Disclaimer: the below post consists of my own thoughts of MY face in glasses, not about people who wear glasses in general. I do NOT think that glasses are ugly or that people who wear them look worse than those who don't.
As a child, I thought nothing of wearing glasses. I got them when I was seven (just before my family's big move from Russia to Sweden) and I found them quite fancy, like a special accessory. I didn't realise they were considered geeky and unattractive until I started school, where the bespectacled kids were singled out as nerds just for the simple fact they were near-sighted. To be fair, I probably would have been branded an outcast for other reasons - second-hand clothes combined with a very colourful fashion sense, excellent grades but soul-crushingly bad at sports, vegetarian from age 11 and, thanks to my parents' continuous moving around, always the new girl - but let's just say the glasses didn't help.
Growing up, I learned to hate my glasses. I dreamed of being an actress and noted there were no Hollywood stars who wore specs on a daily basis...or in any of their movies, unless they were playing someone's mousy best friend. I asked my ballet-dancing friend why there were no ballerinas in glasses. I loved watching Miss Universe (I know, I know! Cringe) and noticed how there were never any beauty queens who wore glasses. Clearly, if I were ever to find fame and glory, the eye accessories had to go.
My mum, desperate to keep me from poking my fingers with my eyes on a daily basis (and looking at the consequences, she might have been right), made up some story about how you weren't allowed to wear contacts until you were 18. A quick ask-around at school helped me call her bluff and off to the optician I went, all of fifteen and a huge smile on my face. I would soon be free from the bottle-bottom shaped prison on my face.
As I have previously mentioned in this post, I was really happy to wear contacts. And since I mastered the art of popping them in and out of my eyes, I haven't been seen in glasses outside my front door since...could it be 1999? Until this week, when I got a really bad case of conjunctivitis. I've had it before, but in many cases the infection was solved with a couple of days of eye drops and I've always kept wearing my contacts, despite doctors' advice (maybe this is why the infection keeps coming back every few years?) and everything's always been fine. This time around, though, for a variety of reasons, I saw no other choice except to follow my doctor's advice and stay contact lens-free for at least five days (the duration of the time when I was taking eye drops).
Which meant going to work in my glasses.
I called in sick on the first day of the infection as it's highly contagious until you've had 24 hours of treatment (plus, I could barely open my eye), but the following day, I had no excuses for hiding out in exile. So I put on one of my favourite dresses, slipped into a pair of high-heeled sandals, curled my hair and put extra time into creating the perfect daytime smoky eye (yep, I still wore eye make-up. I popped open a new eye pencil and sharpened it after each use, so the layer that touched the eye was gone, plus new mascara. And I was makeup-free for the first 24 hours). I was making an effort to look as nice as I possibly could, especially since I couldn't hide behind my sunglasses.
That self-conscious feeling that everyone is looking at you is the same in the seventh grade as it is on the 3 bus to Oxford Circus at 7.56am on a Wednesday, aged 31. Despite the fact that my morning commute was full of girls with glasses (or was it just me suddenly noticing them?), I felt like everyone was staring me down. Walking into the office I braced myself for comments from my colleagues, but the only reaction I got was "how's your eye?". Which makes sense, because there's nothing strange about wearing glasses. As I navigated a day in the life of a specs-wearer, I came to an important realisation:
People couldn't care less what you look like.
I'm not saying appearances don't matter in our looks-obsessed society (I wish). I'm just stating that the truth is that approximately 100% of the people you'll meet on a daily basis are much too busy to worry about themselves to take note of your bad hair day, the stain on your shirt or the spot on your chin. Now, as I'm on my third day in glasses, it makes me laugh to think at how many of us obsess over our so-called flaws, everyone too busy thinking of themselves to notice the so-called flaws of the person next to you. And so these so-called flaws continue to keep us obsessed, all while going unnoticed.
On my first specs-y day, I felt the need for the rest of me to look as flawless as possible - but today here I am in my Converse and ripped jeans, feeling okay (aside from when the sun came out at lunch and my eyes ached because I couldn't wear sunnies). And you know what? I quite like my face with glasses.
Another weird thought that crossed my mind while standing at the bus stop on my way home: I don't care if I'm pretty.
Once again, not saying that I'd walk around unwashed and unshaved - I do care about how I look. But what's important to me are the things I can actually change, like my clothes, hair and make-up. Being unhappy with things I'm born with, like my skin tone or physical build, makes no sense anymore. Also, while being well put-together is very important to me, being a Pretty Girl is something that doesn't really interest me the same way it did a couple of years ago. If I could choose between being naturally gorgeous or having a really amazing sense of style, I'd go with the second in a heartbeat. Maybe it has something to do with getting older, but things like wrinkles, cellulite and under-eye circles just don't freak me out the way they used to.
Having said that, I'm looking forward to Sunday, when I'll be allowed to wear contacts again.