Monday, August 8, 2011

How Can I Feel More Comfortable Wearing Glasses?

"Guess what I got?" I goaded my boyfriend over the phone. By "boyfriend" I mean that we met at the mall one day, exchanged phone numbers, and decided over the phone to be boyfriend-girlfriend, and I saw him a total of three times in my life before "breaking up." I was, as you may have guessed, 13. "It's something that will make me look better."

"A new dress?" No. "New shoes?" No. "A new Trapper Keeper?"* (A new Trapper Keeper?!)

It was contact lenses, and his guesses were increasingly exasperating, because I took my contact lenses very, very seriously. Getting contact lenses was one of the best things that had happened to me in my 13 years on planet Earth. It also happened to coincide with slimming down a bit, gaining a couple of vertical inches, growing out my perm so it lost a bit of its ziggurat-like quality, and wearing the clothes I'd purchased on a family trip to the east coast, where I went shopping in Boston—at Filene's Basement even (which I'd even read about in teen magazines!)—instead of ShopKo. I was hardly a swan, but my contact lenses were essential to scooping me out of Awkwardland and landing me at least on neutral territory.

I never looked back. I keep a pair of glasses that I wear around the house, but in public, I am glasses-free—always. For a while it was the fear of seeming geeky (again, 13!), and I also connected shedding my glasses with suddenly entering an era in which I was, on occasion, considered pretty. Boys came a-knockin'—not that, Trapper Keeper guy aside, they would have knocked any earlier if I'd had 20/20 vision—and it all sort of got bundled up together. I always hated the boys don't make passes at girls who wear glasses quip (apologies, Dorothy!), and besides, I could witness at school that it wasn't true. Still, the idea stuck. I'm about as likely to wear my glasses to work as I am to come in with a chihuahua.

That would be the end of the story, if it weren't for my increased ocular discomfort. A combination of allergies (dust!), my profession (lots of screen time), and my environment (dirty, sweaty New York) means that about one out of four days, I'm in some pretty severe discomfort. (And let's not forget about how easily my eyes now get bloodshot, detracting from my otherwise glorious visage. Science says!) Going without my contact lenses is not an option (I'm at around 20/400, which Wikipedia tells me is legally blind but which I think just makes me a prime candidate to star in a hilarious rom-com, don't you think?). Which means: I've gotta learn how to wear glasses, preferably soon.

I see women every day who wear glasses and look smashing in them, either because they've chosen frames that mesh perfectly with their face to the point where you don't think of them as being a glasses-wearer but just the owner of a great face—or because they've chosen frames so distinctive that they jump out and become a statement. I don't look at any of my bespectacled friends and think, She'd be so pretty, if only... If anything, the women I know who wear glasses seem to project an air of efficiency and confidence, if only because I'm silently in awe that they feel comfortable doing something that makes me feel so self-conscious.

My level of enthusiasm for my glasses really can't be captured digitally.
Also note the spectacular failure of the fishtail braid. You're not here for my how-to advice, I gather.

One of my close friends, of the distinctive-frames sort, posits that my hesitancy comes from the fact that my glasses are, well, mousy. They're glasses that are trying to pretend like they don't actually exist, like they're just some odd arrangement of my hair that happens to resemble glasses. She's egging me on for spectacle-spectacles, and I want to try it, so I walk into store after store and try on frame after frame, and every time, I look in the mirror and hate what I see. I don't normally hate what I see in the mirror, mind you—it's something about having this thing on my face that catapults me right back to seventh grade, pre-contacts, pre-boys, pre-blossoming.

So, readers, I turn to you. I could really use some perspective on this: As a matter of my health and comfort, I seriously need to find a pair of glasses that I feel somewhat comfortable in. I need some wisdom to help me both find glasses that I like, and then to help me get over my self-consciousness once I'm wearing them. I long for the nonchalance that my glasses-wearing friends seem to possess—and more than that, I long for the comfort of not having my eyes twitch out more days than not.

Do you wear glasses? If so, how did you learn to be comfortable in them—or, if you always felt at ease in them, why do you think that is? Do you have tips on what to look for in a pair?

*This, as history would have it, was prescient. The era of Facebook has shown me that my ersatz boyfriend of 1989 now runs a delightful scrapbooking site with his partner, Donny. No wonder he thought a Trapper Keeper might up my appeal.


