I have a long history with glasses and my vision. Ups and downs. Ebbs and flows.
When I was a kid (I’m talking grade one) I had a bit of a lazy eye. As a result I had to get glasses. They were clear plastic: the lower half with a tinge of pink and the upper half a tinge of blue. Nerd glasses. I needed them for reading/looking-up-close purposes and because I was a little kid, the doctor (and likely my parents) decided I wouldn’t be responsible enough to know when to put them on for these occasions so… these wonderful glasses had bifocals. Meaning I was meant to wear them all the time. They were basically granny glasses and I hated them and they embarrassed me. During that time, I remember my parents specifically asking my friends if I had been wearing my glasses at school. The friend would look at me quizzically, I would look back with a disinterested shrug, doing my best to play it cool. Because they were kids and young enough to
believe know that you should can never lie to parents belonging to other people, they would come clean and say a simple NO. No, Jessica (or Jessi as I was known then) did not wear her glasses at school. If I had the words back then, I would likely have muttered aloud: Sonofabitch. Instead I shrunk inside and decided to write off said “friend” as no more. So the glasses fight was a big thing when I was a kid. I hated them. I thought that I looked like a nerd in them. I was all around uncomfortable both with the glasses and with the idea of them and therefore with myself.
A few years later when I was old enough to get proper reading glasses, and ditch those bifocal child-size granny glasses, I was a little more open to them. Eventually as high school hit, I stopped using them all together and somehow, despite my glasses war, that lazy eye corrected itself, mas o menos. More or less.
Then a few years later while going to University, I started having troubles seeing the front of the classroom. It was never that blurry but it was enough that I started to get a little concerned. I mean, I am a photographer. One of the most basic things of being one is being able to see. (But this is only ONE basic aspect. I recently photographed a photographer who is legally blind and he is more talented than a lot of photographers that I know. So there is that. He is also a Syrian refugee now living in Canada. The moral of that story is that you simply are not doing enough with your life.) So I got glasses, this time for the opposite of what I had them for in my childhood. I would wear them while in a lecture to see the slideshow up front. I would wear them while driving. But otherwise, I didn’t think much of it. I didn’t wear them while photographing because I hated the way they made me feel disconnected between myself and my camera and between myself and the happenings. I got used to things being a bit fuzzy. Dreamlike and I kind of liked it. But then I realised that I wasn’t able to make eye contact with my assistant from across the room (hand signals only go so far) so I started wearing them more frequently. They became my disguise. Like a costume. I still hated wearing them but I had finally succumbed to the idea that I had to. My eyes were evolving and I needed to keep up if I wanted to keep living this life.
A few years ago, I went to a new optometrist*. She told me that my eyes are likely changing because the amount of time that I sit at a computer editing and typing has increased and I’m using my eyes differently than I used to (thanks a lot, glowing rectangles). She upped my prescription forcing me to get new glasses. When I was browsing for new frames, I told the woman working that I hated wearing glasses to which she quietly replied “Well maybe if you got some cooler glasses, you would actually enjoy them.” Wait, what?! Mine weren’t cool? I had not even considered that. She helped me choose some classic dark tortoise-shell frames and I was good to go. I felt more reasonable as a human with these “cooler” glasses and I think that they looked alright. People seemed to take me more seriously – or maybe that was just my perception.
Two years ago as my wedding date was coming up, the idea of 1) wearing said glasses at the wedding made me cringe and 2) the idea of not wearing glasses and therefore not truly experiencing all of that day made me cringe. So I opted for the next step: contacts. At this point, I was finally willing to admit that whenever I left my home, I needed a little vision help to make that excursion a good one. So back to the optometrist and a lesson in putting those contacts in. A different woman helped me this time around and as an introduction to the lesson she smoothly said “Don’t worry, us ladies never have an issue with putting them in since we are so used to doing our eye makeup.” Over a half hour later when I was still struggling with the process of popping those suckers onto my eyeballs, I know that she was regretting that initial statement. Two years later, I still struggle
always occasionally sometimes with my contacts but once I started wearing them, a whole new world opened up for me. I could see everything without having a barrier on my face. I could workout and take photographs without my dumb glasses fogging up (I get hot when I am working hard!). I could go from cold to hot climates and again, no fogging! I felt more confident and approachable and just all around good about myself. About life. About the world (when it’s so crisp and clear, man, things seem awesome!). I would still wear my glasses on days when I knew I wouldn’t be out of the house for long. Or if I wanted to appear smarter (I always wear them when I photograph lawyers, I believe that lawyers love glasses). But contacts became my thing. In fact, it was only last week when my younger sister realised I had been rocking them for the past couple of years.
So last week we went in for our biennial eye check-up. My prescription had changed slightly so I decided it was time to get some new frames. And new ones, did I get. I decided to step it up from the usual and chose a gold pair and since then, the compliments have not stopped. It’s funny and embarrassing to me. The frames are a lot thinner than my other ones and as a result, I feel like there is less of a barrier between me and the outside world. Wearing them, I still feel connected. I feel that others see me and that is a glorious thing.
There’s this thing that when something has always been a part of your life, you kind of forget that it isn’t a regular thing for others. Much like freckles (and that’s a whole other blog post). Last night I sat at a bar and a girl started talking to me, naturally complimenting me on my new glasses (Ha!). She then went on to tell me how she had always wanted glasses but she has perfect vision so has no need for them. She told me that in high school she used to steal her Mom’s glasses and wear them. Her Mom would get mad at her stating that she would “ruin her vision” to which she would think “Exactly! Then I will need to get glasses!” Hearing this story blew me away. Something that had basically embarrassed me for my entire life, that I saw as a weakness, was something that this girl craved. Maybe I didn’t look like that nerd that I thought I was all of those years. Maybe.
I have always associated glasses with being a nerd. I do not know where that idea came from. I have family members who have always worn glasses, as much as I have ones who never have (well, until they hit 40 years old and then we all know what happens then). One of the things that I have realised as an adult – and especially as I photograph hundreds of young families and watch my nieces and nephew grow – is that really, truly all kids are nerds. All of them. There’s no getting around it. What they like. What they say. What they do. Little nerdlingers. And that’s okay because they are all in it together. And as adults, we are all in it together. This world. This thing called life. And with that, who cares how you look. Does it really matter? Is someone really going to like you or not because you may need a little help with some glass over your eyes to see their face better? Likely not. What matters is how you feel. How you treat other people. How you stand for yourself in this vast world. Those are things that actually matter. Where your time should actually be spent. Not fussing over being another four-eyes. So for now, I am in love with my new Ray-Bans (keep the compliments coming) and after thirty years of having some assistance with my vision, I am fully willing to embrace it.
*I wanted to mention that I cannot recommend our optometrist enough. Dr. Heeney and everyone that works at Spadina Optometry are the most loveliest of people. They will even email you photos of your eyes – I mean, how cool is that?! (And I am not even getting anything from saying this! I just really appreciate good people and good service.)