Recently, our great niece celebrated her tenth birthday. She’s the only youngster in our small family, so we celebrated with cake and ice cream, a balloon that sang “Happy Birthday” when you punched it, and lots of presents for the birthday girl. Among the gifts she received were two pairs of faux glasses. She was thrilled.
My husband and I were left scratching our heads, even after my sister-in-law, the birthday-girl’s grandmother, explained that wearing glasses when you don’t need them is the latest fad at the local elementary school. Now, this being Maine, our fads run a little behind the rest of the country. A bit of research online didn’t turn up much on a current passion for fake glasses, but it did reveal that the idea of eyeglasses as a fashion accessory appears to have originated a few years back in Asia. Then assorted recognizable athletes started wearing frames with clear (or no) lenses. Oversized glasses with no lenses turn up in online images, and so do regular glasses with plain glass in them. There are lots of places to buy clear-lens glasses online, for as little as eight dollars. Some are called “fashion glasses” and even “fashion glasses for kids.” There are even a couple of videos on YouTube that turn up under that last topic. The selling point seems to be that the glasses call attention to the eyes and make the person wearing them look “more attractive,” “better,” and “more complete.”
How times have changed!
The term “nerd” and the accompanying image of a kid in glasses held together with adhesive tape dates from the 1950s. I don’t ever remember being called a nerd as a kid, although by the time I turned ten, in 1957, I was already wearing glasses to correct nearsightedness. This was most definitely not a fashion statement. The kids lucky enough to have 20/20 vision called those of us who were less fortunate “four eyes.” Another popular taunt was the sing-song chant that went “boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses.” By the time I was in tenth grade, peer pressure had me wearing contact lenses instead.
That said, I didn’t fully realize how pervasive the bias against wearing glasses must have been in those days until I started looking through old scrapbooks in search of a photo or two to add to this post. Out of all the pictures my father took of me as a kid, and he took a lot of them because he was an avid amateur photographer and had a full darkroom in our basement, I could only find two in which I’m wearing my glasses. Why? Because my mother was always right there, reminding me to take them off before he clicked the shutter.
I have no idea if this is significant or not, but I abandoned the contact lenses and went back to wearing glasses at the same time I got serious about a career as a writer. It wasn’t a matter of fashion. Far from it. I opted for less fuss and more comfort in a variety of other ways as well: I gave up wearing shoes whenever possible, in favor of socks or bare feet; and I traded in all my bras for nice soft, unrestrictive camisoles.