  1. This is so interesting to me, because I actually have the opposite problem. As a twenty-something woman, without my glasses I feel young and plain and like noone will take me seriously! My glasses journey started just like yours though, in that I refused to wear them all the time, even when I needed them. Then I started seeing my glasses as both an investment and an exciting accessory, like amazing new shoes. I suggest you go and try on ridiculous glasses for a bit (I went to secondhand shops and tried on stupid sunglasses) - if you start seeing it as a fun game, one day you'll find some that you think make your face more rather than less exciting. I hope it works out, I genuinely love wearing my glasses and I'm pretty evangelical about them!

  2. I try on every pair in the shop, and then spend a lot of money. I know, this not the best advice ever, but I do really think that glasses are something worth shelling out for (if you can), as they're right there on your face all day. I get the thinnest of thin lenses and then designer frames.

    However, I'm also considering the laser eye surgery option, for similar reasons, so may be not the best person to ask about this.

  3. Oh NOOO! Massive comment has dissapreared! My account doe not have access to your page, apparently! But clearly it does, so i will try again and just say:

    1. advice - just do it! It may seem like a massive change now, but you'll get used to it quicker than youu think. You look cute in glasses!

    2. I did a post on this:

  4. I don't like wearing glasses. I miss peripheral vision. Because my prescription is so mighty, even "ultrathin" lenses are thick. My lenses make my eyes look far smaller, and there are so few days when I want smaller eyes.

    Some accessory stores now sell "personality glasses," or glasses with plain plastic lenses. In that spirit, try to think of your glasses as a colorful accessory, not a curse. They'll give your eyes a rest and make your contact stash last longer.

    I have three pair of glasses; conservative ones for my conservative job, a pair of Derek Cardigan tortoiseshell cat-eye frames, and a pair of Derek Cardigans so hideous that I feel like a troll every time I wear them. Don't buy anything that makes you feel trollish, okay?

    You would only be legally blind if your CORRECTED vision were worse than 20/200. Maybe your rom-com could be about Hair Warriors instead?

    While you're out, why not pick up a new Trapper Keeper?

  5. I was 11 when i started having glasses : far too young for lenses.
    I was mocked quite often and chose the most dscreet glasses i could find.

    Then understood something : i'm not going to wear lenses daily because of my health/cost but glasses do differentiate me !
    So i chose georgious glasses, colorful ! People *remember* me easily ! And i don't really need make up anymore ! :P

    A friend with black hair/white face chose big old-school gold glasses. It's cute as hell, and with red lipstick it's sexy and classy !
    You might try ^^

  6. I started wearing glasses early (2nd grade)-- I never did switch to contacts, and I'm 26 now. People compliment me on my specs all the time. I consider them another accessory to rock, and I do ROCK them. For years I had a giraffe-print frame. Now I have a dark purple frame, which is slightly more professional but less fun.

    My Glasses Search Tips:
    1) Take a fashion-savvy buddy with you to a reputable, fun glasses place.
    2) Take pictures of yourself in the frames s/he likes on you. It gives you a little more distance from your appearance.
    3) Try on the frames that make you think, "Who would EVER wear those?" Because who knows? Maybe you would. Frames look different on faces than they do on display in the store.
    4) Go ballsy. These frames should make you HAPPY.
    5) It's like wearing makeup: you'll get used to your appearance with glasses. You don't look as weird as you think you do.

  7. I like Katelyn's tips. I've been wearing glasses since about ten, although from 14 to about 25 I wore contacts CONSTANTLY. Then one day a contact lens came apart in my eye at Canada's Wonderland, and I went back to glasses.

    My advice: Try on lots of pairs. Take pictures. Bring a savvy friend to take pictures and advise you.

    Ask the person in the shop to find frames that suit you and see how you like those - particularly if it's an older person who owns the shop. I've had *very* good luck with getting older gay men to choose glasses for me. I've been disappointed with hipsters choosing glasses for me.

    Try the outrageous ones, try the plain ones, try the black ones, try the colourful ones. See which ones add something interesting to your face, and compliment you.

    Look at the pictures of yourself in good glasses. A lot. Get used to the way you look.

    I think that something a little cat-eye or slightly slanted across the top might suit you. Maybe rimless on the bottom?

    PS. I love Midge in Vertigo. She's my favourite.

  8. Funnily enough, I – and many of my perfect-vision friends – have serious glasses envy. We think they rock. We think they are stylish and sexy and cool. And I think you definitely have a face that could rock glasses, if you can find the right frames, and get over your baggage.

    I agree with Katelyn (especially the part about taking a friend with you), but I think that going for Statement Glasses might be pushing your comfort level a bit too far. Absolutely worth trying such things on, but also look at semi-rimless or very understated glasses... glasses that make the statement: "Why yes. I am so much more intelligent and confident and stylish than you, my perfectly sighted friend, that I really don't want to rub your nose in it. Pardon." Basically, the French girl of glasses.

