I was in the 4th grade when I was told I needed glasses. I barely understood what I was walking into but I walked out with a death sentence.
Odds of Being Cool Now: Zero
I’m not sure if there were simply no stylish glasses to be found in the late 80’s-90’s or if a side effect to being basically poor was that we couldn’t afford anything that didn’t make me feel like a total dweeb but I know that my gawky phase began basically that day, at least from my perspective.
Sometime in high school I decided that I wanted to be cool and that ditching the glasses was the only way to go about it. For a few weeks I shoved them into a pocket or purse and walked around in a blurry world where I couldn’t read the menus at Subway and I had to ask my friends if guys were cute or not – not a dating tactic I recommend, btw.
I’ve gotten over it. And glasses have gotten cuter. Frankly, I don’t like how I look without glasses anymore – they’ve become a mandatory accessory to every outfit and I’m at peace with it. I can read all the menus and I know my husband is cute. Life is good.
My husband was in a lecture at college, sitting in the back row. He leaned over one day and grumbled to the person next to him that it would be super if the professor would focus the projector so everyone could see what was being projected. No surprise here, right? The person next to him said, “It’s totally in focus. You need glasses.”
An eye exam later and he was blown away – people can see individual LEAVES on trees? What?? He felt like Super Man with Super Vision and hasn’t looked back. No middle school memories of inferiority involved – glasses were not a big deal to him, just an excellent tool that he’s grateful to have.
This was what we found ourselves talking about on the drive home from our vacation. At some point I commented that MM’s time was probably coming if he got his vision from me. He’ll be starting 4th grade in the fall. Dan started quizzing him on reading license plates on the cars in front of us and was less than impressed with the results. I pointed out that the test wasn’t really all that indicative as moving vehicles were involved but signed him up for an eye exam anyway. I happen to work at an optometrist / glasses retailer after all – I have connections.
The next day he went in for an exam and I couldn’t help but relate as he nervously questioned all the things going on. “Why are we here?” “I can see fine!” “I don’t want to wear glasses.” My heart hurt but I told him not to worry and that everything would be fine.
After the auto refraction, I could see the writing on the wall. His measurements were already on par with his fathers – not horrible but not great. Then in the exam room he mentioned casually, “I can see fine in class – as long as I’m not in the back of the room. But don’t worry, we rotate every few months and right now I’m in the middle!” He saw this as definitive proof that he didn’t need glasses but a) it’s a small classroom and b) he could be moved to the back at any time and c) the autorefractor doesn’t lie. The kid needs glasses.
After dilation, we started to browse glasses. He was still vocally on the fence. He didn’t need them. He didn’t want them. He didn’t like how they looked. I kicked into sales mode and asked him all the things I’d ask anyone about glasses. I showed him plastic and metal frames. He begrudingly agreed that he’d rather have plastic. I found frames that fit his nose pretty well that were in colors he liked.
I sat him at a desk with six pairs and had him try them all on – which ones do you like the most? Which ones do you hate? What do you like about the ones you like? Eventually we had it narrowed down. I complimented him incessantly – you look great! Those are so cute! My coworkers rallied around us and threw in their compliments and opinions, too. We took pictures so he could see himself in glasses in pictures. We sent a picture of his favorite (above) to Dan who called back and agreed they were GREAT and to get them.
Somewhere along the process, MM started to come around a bit. He was faking the smile in the picture above but by the time he left he was mostly okay with the situation. I will admit – I’m nervous, too. Will the kids at school make fun of him? Probably some for sure. Will he be sensitive about it? Will he even wear them at all? How long until he breaks them? Or loses them? I know my son – I didn’t hesitate to buy that warranty – I’d have bought it anyway but for him I’d have bought two warranties if it helped. He, the absent minded professor.
But I also know that wearing glasses today is so different from when I was a kid. It’s almost cool now – lots of kids wear them, there are lots of cool styles and lots of kids wish they needed glasses because they come in so many cool styles – my daughter included. Maybe the teasing will be minimal. Maybe this won’t be a cool kid death sentence. Maybe it doesn’t matter either way.
My husband talked to him for awhile that night – he told him about that college class years ago and how much he LOVED wearing glasses because of how much better he could see. He made sure to talk up the fact that he didn’t think he needed them either until he saw what they could do for him. We assured MM that this was going to be a good thing and I think he’s starting to believe us.
It’s a rite of passage and it’s kind of scary but it doesn’t have to be a death sentence anymore. We’ve come a long way. And MM’s got an engineer and an optical salesperson on his side. And a store full of cool glasses.