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Ol’ Four Eyes Is Back

Always making me smile...

By the marvelous Ms. J.

I have a love-hate relationship with my glasses.  In my normal life, where I’ve worn them for almost six decades, I feel naked without them as they are as much a part of my face as my anatomical features are.  But when I go full-on Amanda, no chance.  You see, I’m old enough to remember the time when the ruling mantra was ‘people never make passes at girls who wear glasses’ and whilst I am most definitely not out to snare any guy I can get my hands on, there is, ahem, one guy who needs to like what he sees when he looks in the mirror.

And that should be the end of it.  But recently I’ve been subjected to encouragement and several positive comments about my glasses and it seems that the idea of me getting my femme on complete with glasses is perhaps not the horror story I feared and so, powerless in the face of the rising tide in the same way that King Canute was, time for a rethink.

As I’ve mentioned several times before here, my uncorrected eyesight is woeful.  I’m long sighted which means that I can just about focus on the horizon but anything closer becomes a blur.  And as I got older, things have got much worse.  About 20 years ago a conversation with my optician started with him going into a long monologue about the impact that advancing age had on the elasticity of the lens in the eye.  I was in no mood to be reminded that I was no longer in my prime so cut him off with a curt ‘so you’re telling me I need varifocals?’ which was met with an equally curt ‘Yes!’.

Varifocals are, of course, brilliant.  Reading strength at the bottom of the lens, distance at the top.  All very logical except for the risk of tripping over things which you can’t see on the floor in front of you because they fall into the field of view set aside on the lens for reading so are completely out of focus.  And, for a girl who loves her heels, that’s not ideal.  They’re also quite pricey, particularly as I need upgraded lenses to cope with the high strength requirement.

There’s a lot to be said for leaving the glasses off.  First of all, there really is no option when applying makeup (and before anyone helpfully suggests those nifty makeup glasses with one lens that swivels between the two eyes, they don’t make them anywhere near the strength that I need and, to make matters worse, my left eye needs a stronger lens than my right eye so even if I found some suitable for one eye, they’d be nigh on useless for the other!) and secondly the inability to focus on the results is a positive advantage when admiring the results of my labours in the mirror.  Glasses off, I look like Helen of Troy’s twin sister; glasses on and the full horror of smudged lipstick & eyeliner, wonky brows & lashes and inadequately blended foundation comes into devastatingly sharp focus.  If that isn’t good enough reason to leave the specs off, I don’t know what is.

But, of course, there’s a problem.

If I’m going to mingle with the hoi polloi in the real world, it does help to see where I’m going, particularly if I’m driving (and the ‘fun’ of driving en femme could fill a whole post by itself and perhaps, at some point in the future, it will).  Shopping also requires sharp vision, both to ensure that I’m buying foundation shade #43 Honey Beige and not #45 Orange and also to avoid having to blindly stab the numbers on the credit card machine in the hope that the sequence of buttons on which my fingers land matches my PIN.  Even a trip from the car park to the shops in the lift/elevator becomes problematic if I’m unable to read the floor numbers on the buttons.

And so I knew I had to do something.  First off, there was no way that ‘Amanda’ was going to wear her evil twin’s glasses.  I’ve already declared that, without glasses, I see Helen of Troy’s twin sister when I look in the mirror; with ‘his’ glasses, I just look like him wearing badly applied makeup and a dress.  So if I was going to break free from the ‘Magoo’ club (although I believe that Mr Magoo was short sighted, not long sighted like me), new specs were needed.

Now, walking into the local opticians in drab, marching up to an assistant and declaring ‘I need a pair of glasses to bring out the inner woman in all her glory’ is probably not going to end well, even if I remain there long enough for the assistant to stop laughing and compose herself again.  But, fortunately, we have online sellers these days which, in theory, streamlines the process and has the bonus of costing a lot less.

