I have operated by this weird, super-sexist adage for most of my life. Where did I get this idea? I don’t remember anyone telling me. Maybe it was those makeover movies in which a girl wears big glasses at the beginning and looks gorgeous once she removes them, like Princess Diaries and She’s All That.
I didn’t recite it to myself or anything, but I truly thought putting glasses on my face would blend me into the woodwork, take me from a potential object of desire to a relatable and desexualized human being whenever I wanted. The reverse of Mia Thermopolis. If it works in one direction, why not the other?
This general logic was pervasive. Once, a college roommate had to meet a certain guy at the locked door of our dorm. She wasn’t interested and she wasn’t sure how to tell him nicely, but maybe he would lose interest on his own if she helped it along a little. She bunched up her hair into a ponytail, changed into a T-shirt, and put on her glasses before heading out the door. Did it help? Who knows. At the time it sounded perfectly reasonable.
In years past, I’ve purposely worn my glasses around specific men so they wouldn’t be attracted to me. Just in case. To keep us in the friend zone without a difficult conversation. This sounds naive, but it came from an earnest place. It sounds one-dimensional and objectifying, and it absolutely was. I had a lot of misinformation, but ultimately I think it came from a place of wishful thinking. I wanted to turn off the fact of my being a woman whenever it suited me. I wanted this to be possible so I could preserve all friendships indefinitely and be seen as equally intelligent and well-rounded as anyone (as any man, that is to say). To be able to believe my achievements were based on merit and not the fact that it would look good to have a girl on the team.
At some point I began to realize the glasses thing wasn’t all I hoped. A random line in a journal from this time reads: “You’re a fool if you think wearing glasses will keep me from falling in love with you.” I may have been a little dramatic, but the sentiment proved accurate because a few years later, I dated a man who actively liked glasses. I wore them the second time we met. I don’t remember if it was intentional, or if I was just tired. Either way, I “risked” wearing the glasses and it “backfired.” He later put them on a list of things that attracted him to me. He misread my signal, and though flattered I felt disappointed I had so little control or awareness over how I was coming across. So the adage was false, useless. Back to the drawing board.
It’s not the glasses, of course. Some days they make me feel like Zooey Deschanel in New Girl and others they make me feel like Where’s Waldo. But wouldn’t it be nice to have some control over how others see us? I wish I could turn my entire body into one of those black censorship strips at will so that random men simply cannot see it and are forced to look into my face instead.
I wanted there to be one easy trick to getting people to see you as a person instead of a woman. As a fellow human instead of a rival or conquest. A piece of glass and plastic to magically pass on the passes whenever I’d like without having to explain myself or experience any discomfort. But if there is such a trick, I’m sorry to tell you that it’s not wearing glasses.