I Can See Clearly Now

Here's lookin' at you, kids.

I got my first pair of glasses at the age of eight, the price of being a precocious bookworm. The frames were made of red plastic with a brick design. I thought they were really cool.

At the time I was blithely innocent of the social repercussions that came with wearing spectacles. I’d never heard the then-popular maxim “boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses,” and even if I had, I doubt that I’d have understood the term “passes.”

By the time I was sophisticated enough to understand the complex cultural and social stigmas surrounding the wearing of glasses I was mature enough to realize that boys had problems of their own, and my glasses had nothing to do it.

Still, like many a socially awkward child, I took comfort from stories of the ugly duckling genre. Once you start to recognize the signals, you see Cinderella everywhere. And being someone with an overactive imagination, it was a short hop to the candy shop to convince myself that one day I too would fling off my glasses and dazzle the multitude. Or as least Dennis Crawford in the sixth grade.

I don’t know what became of Dennis, but for me life changed focus once I learned to wear contact lenses. This was back in the pioneering days of contacts, in the early ’60s, when many people were skeptical about the concept of putting a small piece of plastic on your eyeball. There weren’t any soft contacts. It was hardball or nothing.

Determined as I was to lose my duck feathers, I endured the discomfort and terror of the process. And lo, on the first day of high school I was able to walk into a classroom incognito. Suddenly I understood why Superman could fly. All he had to do was take off the damned glasses.

And for a while, I flew. Serenely soaring above the crowds I enjoyed a brief period of self-confidence that taught me a lot about the power of illusions and personal myth-making. Football players asked me out on dates. Guys who had looked right through me the year before started staring at me. It was a strangely empowering sensation.

But, like so many strangely empowering sensations, it wore off, and I found myself preferring the company of my old friends: my books.

These days, in the peculiar way of all fashion, glasses, once the trademark signifiers of the uncool, have become a trendy fashion accessory. Kids wear them unabashedly, movie stars sport them to underscore their intellectual appeal, people who don’t even need glasses wear them to add panache.

If only I had those red brick specs now.

2 thoughts on “I Can See Clearly Now”

  1. I just wish I were empowered with the ability to tell a story as well as you do. Loved it and cannot wait to read the entire book, Not From Around Here.

  2. I hope I wasn’t one of the guys who ever looked right through you. At a time in my life when there was nothing more important to me than my closest friends, you were in the inner circle….before and after contacts. Great picture! May you stay forever young.

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