A Girl And Her Glasses: A Survival Story

Marilyn Monroe’s character in “How To Marry A Millionaire” was Pola Debevoise, a ditzy and dangerously nearsighted photographer’s model who refuses to wear her glasses. She spends most of the movie walking into walls, stumbling into things, misreading signs, boarding the wrong planes and such, all the while saying and believing that, “Men aren’t attentive to women who wear glasses.”

Maybe that is not exactly true in 2014, but it was true in 1961! Hmmmm. As a matter of fact, it was true all through the nineties as well.

* * *

Today it is acceptable, even fashionable for girls to wear glasses, but this was not always the case. Elementary school was particularly painful.

Before glasses, I was your typical perfect Catholic school girl, from my perfect pigtails to my penny loafers to my Beauty and the Beast lunch box. I didn’t know it though because let’s face it: kids are mean. Kids are truly and causelessly mean, so I always thought I was a freak. I was told my pigtails were “babyish” as early as kindergarten and no one would eat lunch with me! I only was invited to birthday parties if someone’s mom made them invite the whole class! I prayed for assigned seats everywhere~ at lunch, on buses, on field trips~ just so I wouldn’t have to sit alone!

Yet this story isn’t about kids being mean. It’s about how glasses can ruin your childhood.

As you can see, I was already tortured and made fun of endlessly for reasons I never understood, then on top of all the whoopee cushions and “Kick Me” signs, I had to wear glasses? GLASSES? Oh, the humiliation! The pain! The agony! I’d have endured braces happily, but my glasses were like a brand telling the whole world I had (gasp!) bad vision! I was so ashamed! Pair after pair, I refused to wear them! And refused! And refused!

Yet I wore my rapidly deteriorating eyesight like a scarlet letter.

* * *

My war with my eyes began in second grade, when teachers noticed I was having trouble seeing the blackboard. I went to the eye doctor and sure enough, I got stuck with this hideous pair of pastel colored circus frames that my mom picked out. Nasty. I refused to wear them some of the time, which eventually turned into all the time. By fifth grade, I needed new ones again because naturally my vision had worsened. I got a pair of blue and tan dappled ones, again my mother picked them out and they were NOT cute. I decided I didn’t really need them and refused to wear them period, though at this point it was like a kid hobbling around with a broken leg and refusing to use crutches. No one understood why I never wanted to go to school, I was miserable. Over time I even forgot what it was like to see clearly, I know this because in eighth grade something magical happened!

I went to the eye doctor again! And picked out a new pair of frames!

I still remember the moment the lady handed them to me, she said: “Try them and look at me, though most people say *I* look better before they put theirs on.”

I don’t exactly know what I was expecting as I put them on, but I was hardly prepared for what I saw! In fact, it’s worse than that because it wasn’t just suddenly seeing, it was realizing how long I had *not* been seeing! All at once, everything was clear to me, the whole world had a color and its own shape! A distinct outline! Unreal! What a gift this was! A treasure! All this beauty combined with all the sounds and smells I already knew? Electrifying! Wonka Vision meets Cinemescope! How come no one had told me there was so much beauty in the world?

Then I looked at the woman who had given them to me to thank her for healing a blind woman and I realized she had been right! She really had looked better before I put my peepers on! Until that moment, she had been only a blob with a voice, but now she was a plump middle aged blob with frizzy red hair, bad skin and crooked teeth!

Oh, no! Then what did *I* look like!?

I screamed for a mirror the way a burn victim must, when they want to see the extent of the damage! And yes. Seeing my reflection was like taking a bullet.

Boy! Had pre-adolescence done a number on me!

I’d gained forty pounds and no one had told me, I assume because everyone thought it’d be nicer to ignore it. My clothes were wrinkled and baggy (because nothing fit me and I hadn’t realized I’d been gaining weight) and I won’t even start on the ugly train wreck of gel and fluffy brown frizz that was my hair. Why was my hair brown? It was hard enough to come to terms with simply being a brunette, but that wasn’t even the worst of it! I could tell from six feet away that my skin dreadfully needed exfoliating and wait! Was that a UNIBROW!?


Relax, Brianne, I thought. This is just your Ugly Duckling phase, you’ve got the whole summer before high school starts.

I vowed I wasn’t taking it lying down! I knew deep down inside me that BRIANNE SLOAN was no fat brunette! I vowed to spend the summer working out like Chuck Norris on steroids, getting a new wardrobe and I fiercely swore I’d find a way to be blond again!

All that was the easy part. I could justify the new wardrobe to my mother (Miss “Oh-Wear-Something-You-Already-Have”) only (ONLY! ONLY! ONLY!) because I’d lost forty pounds. I also convinced her I needed my hair highlighted to go with all the new clothes. But the battle was not over, not by a long shot.

The woman still wouldn’t buy me contact lenses . . .

(to be continued . . .)

* * *

*AUTHOR’S NOTE*~ Mom, don’t get offended. This was written from the point of view of a child whose mother said she could “never have contacts under any circumstances” and always made her get glasses she didn’t like. You’ll just have to live with the guilt . . . I STILL HAVE WOUNDS!

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7 Responses to A Girl And Her Glasses: A Survival Story

  1. Els Coleman says:

    I had one inch thick glasses in kindergarten, I feel your pain!

    • Bri says:

      You poor thing! This started out being an article about how men in the twentieth century didn’t like girls in glasses, but in the twenty first they definitely do . . . why?

      Because of porn.

      But then all the old trauma came back.

  2. Els Coleman says:

    Porn and fantasies about their old school marms.

  3. Els Coleman says:

    I got contacts at 10 and during a family road trip my dad ended up knocking one of them out of my hand. Since he refused to buy a new one I went a year and a half wearing 1 contact.

    • Bri says:

      And Lisa Loeb. And Britney Spears. And Vicky Vale.

      But moms in the nineties made you get ugly, unforgivable ones, even when you wanted different ones. My mom did that up until I was 22 . . . and buying them myself.

    • Bri says:

      I did that too, but I had the disposable kind? My vision would even out with just one and I was just afraid I wouldn’t get new ones when I ran out.

      I took a pair of pliers to my glasses, but still your dad sounds worse than my mom. To be fair though, Mom said contacts used to be far more expensive than glasses. I don’t know if this is true.

  4. Els Coleman says:

    They cost about the same amount for me since my prescription was so high

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