I was 11-years old when my father took me to a LA Rams football game at the LA Coliseum, 1965. It was a mega-hot day in late September and our seats were high up. It was so hot that the Butch Wax I had on my hair actually started to melt and run down my face. Butch Wax would be equivalent to today’s hair gel, but it was actually a thick, oily wax in a glass jar (like vaseline) that you would put on the front of your hair to make it stand up straight. While watching the game my dad made a mention of how fast #22 was. I looked down on the field and realized I couldn’t come close to reading the numbers on the player’s backs. I could only tell which team it was by the color of their uniforms. Until that day I had no idea whatsoever that I was terribly nearsighted. When I responded to my father that I couldn’t read any numbers from this high, first he thought I was being a smart-ass about how high the seats were, then he realized I was telling the truth and it was within a week I was at the local optometrist on Foothill Blvd. The optometrist didn’t take long to diagnose what was wrong and gave me a prescription for a pair of glasses…what! I’m in 7th grade and on top of the social anxiety all kids feel at that age I was going to have to wear glasses so I could stand out even more, help. My mind was racing…I’ll be teased, called 4-eyes, probably beaten up repeatedly, not to mention any chance I might have had getting a girlfriend was gone. I’ll be the school geek, this was bad, no wonder I could never read the chalk board from the back of the class. Oh God, now I’ll have to sit up front in class unless I wear glasses. It got worse. In those days there were no frame stores like Lenscrafters with a variety of styles and contact lenses hadn’t come of age yet. You simply went from the optometrist’s exam room to his frame room next door where there were about five styles of frames to choose from…five total…and they were all butt-ugly. I tried on each pair and I felt like I was putting a BEAT ME UP sign on my head each time. I picked what I thought was the least ugly pair and drove home with my mother. I tried them on again about a hundred more times at home hoping by some miracle they would look better, not a chance. Well, the next day of school arrived and it was do-or-die…I died. My vanity had gotten the better of me and I just didn’t wear them, I would rather be half-blind than wear those glasses. Looking back now I can see the foolishness of it all, but in 7th grade wearing glasses was a major life changer. I had chickened out and continued for years to see the world as a blur. Then reality hit again. I was now in high-school and was dead set on getting my drivers license on my 16th birthday. I had the driving part down, the written exam went well, now time to take my picture and get out of the DMV. One problem I had overlooked, the eye exam, FAILED, must wear corrective lenses to drive. You mean the day I had been waiting for since I drove a car in my dad’s lap was going to end like this? I re-took the test with the glasses that had been in hibernation for 4-years and passed it, but still had to face the reality of cruising to high school with glasses on. It was do-or-die time again and again I died. I drove without glasses as it was so important to look cool when you are 16. I had learned to sit somewhere up front in class to see the board, say hi to people that were waving at me even though I didn’t have a clue who they were, and practiced shooting baskets a thousand times until I could shoot well enough without glasses to make the basketball team. Vanity comes with a price. I finally gave in during college as there was so much reading and the lecture halls were so big that the front of the room was simply a blur and I didn’t want to fail due to ego. I got a pair of John Lennon glasses which were somewhat fashionable and started wearing the original hard plastic contact lenses which I never could wear for more than 5-hours. It wasn’t until college that I could see the world clearly.
I now depend on glasses or contact lenses every waking moment. Contact lenses have become so soft and disposable that they are almost enjoyable to wear. But, you still have to go thru the painful process of picking out frames for your glasses. The options are limitless with all the retail frame stores and attention now given to make glasses chic, cool, intellectual, warm…whatever you want them to be. BIG TIP – Don’t pick out frames by yourself, always have someone honest with you. It took many failures before I realized this. You may think you look cool in the frame store, but as soon as you run into a group of friends or family and they start busting out in laughter, you know instantly the joke is on your face…another bad decision. I now like to buy sunglasses and take the lenses out and put prescriptions in. I’ve stopped experimenting with new looks. I found a pair of frames that work and I’m sticking with them. I did get a chuckle when I went to a vintage frame store in Pasadena and saw the pair of glasses from 1965 that had caused me so much angst.