I have worn glasses since I was eight or nine, and it all started with a vision test. I remember that day in elementary school so clearly! Every year eye and ear doctors would come to the school and we'd get free hearing and vision testing. As a child, I thought glasses were cool. Just like I thought braces, casts,and crutches were cool. Spoiler: I have had all four of those things, and none are cool. On this particular testing day, I decided to wreak havoc and intentionally do poorly on the vision test. I giggled internally to myself, thinking I was so clever; I'd get more time out of class and a little extra attention. Obviously the doctors were concerned, and I was sent home with a letter informing my mom to take me for a full exam. Well, surprise surprise! Turns out I wasn't fibbing all that intentionally.
I was immediately geared up in a pair of glasses with lenses the diameter of a soda can, so they essentially took up half of my face. I realized that I had made a huge mistake. That night I went to the school with my mom for the science fair (ahh, the science fair), and as I walked down the corridor alone I encountered two boys from my class. Right away they set into making fun of me, calling me names and laughing at my new facial decoration. I turned around to find my mom, and as soon as I found her the boys shut up. I didn't tell her about their rude comments until I was much older.
The rest of my bespectacled schoolcareerwas largely free of taunting. I was only ever called "four eyes" in exaggerated jest by my closest friends (and this was only when they asked if anyone ever seriously called me four eyes), and no one stole my glasses. I didn't find that they deterred friends, or boys, or... anything, really. They had shockingly little impact on my life, serving only as a nuisance when swimming or when needing sunglasses. Or if someone touched the lenses, because there are few things more annoying than smudges in my field of vision (my sister was the worst offender for this one).
Fast forward to the end of high school. I'm going to comfortably go on record here and say that I was ahead of the internet curve. I fell in with a group of techy, geeky guys, and spent lunches and after hours time in the server room with them cruising around online. We'd laugh at memes, grouphug.us, and ytmnd.com. I remember, as the years crept past after graduating high school, I started to see funny pictures being posted from my friends, and I realized I had already seen them years ago. But, back to my last year inhigh school. It was around this time that the whole... geek girl thing swam into my field of vision. Suddenly, in my group of friends, nerdy and geek girls were cool. Wearing glasses and liking computers was valued. I had a group of people that were impressed with my computer and video game knowledge, and associated my glasses as a visual indicatorto my geek alignment.
At this point I had already been wearing glasses for ten years, and I had long since accustomed myself to seeing them on my face. It didn't take long for me to feel uncomfortable and semi-naked without them. I grew embarrassed when it came time for someone to see me sans glasses for the first time. I was convinced that I didn't look like myself, and that people would somehow be horrified by my face alone.
This was the same year that my mom had eye surgery. She, too, had worn glasses (well, contacts) from a very young age, and was finally tired of their oppressive role in her life. She immediately gave me an offer: eye surgery for my 18th birthday. My response was to freak out and clutch my glasses defensively, claiming that I didn't mind them, they were a part of me, I looked weird without them, and also fuck surgery on my eyes, was she crazy!? (I'm very sensitive about my eyes. One time I unintentionally slapped the ophthalmologist's hand away while she was trying to touch them. It was awkward.) Meanwhile, my glasses wearing friends oozed with jealousy, hating their own visual shackles, and wishing their parents would offer the expensive and life altering treatment. I felt weird, uncomfortable, evenrude at not taking my mom's offer. But, surgery on my eyes? Looking different thanI had for the majority of my life? No, just no.
She has continued to put eye surgery on the table as a birthday gift every year since then. Each year, I refuse. Initially it was because I believed myself incapable of handling the surgery. She assured me that patients were drugged out the wazoo and therefore had little care for their eyes, but at that point I couldn't even touch my own eyes! Getting an eyelash or fuzzy on my eye resulted in a meltdown of epic proportions.When it did happen,I could be found sobbing inconsolably, screaming and swatting at anyone who tried to come near me, with my palms pressed to mytightly shut eyes, wishing and willing that the tears would remove the offending item. It was very embarrassing, andone time definitely happenedwhen I was 19 in front of my (ex)boyfriend's mom.Slowly over the years, I wore eyeliner, then eyeshadow, and then used an eyelash curler. Through these slow steps I eventually reached a point where I could calmly remove a lash from my eye. I no longer collapse into hysterics. I can even allow another (very trusted) person to hold my eye open and look at it for me. At this point, I am confident that I could handle the surgery.
