals and progressive lenses, and yes, I did try, but after staring at the tilted computer screen through them, I decided that less is not best and I would proudly carry all my variety of glasses for travel, fill random drawers with various strengths, and acknowledge that a pair of glasses should permanently affix itself in the kitchen.
I am now the woman whose glasses fall more and more toward the edge of my nose when I give speeches, screaming I am aging. And for now, when I need to move between reading and seeing, I sport them atop my head, unable to bring myself to attaching them to a lanyard, at least not until I find that perfectly vintage loud screaming eyeglass chain.
Thanks, Amy! But I don’t think we’ll ever be “free of the frame” again!