There are things you just don’t realize until you’re in a certain situation. For instance I never realized before that if you take the worst aspects of a doctor’s office and a J.C. Penney’s and put them together you get an eyewear store until I went shopping for glasses and the store was vaguely clinical with a lot of neutral colors and uncomfortable furniture but also mirrors that reflected back the dismal reality that I’m getting old and a lot of pictures of happy models wearing glasses, all of whom seemed to magnify the dismal reality that I’m getting old. And I wondered why none of them were modeling contacts until I realized that contacts don’t have a lot of stylistic variety and that basically this year’s contacts are going to look exactly like last year’s contacts, which actually makes contacts a better option if you care enough about fashion that you’re willing to start each day by sticking a small piece of plastic in your eye.
So anyway I was looking for glasses. And my wife was there with me because she has a much better fashion sense than I do and she’s going to spend more time than anyone else looking at my glasses whereas I’m just going to spend most of my time looking through them. She put the kibosh on one pair I picked up saying, “No, too John Lennon,” and she was right, I don’t imagine I could pull off that look. So we browsed some more and I accidentally wandered from the men’s eyewear section to the women’s section where all the frames looked the same but the models in the pictures were women. And all the lenses had a sticker that said, “Test lenses,” so I asked a few of them if they knew what the capital of Estonia is. Also I was slightly amazed by the prices of some of the frames. At least with really expensive clothing you know you’re paying for the label, but with glasses you’re just paying for some metal or plastic that holds a couple of magnifying glasses together and any label big enough to be worth the price is going to block your view. Or they’d be a monocle because nothing says wealth and class like being able to afford only one lens or a pince-nez because the acme of worldliness and style is glasses that keep falling off. And I remembered why I hate shopping for anything. In a late stage capitalist post-consumerist first-world double-dipped half-caff lightly sprinkled hot buttered and fluoridated society I should be able to find exactly what I’m looking for even when I don’t know what it is. When a very nice young woman came over and asked if she could help us find anything I said, “Have you got anything Elton John would describe as ‘a little too over-the-top’?” Because some of them were expensive enough that they not only should be able to help you see better but also hit that high note in Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, but that’s another story.
Eventually we did find a pair that my wife liked the look of and that I liked looking through, and I find that when I put them on the world looks a little sharper, the way I remember it used to look, which also reminds me that I’m getting older. Still there are advantages. A friend told me, “Those give you a very intellectual look. Do they also make you feel smarter?” and I said, “Uhhhhh,” and she had fortunately wandered away when I suddenly and for no reason yelled out “Tallinn!” because I only paid enough for the ones that make me look smarter. The ones that would actually make me smarter were twice as much.