I went to the optometrist last week for my first eye check-up in ages. Everything's fine--my prescription got worse, to absolutely nobody's surprise, but I don't have glaucoma or macular degeneration, or anything. What I do have is a carbon-copied slip of paper with my new prescription printed on it. And that means one of my favorite sartorial pastimes ever: shopping for new glasses.
I love shopping for glasses. This time, I'm getting contacts, so I probably won't even be wearing my new glasses in public all the time. But what other accessory is so much a part of my identity? They're on my face constantly. I'm a little afraid that people I don't know well won't recognize me with contacts, just because they associate me with my square black nerd glasses. And what else can be so flattering while having practically nothing to do with fit? Shape, yes. But my glasses don't care if I've gained five pounds, and I can't say the same for my favorite "I Heart Jake Ryan" t-shirt. The right pair of glasses is all potential with few caveats.
Which is not to say that hitting up LensCrafters is easy. Shopping for glasses alone is no mean feat. For one thing, I can't see. Compared to a lot of people, my vision isn't so terrible (I once went glasses-shopping with a friend who literally couldn't see her reflection in the mirror without her real glasses on; she needed me there to tell her what she looked like), but without my trusty glasses on, there's a fair amount of squinting and invading the mirror's space. It's a cycle: see a promising pair of frames, hook real glasses into belt loop, try on promising pair, get really close to the mirror, take off promising pair, put real glasses back on, put promising pair back where they came from. Lather, rinse, repeat.
I spent a few hours on College Avenue this weekend, checking out the string of eyewear stores between Zachary's and the library--it turns out that Rockridge is like the Garment District or the Meatpacking District, except that they have optometrists instead (and are in Oakland and not New York. So maybe not so much like either of those places.). First lesson learned: red glasses, while alluring on the shelf, are not it for the fair-skinned and green-eyed among us. Second lesson learned: it's a fine line between "charmingly retro" and "Dame Edna." By far my favorite glasses store along Optical Alley was Phoenix Eyewear, which has thousands upon thousands of pairs of vintage eyeglass frames, organized by shape and color. I tried on practically as many pairs as they had on display. They were bold and wing-y, the kind favored by Lauren Winner and old ladies in Far Side cartoons, the kind that look like a giant butterfly has landed on your face. They were awesome--my favorite pair was lavender with a few very tasteful rhinestones on the edges. Sadly, they were also supremely unflattering. Apparently the 1960s and their slanty, feline eyewear would not have been kind to me. It wasn't meant to be.
I still haven't found the right pair, though I tried on some good possibilities at Kaiser last week. I'll need to go back, and maybe bring a friend for common-sense patrol. There will be squinting and unabashed vanity. But soon I will be clear-eyed, both able to see myself in the mirror and apt to like what I see there.