The Non-Expert

Image credit Al Quaglieri

Attractive With Glasses

Experts answer what they know. The Non-Expert answers anything. This week we counsels a reader on the beauty of frames.

Have a question? Need some advice? Ignored by everyone else? Send us your questions via email. The Non-Expert handles all subjects and is updated on Fridays, and is written by a member of The Morning News staff.


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Question: I am a student at Truman State University, and I have recently discovered that there are at least two guys here who wear thick-rimmed glasses with no prescription lenses. Glasses like the ones that the politically conscious, Whole Foods, smoke cigarettes, talk-philosophy-when-they-don’t-know-shit indie hipster kids wear. Aside from that fact, one of them seems like a decent guy and we have many mutual friends. How do I tell him he’s stupid without pissing off him and/or mutual friends? Sincerely, Dwayne

Answer: Glasses, I’ll have you know, rock.

I didn’t know that when my mother dragged my 10-year-old self out of the house to the optician. I screamed and cried and said, “I don’t want to wear glasses! I’d rather be blind!” Little brat.

But shortly thereafter I was a glasses wearer, and have remained a glasses wearer ever since, and I’m convinced that my life would have been very different had I not been a glasses wearer. My glassesness is part of my character now; people give me odd looks, raise their eyebrows, and ask curious questions if I’ve not got specs on. In short, I look odd without them. Ask anyone.

Glasses do not have a reputation for being hip. Just ask the makers of movies and TV shows; any character in glasses is either Ugly, or Secretly Beautiful But Hiding This Fact. No one has ever declared affection for me because of the frames pinching my nose, or the lenses that gently caress passing light, bending it so that one eye looks ever so slightly smaller than the other.

They do say, “We’d like to feature you in our email newsletter, Attractive with Glasses.” [He’s not joking—ed.]

Sister publication to Suave in Pants and Sophisticated with a Hat, Attractive with Glasses found some rant of mine on some web page and thought it worthy of wider dissemination. Someone asked, “but are you?” and I emailed her a photo of myself. She sent no reply. But still: attractive. With glasses.

I love these metal things on my face. I don’t want to be dependent on tiny bits of plastic pushed against my eyeballs.Conversely, no-one’s ever slighted me for my specs either. When I was single, no one ever said, “Tssch, I don’t do men with glasses.” They always had much better excuses.

At school, my glasses became a tool. Not just for seeing, but for convincing teachers that I was listening. When the teacher asked the class a question and I didn’t know the answer—but wanted to give the appearance that I did—I’d carefully remove my glasses and clean them with a soft lint cloth. Throughout, I’d maintain eye contact with the teacher—or at least with the blurry mass where the teacher’s face had been a moment previously—and my expression and my actions would be deliberately designed to convey an impression of “Well I do know the answer, and I would put my hand up to show that, but I can’t right now because I’m too busy cleaning my specs.” It was my own little Jedi mind trick, and it worked every time.

Some years ago, a friend of mine married an optician. He offered me free eye tests and cheap frames, and frequently tried to convince me to switch to contact lenses.

“You’ll be free of these metal things on your face,” he declared. “Free. Imagine that.”

I imagined it, and I hated it. I love these metal things on my face, I told him. I don’t want to be dependent on tiny bits of plastic pushed against my eyeballs. I don’t want to be forever making sure that I have sufficient stocks of chemical crap for soaking. And I especially don’t want to be pushing plastic bits against my eyeballs after they’ve been soaking in chemicals.

“Look,” I said to my friend’s husband, and to anyone else who’s ever mentioned contact lenses to me, “could I do this if I wore contacts?” At which point I plucked the specs off my face with my hand and waved them in the air.

“See? Eyesight off—”

then I put them straight back on again.

“—and eyesight on!”

I pulled them on and off, on and off, over and over. Can’t do that with contacts. You’d need a sink, a bottle of chemical crap, and at least 20 minutes. And eyeballs of steel.

He has seen people like me and he wants to emulate us. And get this: we never thought anyone would want to do that.“Sod that,” I summarized in traditional London fashion.

Years later still, he finally convinced me to come to the shop and try a pair of contacts. I couldn’t get them in myself, so great was the urge NOT TO POKE MYSELF IN THE EYE. So he poked my eyes for me, and finally the contacts were in and my eyes were red with anguish and tears were rolling down my cheeks. I said, “I hate this.”

He nodded. Pausing to poke me in the eyes one final time to remove the plastic disks, he admitted ultimate defeat and has never brought up the subject again. For which I remain grateful.

So though it’s true that in any other universe, I’d be agreeing with you that your Truman State friend with the indie hipster specs is a complete idiot and needs telling of this fact (gently, over a beer in a quiet corner of the bar on a rainy afternoon) so that he can ease himself away from them with a soft crunch of plastic underfoot, in this universe I cannot.

Instead you should make every effort to praise his fashion sense. He has seen people like me, people who wear specs because we need to and because we want to and because we’re proud, and he wants to emulate us. And get this: we never thought anyone would want to do that.

So let him. He can emulate me as long as he likes, and I’ll bask in it. He, too, can enjoy the unique perspective you get from being attractive with glasses.

Your friend will enjoy his status for a period, perhaps for years. Eventually, though, it will seem an old trend and a tired homage, and you and your mutual friends will be wondering when he’ll finally cave in and take the things off and admit it was all a mistake. He’ll peel them off one night and question his appearance in front of a mirror. He’ll wonder where all the attraction went. Then he’ll peer closer, and closer still, and screw his eyes up a little bit tighter, and it’ll hit him hard: the homage is over, because now he needs glasses just to see how beautiful he used to think he was.

The attraction, fading a little. Not for all of us, mind you. Not for all of us.