    1. Have you and your other perfect vision friends ever considered going on-line and getting glasses that way? You can get them with a small prescription if you want or without any prescription it is up to you. But they are made much better than the ones you can buy at the boutiques and very inexpensive as well. Take a look at ""
      You can be wearing glasses yourself in 2 weeks.

  9. I got fabulous frames. I finally broke down and stopped trying to pretend that the spare rectangular black frames I used to wear were "discreet". They were lame & my attempt at being unremarkable so that no one would notice my myopic awkward adolescent discomfort. I looked like my ex bf, except that he was way cooler in his glasses bc he didn't care.

    Except that I was already a grown woman, and thinking to myself "Wtf do I have to be embarrassed about, I can't see! I'm almost 30, we all know these things go bad as we age!" And I got over it. Because I wasn't awkward anymore, it was like Oh, hey, yeah, I have a style and stuff, I should just GO with it.

    So I traded the blah basic black in for a fun modern interpretation of the cat eye with some elipse-like dark red chunky Versace frames, and I love them! You're so great in reds and purples--why don't you get a fun frame in one of those colors? Come over and try mine on, I'll take a picture and you'll see! We can go pick a new pair out together :)

  10. I love love love wearing my glasses. And I have since I found the first pair of flattering/statement-making frames for my face (and personality).

    I have required spectacles for much of my life, but it wasn't until grade eight that my eyes simply refused to work without them. The first pair was terrible; my nose was pinched by those little clear plastic nodules, my eyes were monstrously magnified, and the thin pink wire frames seemed to alternately become invisible or accentuate my adolescent acne. It was truly terrible, and I felt doomed to permanent aesthetic unpleasantness (at best).

    But then I saw this picture [ pardon the long link]. And it may be silly, but it changed the way I thought about the whole thing. I began to have hope that I would grow up into a glamorous, sexy, bespectacled bombshell.

    While I'm not exactly a 'bombshell' in my adult life, I feel much more attractive-sexier, more sophisticated--when I'm wearing my glasses. In a way, bold frames have become my by-proxy makeup, something that I use to enhance my sense of my self-presentation in the world. They make me feel polished in jeans and a tee shirt and look just right with smart dresses, cardigans, or cutoffs.

    In terms of actual tips for glasses shopping, I think (like many who've already commented) that choosing a pair that you really like over a 'discrete' pair is key.

    You might try out or for some bold, relatively inexpensive options, especially if you'd like to get multiple pairs to play with. Ultimately, spectacles can be a source of joyful self expression, just like any other item of apparel.

    Best of luck!

  11. I never wear mine. I only need them for reading and typing...nothing that I do all the...wait! I need them! But I hate them. I hate the feeling of having something on my face. And they hurt my nose. And I feel frumpy. And I hate the frames I picked. So I just squint. I am really going to hate the wrinkles that come of all that squinting! Luckily, I won't be able to see them!

  12. I stopped wearing my glasses in favor of contacts at 16. It wasn't about how they looked on my face but how the nose pieces would constantly irritate the bridge of my nose. I don't think I could ever go back to glasses unfortunately, the discomfort and the loss of peripheral vision would have me going for Lasik eye surgery instead.

  13. You are all AMAZING.

    @Kathryn: Such an interesting difference! (Being taken seriously.) I have the sort of "look" that's taken seriously somehow so I've never feared that (I've looked 30 since I was, like, 16); actually, I think clinging to contact lenses is because I try to keep my look light in order to counteract that. In any case, I love the idea of thinking of it as a game. Another way to keep it "light," actually!

    @JM: That's great advice! I feel like glasses are definitely worth spending on--maybe if I think of it like a prized possession too that'll be another incentive to wear them? I peer-pressured my gentleman friend into splurging on his most recent pair, and they look great on him, so I need to follow your lead as well as my prodding of him.

    @Franca: Argh, I keep meaning to set aside time to figure out how to switch this to Wordpress without losing everything for that reason. But anyway! I love your post on this--I love how you took it for granted that this was definitely a style item instead of just this disembodied thing, which is pretty much how I've been thinking of it. Totally taking inspiration from this. Thank you!

    @Rebekah: Ooh, my rom-com could end with a dirty-hair contest at which one of us is forced to fake losing in order to prove our love! Or it'll be like the end of Secretary and he'll gently shampoo me with love! In any case: I like the idea of thinking of it as an accessory. I think for too long I've been treating them like a drudge instead of like an opportunity for play.

