Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.
Or so said Dorothy Parker. I have to confess, I’m not sure I agree with the Constant Reader on this one (although her observation that ‘women and elephants never forget’ is spot on). My glasses have, on occasion, been known to bring all the boys to the yard – much to my surprise, it should be added. It might just be the case that I’m especially attractive to visual impairment fetishists, or perhaps I appeal to men repressing their lust for Roy Orbison and Jarvis Cocker. Either way, this latest phase in my bespectacled life is a welcome change to the years of myopic teenage sturm und drang, in which glasses were the enemy of all things dear to a 14-year-old girl’s heart – Getting A Boyfriend, Looking Vaguely Cool, and Not Getting My Face Kicked In After School. So fiery was my passionate hatred for glasses, that I very often refused to put them on to watch TV in the privacy of my own bedroom. As such, it wasn’t until Season 4 of Buffy that I realised Giles was actually the Nescafe Gold Blend man; having watched virtually all previous episodes through the haze of an unmodified -2.75 prescription.
These days, however, my glasses and I have reconciled our differences and started getting along. We can often be seen out and about in public together, and I have even introduced the glasses to my friends. It’s been a long and arduous process, almost derailed permanently by a long infatuation with a charming set of contact lenses from the age of 16. Lenses, while removing the difficult choice between not wanting to be seen in glasses, and not wanting to be unable to see, only delayed the point at which I accepted my bespectacled identity. A variety of unfortunate experiments with ‘face furniture’ failed to yield an aesthetically pleasing result – from the vile, pink-flecked ‘My First Glasses’ forced upon me at the age of 11, to the oval green monstrosities I had originally picked in the vain hope of making my eyes appear bigger. For a long time, lenses seemed like the only secure bulwark against a life of perpetual virginity, crochet and cheap pot pourri. At university, glasses were only to be donned in extreme emergencies, such as a fire drill, painful stye, or 3am run to the all-night Tesco (for Peanut Butter Kit-Kat Chunkies, tzatziki and gin. Don’t judge me!).
Then, recently, I had a Moment. This Moment can best be described as the bastard offspring of an epiphany and a zeitgeist but, as ‘Epiphageist’ sounds like a kind of enzyme, and ‘Zeitany’ like a Swiss ski-resort, I’ll stick with calling it a Moment. This Moment began with the purchase of a pair of glasses – the pair I’m wearing as I write this – that embodied everything that was cool. These were the glasses of Serge Gainsbourg, of philosophy students mooching around the Sorbonne, and of Holly Golightly. These were Hot Nerd glasses. ‘Brilliant!’ I thought. ‘These glasses make a variety of cultural references that are both hip and relevant to the way in which I want to present myself publicly!’ (Clearly, I did not think that exact sentence. but you get the idea). So there I was, convinced that not only had I found a pair I liked, but I had also found a pair that would mark me out as unique, quirky and perhaps even a local trendsetter.
Then came The Moment: Part II. I donned the glasses when they arrived, and headed straight for a university seminar, fully expecting to shock and amaze everyone with my ocular panache. I walked into the room… and cringed as I realised that at least a third of the other students and lecturers were not only wearing glasses, they were wearing MY glasses, give or take a small variation here and there. A third of the room’s occupants wearing thick, 1960s-style Hot Nerd glasses! The horror! For a few moments, I panicked, entertaining wild thoughts of obtaining a lorgnette or a series of outlandish monocles to stay ahead of the curve. Then, as I remembered where I was, I relaxed. Of course there would be a concentration of Hot Nerds here! I should point out, it was a seminar in Art History, a subject which comprises an exceptionally large demographic of insecure, bookish hipsters. The people in this room lived their lives between obscure East End galleries (sorry, ‘spaces’) and the British Library. Of course we would all be short-sighted, and all looking to fix that in the most culturally hip, visually arresting way. From panic that I had unwittingly tagged on to the coat tails of some long-established, soon-to-be-dead trend, I realised that my glasses really were considered cool. Granted, plenty of people probably still regard them as essential ‘Shoreditch Twat’ wear but, as I virtually never go to Shoreditch and its environs, I tell myself that I’m channeling Anna Karina when I wear them.
So much for the Moment. All of a sudden, I felt comfortable wearing glasses in public. When I wear them, I feel like they help to confirm an identity. It’s a screaming stereotype, but they do connote intelligence. They’re also a kind of social armour – when I put them on, it’s tantamount to wearing a t-shirt with the slogan ‘I Am Very Clever And Important, Do Not F**k With Me.’ That said, there are also caveats. They may inspire confidence in my abilities, and I don’t think I look too bad in them from an aesthetic point of view, but contact lenses are still my first choice if I want to look ‘pretty’. Given that the desire to look pretty is associated with wanting to look a little accessibly feminine, maybe even vulnerable, it’s not surprising that the glasses – the armour – have to go. I’ll never completely forgo lenses. All the same, I feel a lot happier with the way I look, and much more comfortable with myself personally, compared to how I felt as the quintessentially awkward teenager. Perhaps it’s that, rather than any particular trend or aesthetic quality, that has prompted some men to make passes at this girl in glasses.