So I went online and after perusing what was on offer, realised that I could get two pairs for under £50 as long as I ditched the varifocals and just went for distance glasses which should be good enough for driving and putting money in the car park machines.  I found a couple of pairs that were unisex and nothing like my normal glasses and that’s when the ‘fun’ started.  First of all, my illusion that all I’d need to do would be to enter the details of my prescription and credit card details before awaiting the delivery of my new glasses was somewhat hopeful.  Fortunately, I’d placed the order in my legal name (I can no longer take the stress of hoping I can intercept packages addressed to ‘Ms A Johnson’ before Mrs A sees them) because shortly after I completed the order, I received an email asking for a scan of my prescription so at least I didn’t have to explain why the names on the order and prescription were different.  I suppose I could have doctored the prescription in Photoshop but they then needed a photograph of me holding a credit card above my eyes which, apparently, is used to judge where the optical centres of the lenses need to be and getting dolled up to perpetuate the fraud would have taken me into very murky territory.

And as if that wasn’t enough, I then got an email saying one of the frames I’d chosen was not suitable for my lenses as they are so thick.  By this stage, I was starting to regret the whole thing but just went for frames identical to the other pair albeit in a different colour and all was finally good.

A few days later, a package from ‘Glasses Direct’ arrived and I eagerly opened it up.  There’s something quite beautiful about a new pair of glasses, pristine lenses sparkling and devoid of the cocktail of contaminants that seems to build up at a faster rate than I am able to deal with.   That, sadly, is where I felt the good news stopped.

Firstly, the usual problems of seeing myself in sharp focus resurfaced but, I suppose, it was at least a wakeup call that if I was going to spread my wings in the outside world, I needed to take far more care with the makeup.  And secondly, it became apparent that whilst they were indeed suitable for driving, I still couldn’t read the lift buttons, pin pad on the card machine, labels on cosmetics and clothing or anything else where the print was less than half an inch tall.  So if I was going to go into the outside world, I’d need to pack my guy glasses too – back to square one in other words.

By now desperate for a solution, I came to the realisation that the only option left for me was to swallow my pride and find a pair that would suit both sides of my personality (I know that I could have chosen a separate female pair but one pair of varifocals with the premium lenses I need to keep the thickness is costly enough, never mind adding a second pair, even with the discounts that the second pair normally attracts).  As luck would have it, I needed a new pair anyway so went back onto Glasses Direct and after a bit of searching through the unisex styles found a pair that looked reasonable and ordered them.

I have to confess that, when they arrived, I was pretty happy with them and, indeed, so was Mrs A but both of our approvals were on the basis of what they looked like on male me.  Female me was still going to take a lot of convincing and the early signs were not good.  But, in the end, I realised that I had run out of options so I’d better get used to the idea.

I’m not normally one for taking photos.  Why ruin a good few hours of girl time firstly by faffing around with the camera and tripod to get some and secondly by feeling nauseous when examining the results?  But if I was going to accept the inevitable, I at least needed to know how bad the situation actually was so, when the opportunity arose, I took a few.  And in an even rasher move, I shared them with a few trusted online friends who fed back in a generally positive way.

And so, with more than a little trepidation, I’ll share one of said photos here.

Now, let’s get a few things straight.  ‘Amanda’ still hates the idea of wearing glasses and, despite all of my delusions, the reality of the situation is that Helen of Troy’s twin sister I most definitely am not (she had a face that launched 1000 ships, my face would more likely inspire the back end of 1000 buses).  But I have to accept that needs must and perhaps, given that a couple of the people I shared the photos with suggested that I looked like I could be an office manager, librarian or funeral home receptionist, bespectacled me may even convince onlookers that, despite me being blonde, there is something going on upstairs.

But that said, a bespectacled Amanda is still going to be the exception rather than the rule.  Seeing myself in glasses is still a stark reminder of what believes my glamorous (and deluded) exterior.  But that said, seeing myself in sharp focus was as good an incentive as any to up my game as far as makeup application is concerned and if there’s even the slightest chance of me being seen as an office manager or librarian (but ideally not a funeral home receptionist), who am I to complain?  Perhaps the time has come to bite the bullet and get myself a pair of ultra-feminine frames.

And, who knows, if it all goes well, maybe a future post will be entitled ‘The Joy of Specs’!


15 Responses

  1. HI Amanda – I’m beginning to wonder if you have a portal into my mind, as once again you have written about something I am considering. I too wear bifocals and have for a very long time. I have conceived my alter ego without them, which of course puts me at a disadvantage optically. My male specs will not do , altho I have donned them in order to do things like read a menu and of course drive. I know will need to rethink my presentation, especially as I venture out and about more and more. Reading your account and seeing how lovely you look wearing glasses shows me it can be done and fuels my initiative to do so. I just got a prescription change. The time is now, so thanks for the inspiration!

