I picked up my new pair of glasses today. The fitting is where I find out that the friendly team at the optician’s office has convinced me that I look fabulous….wearing what now appear to be Groucho Marx glasses. I can see that my white fortysomething friends are all wearing the same style. They must have a special collection for middle-aged white ladies called Delusional. We’re old, we’re pale, we’re overweight, but glasses that give us a Frida Kahlo unibrow might just help.
I’ve worn glasses since the 1st grade and they’re critical to my existence. I suffered through tortoise shell framed circles of submarine glass, 1980’s plate glass that covered half my face, wire frames, plastic frames, blue, red and green frames, not to mention flip down and clip on sunglasses (almost too cool to mention). When I select frames, it’s a crap shoot. I see a big, blurry face with the vague outline of glasses. I have to rely on the optician and wandering office staff to tell me what looks good. This year, looking like a 1950’s accountant is apparently hip.
The idea that the things we wear and own are an expression of self always strikes me as being very strange. The comedian, Jim Gaffigan, talks about glasses in his standup routine. When the optician asks him what he wants his glasses to say about him, he says “How bout I got a big one?” It’s an amazing marketing ploy, convincing us that our choices can completely relay to others our sense of style and self and um…virility. If true, my glasses and clothes speak the truth: I can’t really tell what’s attractive on me and I don’t care enough to try beyond an initial effort. Sales people and hair cutters and opticians designed my look. And they weren’t working as a team.
What I find attractive and appealing has changed so much over the years. I don’t know if it’s the magic of rationalization or the wisdom of age. My standards of beauty now sound like standards for the Westminster dog show – bright eyes, a lustrous coat, good teeth, a bounce in the step. It’s not sexy, flash-in-the-pan beauty – it’s thoughtful, longlasting beauty. It’s the kind of beauty that radiates from being engaged, from laughing a lot, from introspection and being comfortable with choices made. Eyebrow pluckers and chronic dieters everywhere might suggest that I’ve given up. There’s a ring of truth to that. It’s exhausting trying to meet someone else’s definition of beauty. Even when they pick out your glasses, style your hair and choose your clothes.