Saturday, September 8, 2012

Oculus Reparo: How Breaking My Glasses Opened My Eyes

It happened in an instant, and my heart sank. I didn't even have a chance to say goodbye.

After three years with these particular frames, I stepped on my glasses, and they will never be fixed. I have been a four-eyed-freak for ten years now, and in that time I have worn four different sets of spectacles, not a single one needing a repair. September 7, 2012 is a dark day in my eyewear history. Here's how it went down:

I was getting ready for the day when I heard what sounded like a hippo karaoke contest coming from the ceiling. My upstairs neighbors are consistently crazy loud, as in, the bathroom literally shakes sometimes when they are doing whatever it is they do up there. We've politely let them know, but nothing has changed. In addition to that frustration, our super, who is the person who normally fields these concerns, is NEVER around. I went to go knock on his door, which only confirmed what I already knew. In that irritating moment, I decided to go ahead and call the building manager. I made a b-line for my phone and in that focused process, I heard something crack beneath my feet. I had left my glasses on the floor earlier when I was doing my makeup. The hinge had snapped and the left side had been severed.

So obviously this is the fault of our upstairs neighbors/our super. Not mine, right?

Wrong. It's my fault, and I can say that now, but in my initial anger, it was anything but my own fault. As I began to realize what had just happened to my most cherished accessory, I really did go through a kind of quasi-grieving process. The most recognizable stage was Denial. I kept putting the broken piece back where it should go as though it would just realize that it belonged there. I wished so badly that Hermione Granger would come over to say, "Oculus Reparo!", but she never did.

I rushed them to the glasses hospital (Flatbush Optical) where they gave me the tragic news: the damage done to my spectacles could not be undone. I had them explain it to me about eight times, and each time, it became more and more real. I will never wear these glasses again.

Taken the first day I wore my now-deceased frames.

Taking away my glasses is, for me, much like taking out one of my eyeballs. They are so much a part of my physical appearance that even I struggle to recognize myself without them. More than that, though, I realize that my glasses have been the physical representation of how I want to be perceived.

I caught myself saying it when I was sorting through my feelings aloud:

"Now people will have to actually talk to me to realize I'm smart!" 

Wow. You're thinking, what an opposite-of-smart thing to say.

I know...

The thing is, I could probably have done my life without glasses. Things would have been slightly fuzzy, and I might have needed to walk up to street signs to read them, but my vision was not really that bad when I first got glasses. It's the wearing of the glasses that I believe has slowly destroyed my vision.

8th grade was the first time I ever got an eye exam, and I remember the optometrist was like, "I mean, I guess you could wear glasses..." I walked into school that day and a boy in my social studies class told me I looked like a beautiful scientist. And he was right. From that day forward, glasses and I were an item.

I don't have any pictures of my first pair, but these are my second pair of glasses, worn throughout most of high school.

I know what you are thinking...

Person who does not need glasses that badly + Glasses = Hipster. 

That's fair, but consider for a moment the context for my first pair of frames. I began my glasses journey during a confusing time in our American history. A few years before I started wearing them, Rachael Leigh Cook had to take off her glasses in the movie She's All That for the world to discover that she was truly beautiful. On the other hand, Daria was sporting large, animated, Carrie Donovanesque frames like an absolute pro. 

My third pair of glasses, worn through my freshman year of college. Also pictured: a makeshift headlamp and overly-plucked eyebrows.

So while I would not say I thought glasses would make me look cool, I knew that they would make me look smart. It's still not even entirely clear to me why that is. What scientific study shows a definitive link between vision problems and brilliance? If intelligence is any measure of the brain's health, wouldn't we also expect an intelligent person to have a stellar occipital lobe? Who started this glasses-makes-you-smarter nonsense?

Regardless, since I began wearing glasses under this shallow reasoning, breaking my glasses for the first time has been kind of an eye-opening experience (pun so very much intended). While my worries are different in my twenties than they were in my teens, the way I am perceived is still pretty high up on my list. When I think about why that is, it becomes clear to me that starting a career is a lot like being in middle school. You begin at the bottom rung and you'd give anything to be up there with the executives (the metaphorical popular kids). When we talk about kids trying to fit in, we often call it an "identity" problem, but in the workplace it's been recently termed an issue of "branding". Whatever. It's the same thing, and my glasses are a huge part of my brand. It's the exact same thing as having a Lisa Frank backpack. Middle school and entry-level jobs -- same thing. 

Now that I've come to this realization, you're probably wondering if I'm going to stop wearing glasses. The answer is NO. WAY. They are more a part of me than this lesson that I learned, plus they keep me from having crazy eyes.

Glasses keep eyes like this from scaring your children.

The woman at Flatbush Optical said we could use the lenses for my next pair. It's kind of like organ donation for eyewear: the death of my glasses could mean another pair's life.

I understand that most of you, despite learning a valuable lesson about identity, are still grieving the loss of my glasses. Please accept this final picture that I took the day before I tragically destroyed them as well as this music video of Sarah McLachlan's "I Will Remember You". 

Little did I know that this weird baby doll face would go down in history.


  1. I think the reason glasses are associated with intelligence is because people who are smart read all the time, even when maybe it's too dark to read, which hurts their eyes which makes them wear glasses... although now that decision doesn't seem all that smart...

  2. Witty and Witty and Witty! Sounds just like my girl. The pics, followed up by the accompanying Sarah McLachlan song ended up with a tear in my eye and very much missing my youngest. Love, Mom

  3. if that doesn't work, the old lenses in new glasses, you can always try out warby parker. $95 for a pair of hipster glasses and they have a soho showroom where you can try them all on! i love them, but then again, i'm a hipster. also i've been wearing glasses for 20 years so i'm sort of an expert.

    1. Oh girl! I am also a self-identified hipster (because it's better to be the hipster who knows it than the hipster who doesn't). My sister told me about Warby Parker, but I didn't know they had a soho showroom! I am going!

  4. It’s too bad that you had to part with your glasses that way. Though I guess it was a good thing that the lenses survived, at the very least. Anyway, I hope that you’re making new memories with your new glasses, and that you won’t have to experience that heart-breaking moment again. Take care!

    Doris Gibbs @ Moody Eyes


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