Some Comments on the Spectacle of Cheap Eyeglasses
Atoms and antagonists abound!
By Ed Goldman
I used to compliment people on their eyeglasses. It was a throwback to my childhood when some kids were forced to wear them and, for the most part, weren’t happy about it. It was an easy way for me to make someone feel less self-conscious, no doubt in the hope they would then grow up to be wealthy, remember my kindness and send me a lovely gift, like a Jaguar XKE with wire wheels or a vacation home in Baraboo, Wisconsin (the fabled “Circus City,” owing to its being the home of the actual Ringling Brothers. No idea where Barnum and Bailey hailed from and I really don’t care).
When I got my first pair of glasses, in the seventh grade, I received no such graciousness from my peers—possibly because I never wore them except at home and then only to watch cartoons, the watching of which had become, overnight, a religious experience. This is because my vision had become so bad that I could never discern the outline of the drawings. It bugged me because at the time, I envisioned I’d grow up to become a cartoonist, albeit the first semi-blind one. But now that I could see the drawings with crystalline clarity, nothing could stop me from growing up to be a celebrated cartoonist, except a notable lack of drawing ability.
The only drawback about my new super-vision was that I could no longer see atoms. My late brother Stuart, who was to become a successful engineer and entrepreneur, had once told me what atoms were and how they were everywhere. Because of my yet-to-be-treated myopia, I always saw dots in the distance. I suppose I might have used that condition to become a pointillist like Georges Seurat—whose great painting, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,” became the basis of a Stephen Sondheim musical—but, as we learned two paragraphs back, I had a notable lack of drawing ability.
When I finally braved the foreseen brickbats and catcalls and actually put on my glasses at school—to watch a slide show on sexual intercourse taught by my gym teacher, Mr. Gillies, which seemed to focus less on men and women than flora and feisty vines—no one uttered a word about it. At first, I credited the slide show with distracting everyone from commenting on my situation (I think I secretly wished to be called “Four Eyes”). But later that afternoon, I chanced to put them on in geography class and turned to my then-crush, Carla, and asked her, “How do I look with glasses?” Carla, who didn’t share the enthusiasm for me that I had for her, then said three memorable things:
(1) “I thought you always wore them.”
(2) “You know, you look more like a Humphrey than an Ed.”
(3) “In fact, I think when you go to college, you should actually change your name to Humphrey.”
This incident made me realize at an early age, and long before I could get self-conscious while working out in a gym, that almost no one pays that much attention to everyone else.
I always did, however—and I continued to tell people I liked their glasses.
Then we all switched to being far-sighted, either because of the aging process or, in my case, cataract surgery. People don’t wear prescription glasses as much anymore, at least in my ever-diminishing circle of friends (which I’d like to also blame on the aging process but I think a lot of them just wised up). These days, you can buy a half-dozen pair of “cheaters” at Rite-Aid for less than what it would set you back for a visit to an optometrist, ophthalmologist or under-indictment shaman.
And while I still get thanked for my compliments, what the recipients really want to tell me is where they bought their decidedly non-designer specs, what it cost and what they saved. They’ve become unpaid shills for the manufacturers—as are all of us who wear apparel with the designer’s name, logo or both on display.
Here’s the biggest disappointment I’ve yet to come to terms with after all these year of wearing glasses. In my youth, a commonly used dodge to avoid getting into a fight was to say, “You can’t hit me, I have glasses on.” I tried this once on a schoolyard bully named Greg, whose response, “Sure I can,” was the last thing I heard before falling backward over a low hedge, propelled by Greg’s formidable fist.
I was in pain but mainly embarrassed. Enough to consider changing my name to Humphrey.
A Weekly Blog by Virginia Varela
President and CEO, Golden Pacific Bank
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