And yet. I refused my mom when my birthday rolled around earlier this year. "Why?!" I demanded of myself. I am tired of wearing glasses. They're heavy, and expensive, and I have to worry about them all the time. There are scratches on the lenses in my field of vision, and they get dirty constantly. Prescription sunglasses are really expensive, so I wear cheap, huge, regular sunglasses over my real glasses. Yes, I do get made fun of. I can't get into a great hug with someone without their face skewing my glasses (and covering them in face grease), and I can't lay down on my side to watch TV or a movie. I can't lay facedown, I'm afraid of physical activities for fear of breaking my glasses or having them snap and poke me in the eye or face. Rain drops are a huge nuisance. My cosplay options are severely limited.
I realized this year that it's because I fear losing my identity. The internet and geek girls are in full throttle. Hello Kitty t-shirts everywhere showcase a bespectacled cat wearing black framed glasses with the phrase "Talk Nerdy To Me." Websites and advertisers slap a pair of thick framed glasses onto anything and call it 'nerdy' or 'geeky'. Anyone who puts on a pair of glasses says, "I'm such a geek/nerd." Geek icons wear glasses. Nerds are always portrayed with glasses. Glasses mean you're a geek. And what am I? Well, I identify as a geek. Who will I be without my glasses? Will I lose my credibility? And, what if I get the surgery and then miss my glasses? "Well Miranda, you can still wear them as an accessory!" Yes, this is true, but then I will suffer the cries of "Fake! Fake geek girl! Those aren't real glasses!" Will it matter that I used to wear them, but then had corrective surgery, and then discovered that I missed wearing them? No, probably not. I would most likely be classified as some... weird.. poser? Say, what if I no longer needed glasses, but I chose to wear them for my vlogs because I felt they matched that side of me more? I can't shake the feeling that I would be condemned as a fake. Those evil, evil fakes (there is sarcasm here).
This realization was a tough one for me. I had no idea that steadily, silently, my glasses were becoming part of my identity not just as a person, but as a geek. Yeah, people that have known me fora long time do a double take when they see me without my glasses. I get remarks of, "I've never seen you without your glasses! Weird!" pretty much non-stop. Literally the only time I take them off is when showering or sleeping. Those are the only times. Is it believable that I run a geek and gaming website because of my glasses? Does someone look at me and go, "Seems legit."? And will that change if I take my glasses out of the equation?
The idea of a glasses free life is extremely appealing. I constantly worry about breaking them or losing them, because I would be rendered useless. My vision is bad enough that I can't drive without them. Thinking of a life with less of an immediate connection to geek culture, however, makes me sad and confused. What I look like should have no bearing on my hobbies, yet I know that it does. I want to be taken seriously, and not doubted because I'm a woman, and I believe that my stereotypically thick, black glasses help with that. Actually, I have no idea if I'm currently taken seriously. Perhaps it's media brainwashing that makes me think I'm being taken seriously, when really, glasses or no, it won't make a difference at all? Glasses don't stop people from being sexist, obviously.
In case you're wondering, I've decided to take up the lasik offer for my birthday next year. I've been letting someone else check my eyes for me when they're bothering me (as a form of practice), and Iwant to buy some eye drops for practice as well. I have to remind myself that my glasses are simply something that people see, and they don't have any bearing on who I am or my hobbies. I have plenty of geeky and gamer friends who don't have glasses, and I don't doubt their interest in the culture. If I ever want to wear my old frames for comfort's sake, and I get grief for being "fake", I can really only smile and say, "I wore glasses for twenty years. Fuck off." Ultimately, being free of a stereotype will be nice! I know that being glasses-free will have zero affect on my passions, and I can simply step back and allow my work to speak for itself.
*I totally made that header.
** The 'fake geek girl' thing is a whole different can of worms, and I will not be opening it in this article.