    @Anonymous: I love your point about how people remember you more now. And I'm going to make a point of trying on the big old-school glasses--I've got a broad face and LOVE me some gigantic sunglasses, so maybe I can try the same principle with regular specs? Hmm...

    @Katelyn: OMG, I love your tips. Inevitably the clothes that work the best on me are ones that the shopkeeper suggests I try on. (Because I will always, ALWAYS go for the same old things.) I'm going to remember that, the "Who would EVER wear those?" quality. And pictures! And a friend! Thank you.

    @Monstrosity: Ooh, cat-eye! My grandmother wore cat-eye and I do like the look. I'm actually jonesing to go to the frames shop now... Thank you for the personalized suggestions!

    @Woollythinker: Why, thank you! I feel like my broad face carries off big sunglasses nicely, so I'm hoping I can learn to rock whatever I choose. And I love the "French girl in glasses," ha!

    @Eden: I just may be taking you up on that! But more important, I love the point about remembering that, no, I'm not 13. I'm 35, and I can own it, and even though inside there's a very awkward 13-year-old (who does come out more often than I'd like), the best way I can honor her is to let her meet my glasses-rockin' self!

    @EM Keeler: I've admired your glasses in your photos, so I'm not surprised to hear that you love them! Because yes, you're an example of someone whose glasses seem to just "fit" them. And it's not silly at all that the Marilyn picture helped you feel more comfortable in glasses--there really can be something transformative about seeing something along those lines. (I also love "by proxy makeup"--totally!)

    @Cameo: Ha! That reminds me of something this artist said when I interviewed her--she only wears her glasses sometimes, and as a result she can't see people's faces clearly when she's walking down the street, and it means she sort of gets to live in her own bubble. Which, in New York, can be damned helpful! In any case, if you ever change your mind, these comments are gold.

    @Lisa: Oh, I totally remember the eye irritation! Not sure how old you are, but I was pleased to find that glasses technology had come a long way (or maybe I was just more willing to spend $$ on them than my parents!) and they weren't as heavy as ones from my teens. Maybe worth another shot?

  14. I HATE HATE HATED my glasses and thought I looked absolutely awful in them and found myself doing that thing where you curl in on yourself in public because you just KNOW you look horrible and no one will ever love you.

    And then I went and chopped off all my hair.

    No, really, like 9+ inches of it.

    And I put my glasses on afterwards and looked in the mirror and EVERYTHING WORKED and I looked like a movie star.

    Of course, I'm never able to KEEP looking like a movie star without the help of someone to do my hair everyday-- but that moment stuck with me and now I love my glasses.

    So maybe try a completely new hairstyle? :D

  15. Anonymous, I'm going glasses shopping tomorrow and this is a reminder to wear my hair up, which is how I feel best--thank you! (I'm planning a bob coming up but am not quite ready for the big plunge...ooh, maybe I'll wear my hair in a faux bob for glasses shopping? Hmm...)

  16. I actually need your help. I just got glasses for the first time. I told people in advance, so they wouldn't be surprised when they saw me in them. I picked out some frames I really like, and I think I look pretty cute in them. My boyfriend and other friends have said I look good. But I went to my best friend's house wearing them, and she had the weirdest reaction. She didn't say anything; and when I asked her if she liked my new look, she said, "Oh, did you get highlights?" So I told her, "No, I got glasses." She just looked at me and said, "Why?" I told her that I need them--I had already told her that before. She didn't say anything else, and she wouldn't look me in the eye. I felt very uncomfortable and embarrassed. Should I say anything or let it go? Why would someone act that way?

    1. Hi Anonymous--sorry for the delay, I've had a bit of a backlog lately! I'm guessing that you've figured this out by now, but if not: It seems that the problem is on your friend's side, not yours. It's bizarre behavior! Perhaps she had envisioned your glasses looking different than they actually do? But really, it seems like there's some sort of mysterious thing *on her end only* that has nothing to do with *you*...except that it affects you. If this hasn't yet been cleared up and things are still awkward between you two, maybe you could gently mention it with something like, "I've felt like things have been a little strained between us lately, and it seems like it began around the time I got my glasses."

      Best of luck!

  17. Wel, I've been wearing mine since I was 13. At first I was reluctant to get them but afterwards I got severely attached to them. One time I was running late for school and I forgot them. I skipped classes that day and sat in the park crying for them. Pathetic. I know. I chose frames that were brown or close to my olive skin so they weren't that noticeable. Also try the rimless ones because they really don't take much attention away from whatever else you want to highlight. When first wearing them, make your outfit, hair, makeup (not eyes), or accessories pop out at catch most of the eye contact until you gain confidence in your specs.

