I got my first pair of glasses in fourth grade. My eyes had worsened significantly the year before, but I refused to admit that I needed glasses until my father brought me to see an eye doctor — after all, who wants a piece of plastic obstructing their face? The glasses I chose were orange-brown and bendy with small, rounded rectangular, plastic half-frames, the kind everyone and their mother had at some point in their lives.
To be entirely honest, I didn’t like them at first. They were a sign of imperfection, when my whole family — parents, brother, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc — had never had imperfect eyesight other than because of age. In fact, my father reportedly had higher than average eyesight when he was young, able to see from 100 yards away what an average person could only see from 20 yards away. It didn’t help that my dad was under the assumption that wearing glasses would worsen my eyesight, so he ordered me to only wear it when absolutely necessary. To prevent him from scolding, I’d only wear them in school and take them off before he picked me up.
Somewhere along the line — likely around the end of fifth grade or beginning of sixth grade — I decided that it was too much of a hassle to take my glasses off and on again. My father didn’t like that and always nagged me to take them off “to rest my eyes.” But he eventually stopped when, after we went to see the eye doctor, she told him that glasses wouldn’t worsen my eyesight; they would worsen with age, however.
From that point on, a pair of glasses would always be on my face. There were months, maybe even years, where no one would see me without them. From the moment I woke up until the moment I laid back in bed to sleep, the legs of my glasses would rest on top of my ears and the nose-padded center on my nose. I had grown so accustomed to having them on my face that I would involuntarily push up my glasses, even when they weren’t there.
The frames that sit on my face are often the first things people notice about me. As they get to know me more, they often question why I always wear my glasses or ask me to take them off. I know they mean it in a good-natured way — they just want to see what I look like without glasses — but to me, it’s an invasion of privacy. My glasses have become a part of my identity. I’m accustomed to the clarity of vision I get from them, how they protect me from the oil that jumps up from pans when I cook or rain that drip drops down my face when I forget to bring an umbrella. They’re asking me to take off something as core to my identity as the scar I have on my inner right knee or the small, harmless mole I have above my lips.
My response to requests to take off my glasses? Anxiety. I’m always filled with this dreadful feeling that weighs down on my stomach, lingering even after the topic has shifted away from my glasses. I usually respond with a curt no without an explanation, because what else am I supposed to say? I don’t feel comfortable exposing my vulnerabilities to someone I just met. Even with people I’m close to, it takes too long to explain my reasons and sometimes I don’t feel like forming a response that fully captures what I think and feel. I’m not willing to compromise my privacy.
But most importantly, I’m not an object. I’m not comfortable being observed, examined, and judged, as if I’m on a display for a museum or exhibit — especially when I associate myself with wearing glasses. Perhaps I’m over-sensitive, but I can’t help what I feel. In a way, my glasses are one of the only things I feel like I have control over in my life and until I’m more comfortable with myself and the world around me, I’d prefer to keep it that way.