By Anna Popnikolova

The day I realized that glasses had made my life significantly different, if not more difficult, from my non-glasses-wearing acquaintances, was the day I carried a tripod down a flight of stairs, wearing my mask and obviously, my glasses. Tripods are hard enough to carry on their own. They’re too long and are great at hitting against walls by accident and are easy to trip on. In addition, as anyone who wears prescription glasses these days knows, masks are really good at fogging glasses. That day, my glasses fogged up to the point where all I could see in front of me was a blank sheet of white, and that…that is not great when you are trying to get down the stairs in a relatively short amount of time, while carrying a tripod, with people walking behind you. It was a moment of panic, of terror. I would either fall, trip on the tripod and tumble down the stairs like a Doc-Martened humpty-dumpty, or I would break the tripod by hitting it against something and then have to pay for the equipment. Of course, I would also completely embarrass myself, but honestly, that was always a given, and the least of my concerns.

I ended up simply taking off my glasses. I struggled down the fuzzy stairs and made my way back to my filmmaking class to the best of my blurry ability.

I realize that someone who sees perfectly fine without correctional aids on their face will never be placed in this situation. They will never be called names because of their glasses, they will never have to ask their friends to wipe their glasses because their own clothes don’t have the right fabric. 

They will never know the pain of leaving the house when it is raining and having to look through smudged kaleidoscope lenses until you wipe the water away, only for the raindrops to cover the glass yet again. 

Leaving your glasses on the sink before taking a shower, putting them back on when you get out, and having to wait two-three minutes before you can see, because they need to adjust to the temperature and humidity of the bathroom, and then the world outside the bathroom.

And, of course, everyone’s favorite “I can’t find my glasses” paradox, where you need your glasses in the morning, but can’t see them because you are not wearing them. You need your glasses to see your glasses. I usually search and squint for a good three minutes before I can make out anything resembling my frames.

Speaking of frames, any glasses wearer is all too familiar with the anxiety-inducing process that is picking new frames.

I recently got an eye exam. You know, as you do every year. My prescription had to be changed, which meant new lenses, which meant I was getting new frames because I’d been wearing my old frames for two years, and I needed a change. 

I wandered around after my exam at the eye doctor and tried on a few new frames. Other than the fact that it was really stressful and oddly embarrassing to take off my glasses and put new ones on with other people watching, I also didn’t really know what I wanted. And new frames are a big decision and a big commitment. They also cost a lot, so whatever I pick, I’m usually stuck with for a good year and a half, at least.

I recently started liking the idea of gold wireframes. They look cool and hippie when the models on Pinterest wear them, and really seem to fit the vibe I want. But, I also learned from social media at some point that thicker, dark frames make you look smarter, and that’s always good. Pros and cons, you know? 

So, after spending upwards of four hours with my mom, scrolling through various glasses frame websites, and downloading a bunch of those apps that let you virtually try the frames on from your camera, I ended up choosing a pair of gold wireframes. 

When my glasses arrived in the mail after two weeks of anticipation, I was really excited. It was like Christmas. I was ready to toss my old purple-black glasses with their scratched lenses and brow-concealing form into the trash, and completely reinvent my entire personality with these glasses. I would be cool. I would be hip and fun and aesthetic and I would be amazing. It would be like I was a completely new person. 

I soon realized that I’d spent four hours of my life stressing out over frames, wondering what I would look like, then sitting anxiously waiting for two weeks— only for the second I put them on, my dad to tell me I look like John Lennon.

Despite everything, though, I still think they look really cool, and I wear them whenever I go out in public. They have the vibe I was going for, and I still consider them a good decision. Expensive glasses frame disaster averted. 

My mom also got me a pair of blue plastic frames— a decision that I did not agree with at the time of purchase, but am now immensely thankful for. Why? 

Because I realized, after a few hours of happily wearing my new gold glasses, that wire-rims are really uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time. They hurt behind my ears and left me with two red spots on the bridge of my nose—sure, they didn’t slide down, but at what price? 

I was grateful for my mother’s foresight and felt great relief at wearing my plastic frames—comfort. They didn’t look as cool, so I created my own glasses-wearing system. I wore my uncomfortable wire glasses in public, and my barely-there, light-as-a-feather plastic glasses at home. Problem. Solved.

And yet I, the problem-solver that I am, with the assistance of my mother who is the brains behind all the solutions I like to take credit for, I realize that I still am at a great disadvantage, being a glasses-wearer. 

I can recall at least three instances where I have had to hold my breath or breathe in very short, shallow breaths when wearing a mask, riding in someone’s car, to avoid opaque lenses and 10 minutes of blindness. 

I now wear two masks whenever I leave the house, not out of worries of catching COVID (even though that is definitely present), but to avoid fogging my glasses. So, on top of painful frames hurting behind my ears, I also have to wear two masks to make sure I can actually see through the lenses which were bought to help me see. Needless to say, my ears are in pain every time I go out.

It’s not like I have a choice, though. Sometimes, I just have to grit my teeth through the ear pain and the cloudy lenses and being called “Four Eyes”—because at least I can see things, right? At least I can read things that are a few feet away from me. At least I can see people’s faces. At least there are people who will ask to try my glasses on—I can’t decide if that’s irritating or enough attention-granting that I like it— and say “wow, you really are blind.” I feel a small sense of pride when a stranger or random classmate validates my vision impairment to the point where they are impressed at my inability to see things. It makes me feel as though my seeing-deficiency is superior to their seeing-ability. 

And while I am at a disadvantage with the fact that I would not be able to function like a normal person in society without magnifying glasses on my eyes, I am sometimes thankful for my horrible vision. People automatically assume that I’m smart. I like to think that there are people who see my new gold wire-rimmed glasses and think they are cool, even if they don’t say it out loud. 

I hope that there is a small child out there somewhere who wonders why they cannot see the letters on the whiteboard well, and why things look so unfocused and blurred all the time—I hope that child can someday pick out a pair of frames that make them as happy and maybe slightly pained, as my gold wire-rimmed glasses make me; and I hope that child can come to terms with their social disadvantages as a glasses-wearer, just as I have.

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