I bought new eyeglasses this week - my first pair in almost seven years - and I must say, they're so stylish, I might actually wear them in public.
Generally, I use glasses only for late-night TV viewing, after removing my contact lenses for the day. I like the comfort and convenience of the disposable soft lenses, and since my vision insurance covers just a small portion of the cost, and only for one or the other, I've chosen contacts over glasses every year, for the past couple of decades. A year's supply costs half as much as a good pair of glasses. Of course, I have to admit, vanity plays as large a role as economy in my decision.
Boys don't make passes at girls who wear glasses. I remember that old saying from grammar school days, when I wasn't even sure what a pass was, nor did I care. Back then, I thought of glasses as a cool fashion accessory. In the 5th grade, several girls wore glasses regularly, and I was envious of their pearly white cat-eye frames. Glamour gals of the 1960s, like Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn, wore cat-eyes, and I wanted a pair too. But, alas, my vision was 20/20.
Several years later, another old saying came into play: Be careful what you wish for. After vision tests at school, my parents were advised to take me to an ophthalmologist for further exams, and I received a prescription for my first pair of glasses. Cat eyes were no longer cool. I left Dr. Tofukuji's office with a pair of gold wire-rimmed granny glasses, or, as we called them, hippie glasses. Mine were not round like John Lennon's, but rectangular like Roger McGuinn's.
By the time I was in high school, in the early 1970s, granny glasses were no longer fashionable. I decided I preferred looking good to seeing well, and I started carrying my glasses in my purse rather than on my nose. Fortunately, my eyesight wasn't all that bad, and I could get by without them, except when driving.
As a young adult, I discovered that wearing the right pair of glasses could project an image of credibility, and so I began using them in the workplace. I had giant bug-eyed, tortoise-shell frames, very Jackie O. Later, I went to the other extreme, rimless spectacles that made me look more studious than stylish.
Eventually, my vision diminished enough to require correction all the time, and I went through several pairs of glasses, updating the style and increasing the lens strength every couple of years. But I never found a pair that suited me completely. So I pushed myself past the lifelong fear of sticking a foreign object in my eye, and tried contact lenses for the first time. I never looked back.
My late husband, also a victim of vanity, refused to get his eyes checked, even when it became obvious that the excellent vision he'd enjoyed throughout his life was deteriorating with age. He started using those over-the-counter magnifying glasses - "cheaters," he called them - but only at home, and only for reading. Finally, when he had to resort to using a magnifying glass on top of his maximum strength cheaters, he gave in and went to see my eye doctor. He ended up loving his aviator-style bifocals and wore them daily during the last year of his life.
When I was a child, one of my uncles maintained that he didn't need glasses to read, as long as he held the newspaper at arm's length. As his nearsightedness increased, or maybe his arms got shorter, he resorted to putting the paper on the floor and standing over it to read. Now that I think about it, he was probably joking when he described that as his morning routine. Uncle Richard was always kidding around, and I do recall seeing him in glasses, the old-fashioned black-rimmed kind that reporters and accountants always wore in old movies.
My new glasses have copper rims and a tasteful display of bling on the earpieces. OK, maybe tasteful isn't an accurate description. But I like them. And I'm told they're very much in style. Apparently, nerdy is the new hip. Sexy, even. Look at Tina Fey, Anne Hathaway, Jenny McCarthy, Johnny Depp. You can't tell me guys don't make passes at them.
Yes, Johnny Depp, too. I wish I looked as good in my specs as he does in his. And, you know, he probably does get hit on by more men than I do, with or without glasses.
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is email@example.com.