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National Editorials & Columns

Death Valley II: The Search For New Glasses

In the abysmal trip to Death Valley that I wrote about a few weeks ago, a handful of failed events were left out because of space constraints.

One such fail is that my eyeglasses were left behind in the seedy hotel. When I called and asked whether my glasses had made their way to the lost and found, the person reported that no glasses had been found. Though that is entirely feasible — odds are that no one has been in that room to clean it yet, or ever — I think something more diabolical is afoot. Perhaps the glasses were stolen by a paranoid employee in hopes that without perfect vision, I couldn’t identify him in a lineup. Goodness knows that those workers must be on a most wanted list somewhere.

I loved those glasses. I rocked them for seven lovely years. And to add insult to injury, I have an intense hatred for frames shopping.

Shopping for glasses is on a par with going on a dinner date with a rabid gopher. You know it’s only going to end in tears, but you can’t help feeling as if you should dress up for the occasion.

First, you must suffer through the self-esteem-abolishing act of finding frames that flatter your face. That’s the easy part. The real challenge comes in picking the frames that not only will look good on you but also can define you. (Clinton Kelly says it’s the first thing people notice about you when you’re making a first impression, and I’m inclined to believe anyone who can pull off a plaid suit.)

When you spend each day trying to keep the 500 hats you juggle off the yet-to-be-vacuumed floor, picking one look that defines you is daunting. Do I want the confident frameless glasses? The funky cat-shaped? Do I just want to look pretty? Or pretty and smart? Or pretty and weird? Or not pretty at all? Sure, I think it would be cool to rock two monocles today, but how will I feel a day from now? A week from now? A year from now?

As I stood in front of a mirror, six pairs of glasses on my head and three in each hand, hyperventilating, I began having flashbacks to my first time at sleep-away camp. On the drive up, my mom said: “No one knows you here. You can be anyone you want to be. You can be the most popular girl in school or the lead in the school plays or valedictorian. No one will know. You have the chance to start fresh as the person you want to be.”

I decided to tell everyone I was the vegetarian school president and had recently undergone a surgery to unweb my toes. What can I say? I was a weird kid.

Whenever I started a new school, new camp, new activity, my mom would remind me that this was another chance to redefine myself. I could hear her voice now.

Now that my beloved frames were buried in the desert, who did I want to be?

I narrowed down my selection to two choices: thick black frames and multicolored pointy frames. The thick black frames exuded the personality of Leonard on “The Big Bang Theory” — geeky but not completely socially inept. They were classic-looking and, through my eyes, defined someone approachable, if not familiar.

The multicolored and pointy frames, on the other hand, brought the drama. They were the Bernadette Peters and Dennis Rodman of eyeglasses. Whoever wore those frames would be perceived as funky and cool and interesting.

I want to be the girl who wears the multicolored pointy frames. But as I stared at my reflection in them, I thought back to that first week at sleep-away camp.

My golden opportunity to redefine who I was had backfired on the second day when the mess hall served chicken nuggets, my then favorite, and I was caught sneaking pieces into my mouth under the table. I wouldn’t have been able to keep up the new image anyway. The fake webbed feet thing would’ve given me away as soon as people saw I couldn’t swim.

I never have been very good at pretending to be someone I’m not.

I bought the thick black frames. They will do a fine job of defining me for the next seven years — or until the next seedy hotel worker outlaw steals them.

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