Saturday, September 1, 2007


I was born with beautiful blue eyes. They are an intense indigo with gray and hazel flecks—a gift from my father’s side of the family. Unfortunately, they aren’t very functional—another “gift” of genetics.

I have worn glasses since I was 5, and my myopia has grown steadily worse, requiring a new prescription almost yearly. I’ve worn glasses so long, my nose permanently bears the indentations of nose pieces.

Nearsightedness was the bane of my existence when I was in junior high and high school. Back then wearing glasses was a stigma consigned only to the ugly. I hated my glasses, and as the lenses grew increasingly thick, I grew to detest them.

Since my parents couldn’t afford to buy me contact lenses, I was forced to endure my glasses. But, rebel that I am, in high school I set myself free. “I may have to wear glasses to see,” thought I, “but I can live without seeing!” And so, for the sake of vanity, I stopped wearing my glasses, condescending to put them on only during class when I absolutely had to see, but stuffing them back in my purse as soon as the bell rang. I learned to memorize the clothes my friends were wearing each day, thus, when I saw a green blob walking toward me in the hallway, I could be reasonably sure it was Jenny; a purple blob, must be Amanda, and so on. Unseeing but feeling much prettier, I blindly continued my glasses-less ruse for most of high school.

But life has an amazing propensity for crushing vanity—and it doesn’t do it kindly. My dad and I liked to go bike riding together. One beautiful Albuquerque afternoon, he suggested we ride to the Los Altos Golf Course, quite some distance from our house. I agreed, but, since we were going out in public where someone important might see me (like a boy), I left my glasses behind.

Glamor intact, I followed along after my dad, keeping close, lest he get too far ahead and I lose my way. Things went well until we reached the pedestrian bridge over I-40. I’ve never had a good sense of balance, so, as my dad negotiated the twists and steep inclines of the bridge on his bike, I dismounted and gingerly walked my bike across.

Unfortunately this meant that my dad got way ahead of me. Squinting frantically, I could make out the miniscule dot that was him heading off towards the golf course. I mounted my bike and pursued. In my desperation to catch up, however, I failed to notice that I was crossing a parking lot—a parking lot with medians. Too late (because—go figure—I couldn’t see without my glasses) I realized I was heading straight toward one of those medians.

Then—BANG—my front tire hit the median and I was launched into flight. I remember it in slow motion, the flight upwards, the feeling of being out of control, the harrowing fall to the ground. Fortunately I didn’t fly head over tail, nor did I fall off the bike. Instead I fell, still seated, hitting the ground with a sickening thud.

I was too stunned to do anything at first. Then, I heard some nearby golfers asking me if I was okay. I was too embarrassed to respond. Rolling my bike back onto the paved surface, I remounted and attempted to act as though crashing into the median was normal practice. But the bike chain had fallen off, and there was no graceful exit. By then, my dad had noticed I wasn’t behind him. He found me sullenly walking my broken bike across the parking lot, ego (and other parts) terribly bruised.

I’d like to say this incident cured me of my vanity, but, aside from never again riding a bike without my glasses, I continue to forsake intelligence in the name of beauty. While I no longer mind wearing glasses (after all, they’re fashionable now), I have deferred going to the optometrist for over three years. Why? Because I’m due for bi-focals—the dreaded symbol of late middle age. And so, for the sake of vanity, I sit before my computer myopically writing my blog, the screen magnified so the words are visible, headache forming behind my eyes . . . .