    1. Kris, sounds like you’ve rumbled me with the mind portal – we Brits have strange powers!

      I have an interesting relationship with my glasses and it sounds like you do too. I’ve worn them permanently from a very early age and they’re as much a part of my face as any of my naturally occurring facial features are. In my normal persona I think I look odd without them and yet, for a long time, when I crossed over to the other side, I felt I looked odd with them. My mention of the mantra ‘people never make passes that girls who wear glasses’ was only partly tongue in cheek because, when I was growing up in the 60s & 70s, that was very much the prevailing belief and I think that became very much ingrained in me. Nowadays, girls not only wear glasses willingly but they’re seen as much as a fashion statement as they are for their primary purpose to correct vision.

      And as I’m finally becoming able to come to terms with a bespectacled Amanda, I am starting to look far more positively at the prospect of choosing frames for ‘her’ in the same way that choosing clothes, shoes, hairstyles or lipstick shades excites me.

      And thank you for the compliment too!

  2. Amanda,
    Please believe me when I say walking into Specsavers or whatever in male mode and asking for female glasses is no big deal . I admit the young sales guy did hesitate for a moment but when I stood up to check out the display he realised I was serious . My near sight is worse but my distant sight has remained the same so the obvious answer is varifocals . I always have the two for one deals , I would never buy online because any defects or alterations are more easily corrected , saying that Specsavers have never let me down . At the moment i have an everyday pair which I need to use at my painting groups etc. and a second prettier, neater pair for dressy occasions . Ok I admit when the very rare occasion arises when I have to be grandpa I dust off a pair of my old male ones , mirrors are avoided at all costs because it’s like looking at an alien being !!! On that point I feel people are staring at me far more when I appear as HIM , I feel awkward and uncomfortable .

    Thankfully I don’t need to wear glasses when I’m out and about , call it vanity but I still feel I look better without but then when I slip them on people say , ” I love your glasses , you look great in them “. I do have some odd moments when I get back from supermarket shopping because I hadn’t bothered to dig my glasses out my handbag .

    I also use Specsavers for my hearing aids , that is actually trickier than glasses because they have to fit them around my wig but it’s never a problem they are professionals , they do it everyday of the week .

    Like most things we hesitate over once we’ve jumped that hurdle we never look back . I remember the first time I donated blood in a skirt , I thought everyone would stare but no one even noticed .

    1. Teresa, thank you for your thoughts. In the end, anyone we encounter has almost certainly seen it all before and we have nothing to fear. For me, it’s just a preference to keep the two sides of my life completely separate and, if I was going to choose feminine frames in person, I’d want to do it in my feminine persona – however, for medical issues, use of my feminine alias is not appropriate and I’d rather not give anyone the opportunity to match my two sides together, particularly when a written record may well be made.

      1. Amanda,
        I fully understand as I lived that situation myself , I took risks and got caught out at times . Sometimes we aren’t always aware who the friend of a friend is until it’s too late . The important point was I never made a promise I couldn’t keep , I knew the road I was on so it was just a matter of time .

  3. Amanda,
    This is a wonderful telling of your life and the idiosyncrasies of wearing glasses. I also love the humour you inject into your posts. It is a real skill to combine a serious topic (vision) with a lighthearted view (pun intended). You are a masterful writer.

    As I told you before, you do look great in glasses.

    People of all genders grow old, and one of the inconveniences of growing old is vision impairment. I am proud of my advanced age and wearing glasses shows the world my maturity.

    But like you, I feel I look better without glasses. The last pair I purchased at the optometrist were unisex in design. I like them and wear them in both male and female attire.

    My vanity, unfortunately, is so strong that I rarely have a photo of my feminine self while wearing glasses. So sad!

    Thank you for this post. I really enjoy reading them.



    1. Jocelyn, thank you for your kind words and support.

      As I said above, I’d really like to go for something overtly feminine next time. What I came to realise was that much of my hatred of my bespectacled female persona was due to scrutinisation at close quarters. From normal viewing distance of 2m or more (which was the range between me and the camera on the photo), I’m far more comfortable with how I look and, in fact, glasses can help the feminine image rather than detract from it as I once feared.