    1. Anonymous, this is all good advice, and the last bit in particular is great--to draw focus elsewhere until I get used to them. Which I will, someday!

  18. I am really enjoying this thread, have been feeling an 'inner urge' to wear glasses again, large, black geeky frames. i think i want to connect back to my tender thirteen year old, so shy and vulnerable! i miss her! and to hide behind the frames a little. and maybe also to relax my eyes and let them fully oxygenate after 30yrs of tiny synthetic discs worn pretty much every day, it will be a different side of myself expressed - i'm excited by that!

  19. I've loved reading these comments and can totally empathize. I've worn contacts for 20 years and last year I started to get a lot of discomfort from contacts. My eye doctor recommended reducing the amount of time I wear them but instead of getting better it seems to be getting worse. Till last year no one at work even knew I wore contacts let alone glasses but I had no option. I bought some stylish plastic frames with racy animal print sides which I like. I still don't feel *me* wearing glasses, I can still wear contacts some times although my eyes end up feeling pretty horrible so I put myself through more grief than I probably should. Though I'm 100% better about my glasses than this time last year I still want to feel comfortable enough that I'd choose to go to a social event wearing them - right now I wear glasses all day if there's an evening event I want to wear contacts for. People have commented that they like my glasses but the problem's with me, my own self-image is not of someone who wears glasses!

  20. I hated wearing glasses. People telling me I looked good in them didn't matter, because I didn't think so. They hurt my nose, my ears (esp with headphones), and were a complete pain. Years of wearing contacts daily straight-up damaged my eyes. I got Lasik a few years ago, and consider it the best thing I've ever purchased.

    I think a lot of people look amazing in glasses (you have a good face for them btw), and I think people should always do their best to feel comfortable with what they have. But if you're wearing contacts all the time anyway, why not just take the plunge and laser it up?

  21. I had wanted to wear glasses since I was 5 or 6 and I have been wearing glasses since the ninth grade when I found out I was nearsighted and had astigmatism and have loved every minute of it.

    I was a painfully shy when I was in the ninth grade and did have to overcome being self conscious and nervous being seen wearing glasses for the first time by family friends and classmates as most first time wearers do. The first to see me was my family: they all complimented on how good I looked wearing glasses and asked what it was like to put them on the first time and treated me no differently and made me feel comfortable with my new look and within a few hours I felt totally at ease around them. That night I also showed a couple of my friends my glasses and they too only had compliments and wanted to know how different everything looked. The next day I was pretty nervous because it would be my first day wearing them to school and I knew it would also be the hardest day of my life wearing glasses, but my older sister who also wore glasses told me to just go to school wearing them and act as if nothing was different and be as confident as I could be and everything would fall into place. The next day I showed up and everyone I knew wanted to know when I got glasses, or said something like I didn't know you wear glasses or just complimented me on how good they looked and this helped boost my confidence. It was weird though walking into each class and having everyone look at me, but the novelty of my glasses wore off within a few minutes and I found myself becoming more at ease as the day wore on. Each day after that became easier and within a few weeks everyone was used to my glasses and I was very comfortable in being seen in them and it felt as though I had been wearing them a lot longer than just a few short weeks.

    One thing that happened to me that usually does just the opposite to people who get glasses is: once I started wearing them my shyness diminished considerably and I became a lot more confident than I had been prior to getting glasses and I think this was because getting glasses completed me in how I needed and wanted to view myself and the fact that I could see a whole lot better didn't hurt either.

    It has been years since I got my first pair of glasses and looking back I think I was able to adjust to my life with glasses as quickly as I did because of my desire to wear them from a young age and I was never upset by the fact that I had to wear glasses and was actually excited to get them and fulfill my need to wear glasses.

    As for tips on picking out a perfect pair of glasses, I have always found that taking someone along helps tremendously in that It gives you an extra pair of eyes to find the perfect look and gives you a sounding board as to if the look you have picked is right for me. I have also recently found online shops that offer glasses at very good prices and allows me to have more than one look.

  22. The secret to feeling comfortable wearing glasses is to find frames that you really like and look good on you and just wear them. If you can learn to own your new look, you will become more confident and comfortable in them with each passing day and in a short while you won't even think about having them on!

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  25. You honestly look really good with those eyeglasses in that picture! I think they're the perfect size for your face too. I'm just wondering if you've ever had my troubles with glasses before where when you blink, you eye lashes knock against the eyeglasses. I don't know how to get around this other than to buy new eyeglasses that are a little bigger for my face. What have you done or tried with getting eyeglasses to avoid this problem besides getting contacts?

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