I bought my last pair of eyeglass frames about twelve years ago. I got them on sale at a place on State Street.
It turned out they were on sale because fashion was headed in a different direction and, as is often the case, I was catching the wave just as it had reached the shore and was in the process of flattening out and gently easing back into the sea.
But I didn't care. I got a bargain and they were perfectly fine glasses. Some told me that the little dark frames made me look like Leon Trotsky. I was mayor of one of the few cities in America where this was considered a plus. So, I was happy.
Then a few weeks ago United Airlines lost my bag. In that bag were my favorite pairs of wash and go underwear, my camera, my biking shorts, a pair of jeans that fit just right (you know how hard it is to find those), a bunch of other stuff, and my glasses. (Also, one of those little ceramic jars of Carmex, which are hard to find these days. I like them a lot better than the new plastic squeeze tubes, don't you?)
For those of you eager for an update on my lost bag, well, it's 37 days and counting. United assures me that they're still hot on its trail. I think it was last seen in Maui headed for Budapest.
Just to be on the safe side, though, they have recommended that I file a claim for lost property. I did that, and sent it to the United claims office in Chicago. My understanding is that the hard-working staff there opens the claims and carefully selects the most pathetic ones to be read at the Christmas party for United management.
"Look! Look at this one! The guy says he lost his favorite Carmex jar! What a sap. Here's to the sap and to his bag, wherever it is! Hah, hah, hah, hah!"
The eternal pessimist, I have given it up for lost. Which means I need a new pair of glasses. Which brings me to the point of this post.
I taught a couple classes on the UW campus this spring and took careful note of the glasses worn by hip young people. They have taken on a decidedly Mad Men feel. Big, heavy and dark is in, like the glasses worn by Vince Lombardi or Robert McNamara. Glasses that remind us that winning is the only thing, and that the numbers prove that we can't possibly lose to the Viet Cong.
So, wanting to catch the eyeglass fashion wave at its peak this time, I went to this store in town and tried on a few pair. A fashionable young woman in big, dark, heavy glasses approached me. Dianne and the eyeglass fashion specialist evaluated several pair. I found a couple that I liked. Then I made the mistake of looking at the price.
"Holy Mary Mother of God, Jesus Christ and all the Saints!" I said or something very much like that. The cheapest ones were $400. I quickly calculated how many rounds of golf at one of our fine city-owned Madison courses that would buy. Or how many very nice bottles of Scotch. Or how many Brewers games we could go to. Or, if we didn't want to go to a Brewers game, than maybe a professional baseball game instead.
The clerk had clearly seen this reaction before. I could tell she had me pegged from the start. She was going through the motions, but she could see that I had cheap written all over me. Dianne just kind of rolled her eyes. She too had seen this reaction before. It's what got me into those Trotsky glasses over a decade ago and what keeps us driving our beloved 1997 Honda Accord Wagon with 145,000 glorious miles behind it!
Anyway, I escaped the store and fled eventually to the internets, where I found Warby Parker. For only $85 a frame, you can choose from a selection of highly fashionable eyewear from New York City! You can even try on this eyewear virtually from the comfort of your own home where nobody is there to make you feel guilty about giving up the equivalent of fourteen rounds of golf for a single pair of frames.
I chose two pair: the "Fillmore Hazelwood" and the "Roosevelt Striped Chestnut." I chose the Roosevelt not just because I thought it looked virtually good on me, but also because I am a big FDR fan. I imagined myself in those glasses mixing cocktails and inventing Social Security. (Like most Americans I have no strong feelings one way or the other about Millard Fillmore, thirteenth President of the United States. I just liked the frames.)
Then the glasses arrived in the mail. I tried them on. Dianne looked at them and she pronounced them good. I took this as major vindication as I had just spent less than half as much on two pair of frames than I would have spent on one pair at the (I admit it) locally owned store.
But then things took a turn for the worse. The problem is that I am virtually blind. The next click on my optometrist's machine says "white cane and dog." So I need lenses the width of the windows at the White House. I don't know. They weigh something like twenty pounds each. This wasn't such a problem with the tiny Trotsky glasses, but when you're wearing glasses the size of football fields, well, it adds up.
Plus, when you're looking at my eyes from the other side in the Roosevelts, the effect is to shrink that part of my face visible through the frames, so that it looks like the band of my face between my nose and my forehead is a about a third smaller than the rest of it. This creates a look that fashion experts describe as "really kind of creepy."
Anyway, you be the judge. I have provided a helpful photo. My glasses: too big or fashion forward? Am I making a statement for hipness, or a statement for, as Dianne now charges, Mr. Magoo
McGoo? Do I come off more as FDR, McNamara, or Magoo McGoo, or should I go back to Trotsky?