      As for vanity, it is a virtue in our community and is something to be embraced, not feel shame about!!!

  4. First of all, Amanda, I really enjoy reading your posts. You have a way of writing that keeps the reader engaged and entertained. Secondly. I like the glasses in your pic. I, too, would prefer not to wear glasses and in some cases I am lucky enough not to have to. I had laser surgery about 20 years ago (one eye for reading and one eye for distance) but I found after a while it was hard to read music because it was in the crossover point. To make a long story short, I also have an astigmatism so prices and things like that are fairly hard to read. My glasses are progressives (I think you call them Varifocals) so I just take them off and put them on as needed when out. I am told that when I need cataract surgery, I may be able to do without the glasses. We shall see (no pun intended)

    1. Donna, thank you. It’s nice to know that my posts are appreciated. It was interesting to read about your experiences – I have resisted laser eye surgery but, at my last eye test, the word ‘cataract’ was mentioned in passing. Surgery is not something I need yet but it’s something that may figure in the future and it’ll be interesting to see (aaaargh, another pun!) whether it has benefits as far as glasses are concerned – I don’t want to ditch the specs but being able to cope with much weaker lenses than the ones I now need would be a definite advantage.

  5. Amanda, I think you look really cute wearing glasses. I wear them as well, my eyesight is not to bad. I have a very cute pair and I like the look. You write the most wonderful essays and I really love reading them. I picked out my glasses in male mode and had no problem. The girl that did the fitting said they looked nice on me.

    1. Julie, thank you! It’s definitely starting to look like a trip to the optician should be on my bucket list!

  6. Amanda,
    You look good in those specs. They suit your face. All you need now is feminine readers for menus and labels
    Like you, glasses have been in my life for about half a century. I wore them constantly for many years. I need them to see far. The last decade or so I have only wore them to drive, ski, or in the sun. I got ski goggle that have lens inside. In my 20’s I sun burned my eyes and they each grew a pteryglum. I had pterygium surgery on one eye already – not fun! As a resulty my sunglasses have to be wilder and have side panels. As my eyes age I now need use ‘readers’ to read labels. I have glaucoma too. The upside of glaucoma is the eye drops make my lashes (and brows) grow like crazy. (I have a brow waxing plan to control them.) I have had to endure several lazer glaucoma treatments.
    And my doctor has also talked that cataract surgery is in my future. Hopefully that’s far away. However they say the cataarct surgery might also correct the glaucoma.

    1. Cali, thanks for the compliment! These specs are actually ‘his’ varifocals – deliberately chosen as they were billed as unisex – and so I can wear them for both distance and reading.

      Whilst having to wear glasses is a pain, I definitely think that being long sighted is not as big a challenge as short sightedness. I can just about manage without them when I’m walking around town where I can see enough not to bump into things but I wouldn’t attempt driving without them and reading is a non-starter.

      Sorry to hear about all the problems you have but hope that the cataract surgery, when it does come, gives the collateral benefits you hope for.

  7. Wow this was entertaining, and relatable. I really appreciate your sense of humor, Amanda. I always love what you share, even though I’m usually late to the party when it comes to sharing my own comments.

    Just like everyone else who commented, I also have to wear glasses when I’m driving or flying but it’s from being near sighted. So doing makeup, I’m spared no illusions about what my face looks like, and it takes hours to try and make things look rightly feminine. Never had the experience of a makeover from one who knew what they were doing so it’s all trial and error on my part. So unfortunately I’m all too aware of what I look like
    Has lasik done about 12 years ago and apparently the eyes weren’t done degrading as my eyesite now is pretty much back to where it was pre lasik and I had to go back to glasses. But the last several pair I’ve got where something that I thought was rather androgynous. I didn’t think they looked too bad on a boy or a girl. Definitely not better than what you’re wearing in the picture, which I think is great. I thought you looked a bit like a school marm with the glasses and outfit, all prim and proper but certainly very feminine.

    1. Liz, thanks very much! I suspect that our fight with glasses is one that we can never win. But that said, women wearing glasses is so commonplace these days that we can turn it to our advantage. What I came to realise was that I may not particularly like what I see, it doesn’t changes others’ perceptions of me and it’s therefore something to be embraced not rejected.

      And I’ll gratefully accept ‘school marm’ – definitely beats funeral home receptionist!

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