Welcome to the Professartorial feature of my website! Every now and then, I'll post about my fashion journey when it comes to my classroom attire, my "stage-wear" for poetry readings, the evolution of my accessories collection, and other fun stuff. Today I want to talk about eyeglasses, y'all.
For years, I had just one pair of glasses. My first frames were sturdy plastic, in such a specific gradient of light blue-fading-to-clear that I instinctively shudder when I encounter it to this day. The lens shape was the kind of soft, grandmotherly oblong designed to complement sparse brows, crow's feet, and kicky pantsuits. Except I was twelve, and these were the glasses my parents could afford with their vision plan from work.
Can we talk about the 90s, please? It was a dark time. No Warby Parker. No ability to photoshop different pairs of glasses onto your face before purchasing. No way to crowdsource your friends' reactions to various lens shapes. You just drove your team of oxen down to the optician's shoppe (yes, back then we added BOTH "p" and "e" to the word shop, high five) and tried not to stare too long at the walls and walls of designer frames arranged like hard candies on angled shelves.
But you still noticed: in the cool depths of the shoppe, a clerk palmed a feather-light pair of wire frames and then--like a wizard--wrapped one of the earpieces around his index finger, to demonstrate to another customer how the wires would never break, never lose their shape, no matter how ungainly the head. With such glasses, a chubby, near-sighted tween like myself could have a hope of disappearing at school, the spectacles somehow imparting invisibility like a rainfall of clear lasers that would obscure everything from the crown of my frizzy hair to the last molecule of my clown-sized saddle oxfords.
But such frames weren't covered by The Vision Plan. Those frames, the only ones allowable, were on a single, rotating countertop rack: four sides, two of them full of men's smoke-brown aviators. My mother and I would deliberate over the remainder. Inevitably, there would be a pair of red plastic frames. Inevitably, my mother would exclaim that, if I chose these, I would look "just like Sally Jesse!" (another dark aspect of the 90s--ask your grandparents, kids). Inevitably, I would choose the least objectionable pair of glasses I could find, while acquiescing to my mother's insistence that the lenses be large enough to include my eyebrows in the frame.
[NB: At this time in my life, I also had a unibrow, now magnified approximately 1000x by the unrelenting vastness of my eyewear.]
Years passed. As a young adult, I gradually found: a) brow waxing services, and b) employment gainful enough to include a Vision Plan of my very own. Still, I limited my selections to the Designated Countertop Rack (DCR). As soon as I found a pair of wire frames that fit my face, I made them last for multiple prescriptions, replacing only the lenses every few years. I moved to Europe in those frames. I wept at the Trevi Fountain in those frames. I wrote my first book of poems in those frames, the plastic nose-pads customizing deep grooves in my skin as empires rose and fell.
Then, I got a real job with a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), the program that allows you to set aside money to spend on out-of-pocket medical costs...like corrective eyewear. Since then, I've purchased a new pair of glasses almost every year, and I have no idea where the DCR is at my optician's place because the whole shoppe is mine to explore. Above are a few photos of me wearing my favorite pairs of glasses, and one shot of me wearing contacts (another type of eyewear that's improved by leaps and bounds over the past two decades: comfortable daily wear contacts!). It's actually fun to wake up in the morning and decide how to decorate my eyeballs for the day. And as a professor, I find that Powerful Glasses help distinguish my role from the students'; I'm here to represent literature, poetry in particular. And folks: poetry looks GOOD from my perspective.