“Do these glasses make my bags look big?”

In recent years, glasses are my favorite fashion accessory. I’ve had sparkly pink ones, snazzy green ones, and beloved blue ones that I lost in a bed of succulents. I’ve had readers, plastic “glasses” for bicycling, and recently “graduated” to progressives.

The American Optometric Association says that most people begin to have problems with close vision beginning in their early forties. I was right on track.

New frames deliver more fashion impact than a new lipstick. Unlike lipstick, or a new dress, insurance kicks in. Insurance also says when it’s time for a new pair. New lenses every year, new frames every other year.

This is an every-other year.

“Try these,” said Wendy Zanino, holding out a pair of darling frames with filigreed temples. I put them in the “maybe” pile, along with a popular cat-eye shape, and a tortoise shell.

Wendy, my glasses expert at Manhattan Beach Vision, has great taste and knows me. Generally she’ll recommend a pair. Of course I like them. But I try on all 230 frames in the shop, before selecting the pair that she picked for me in the first place.

“It’s hard to tell.” I like the filigree. But how can I judge glasses when I can’t SEE myself with them on? The whole business is flat out embarrassing. Like trying on bathing suits, but with an audience.

Sometimes I’ve actually tried frames on OVER my real glasses. Sometimes Wendy, or a friend, takes a picture of me in the new frames. I can then look at the picture while wearing my current glasses.

“Those are cute,” says Wendy, of a gray pair…dark on top, light on the bottom. “The larger frames are in right now and they give you more reading area.”

“A bigger reading area would be good.”  I like being up-to-date, though only when a style suits me. I go for fashion when it flatters—bring on those animal prints—and ignore styles that don’t. (Skirts that are short in front, long in back? Ridiculous.)

Practicality and vanity do serious battle every day in my head and closet. I love the way heels make my legs look, hate how they make my back feel. I gave up on contact lenses, after a brief flirtation, because the reading was so poor. Once while wearing contacts, I actually misread a tag and bought a skirt in the wrong size.

In a paroxysm of practicality, I signed up for the large gray frames.

And now that they’re here, I hate them.

Larger frames may help me read, but they also magnify, and frame, the bags under my eyes. When did those get there? If I couldn’t see them, does that mean other people couldn’t? And the gray, which seemed so stylish in the store—gray is my new black— washes into my skin.

Like my friends and colleagues, I’m thoughtful. I make a decision and I stick with it. I drive the same car for ten years. My husband asked for separation, it took me a year to file for divorce.

But things are different now. I did file for divorce. I’m glad it was my initiative. And I’ve gotten better at speaking up for myself. So what if I have bags under my eyes? That shouldn’t stop me from looking my best. I’m not a complainer, but there is a time and a place for everything. After a bit of handwringing, and girlfriend consultation, I called Wendy.

“I just don’t like the new glasses.”

She laughed. “Come back in and pick out some new ones,” she said. “You need to be happy.”

If only life was always this easy.

About Karen Ray

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