New Eye Glasses

I've worn glasses since grade one. At the time I was told I needed to wear them, I took the news well. I wasn't old enough to be vain about it, but my sister was and somehow found a way to be jealous of my poor eyesight. I remember her saying, "Everyone in my grade has either glasses or braces and I don't have either!" as if this was a bad thing. Now that we're older and she has both perfect teeth and near perfect eyesight, that comment seems hilariously misguided. But seeing as she was in grade 5, I'm sure she just wanted to fit in.

My first pair of glasses were Christian Dior. Anyone who wears glasses knows that 'designer' is somehow different when it comes to eye wear. The prices even out and I'm sure the Dior glasses for kids were no different in price than the Fisher Price glasses for kids. As well, in 1986, Dior hadn't been revived by John Galliano yet, so it was still a sort-of old lady brand. None the less, I still feel quite chuffed knowing my first glasses were Dior.

They were clear with pink stripes and cats-eye shaped with a tiny pink plastic bow in one corner. I wore them with a geeky pink strap so if they fell off, they would hang there like you might picture a librarian would do with a pair of bifocals. It wasn't long after this that I learned what vanity was.

Next I had a pair of those big big eighties glasses, they were black and looked like they had been paint spattered with neon pink. Good lord. If I was less vain (and had a scanner handy) I'd post a picture of myself drowning in the sheer size of them. Instead I've found a picture of a pair that are identical, save the colour palette. Terrible, and not in an ironic-hipster-cool way. Just plain terrible. I loved them at the time, and was pretty sure paint-splatter was the coolest finish for eye wear ever, until another girl in my class showed up in the same pair. Less cool, suddenly. That was the beginning of something that happens to me a lot.

I enjoy being an early adopter. I wouldn't say I'm cutting edge or anything, but I definitely have a tendency to want something as it is just beginning to surface in culture. I recall many episodes of being made fun of for wearing something, only to see many other people wearing it just a few months later. (See docs, birkenstocks with socks (ah, the 90's), clogs, paint splattered glasses, black nail polish, etc)

Being an early adopter in the realm of eye wear takes some guts. See, I have to wear glasses every day, and since I have both a lazy (or should I say "effort impaired") eye and an astigmatism, my glasses are expensive. Both of those failings are in one eye, and the other eye is virtually normal. What results from this imbalance is a literal imbalance of lens. If I don't pay the big bucks, I've got a coke bottle on one eye and a reading glass on the other. Since that look is  not only unattractive but uncomfortable, I always upgrade to the better lenses and my glasses cost an arm and a leg. For this reason, there has been only one 5-year stretch where I owned two pairs, and that was only because my sister's benefits were awesome, and she took pity on me because I was a poor student/young professional.

So I was an early adopter with the last 2 pairs, which I've now had for 5 years. I guess since I got two pairs it was easier to delay getting new ones - which you should have about every 2 years - because sharing the wear of them elongated how long it took for them to get scratched and all bunged up.

One pair was bright blue, Emporio Armani, and had those thick thick arms on the side that everyone wears these days.
(these are them in the black variation.)

The other pair is a black plastic frame, also very popular at the moment (though mine are slightly different in shape than the ones that are basically Ray Ban Wayfarer Knock-offs, pictured at right). I would have likely purchased Wayfarer styled ones, had they been available, because the look I was actually reaching for was Woody Allen inspired. I less than succeeded in that quest. At the time, however, I was just happy to have two pairs that were very different than any I'd ever had, and that one pair was black and kinda geeky. Alas time passes and what at one time seemed unique, now seems very Wal-Mart.

So for the past 8 months I've been shopping for new frames. The decision is not made lightly, as I will be wearing these glasses every day for the next few years. I've shopped and shopped. All I could seem to find were ones exactly like the ones I already had.

At Walmart, I noticed they had Vivienne Westwood frames. I got really excited by this because although I try to avoid brand loyalty when shopping for glasses (see Emporio Armani, who I have no love for) and just shop based on look, I love Vivienne Westwood. I did a project on her once in highschool and now she feels like part of me.

Though the Vivienne Westwood frames at Walmart were rhinestone-studded and pretty awesome, they weren't quite right, as much as I tried to convince myself that they were.

In an odd twist/test of brand loyalty fate, the ones I liked best at Walmart were by Baby Phat. I am just not willing to wear the Baby Phat cat logo on my face, I'm just not. Perhaps inspired by the logo, they were cats-eye shape, which was in my mind as a new shape to look for. But, I'm not a Baby Phat girl, nor do I like cats. It just wasn't happening.

And so the quest for cats-eyed frames continued. I've shopped at Lens Crafters (they have lots of Ray Bans) but nothing struck my fancy there. Everything seemed very same-y. I shopped Sears, the Bay and a mall optical shop, as well as my optometrists office. All were filled with same-y disappointment. Though I had been recommended The Optic Zone many times, and know a lot of people with great glasses from there, the trip to Toronto (which would then be followed by at least one more trip there) seemed excessive. I did happen by there one time while already in the city for another purpose...and of course, they were closed. So it never happened.

The reason The Optic Zone is so highly recommended is that it is the sort of place you go into and the guy who owns it picks a pair for you and you put them on and think, "Holy crap, I would have never picked these for myself, but they are AWESOME!!" Needless to say, I wanted that experience, but I wanted it closer to home.

Enter my dental receptionist in a great pair of frames. I had to comment. She pointed me towards The Optical Boutique  in Oshawa with the warning that it was the sort of place where you had a lot of help and they would virtually pick the glasses for you. Though this was intended as a warning, this is just what I was looking for. Walking in the front entrance today was a joy.

Loads of different styles and many things off the beaten path. Colour! Shape! Variety! Ah, a glasses heaven right in my hometown. The service was great, I found great frames (that I am now positively dying to have) and feel confident that while they are very different from what I expected to have, they will be something I will love, love, love. They have a bit of an upwards-swing, like a cat eye, but are larger and a bit different in shape. They are tortoise shell on the outside, and green inside. I'll tweetpic them when I get them!

The best part was the service. Though I can't really review the service and follow-up once I receive my glasses, I can say the purchasing experience was spectacular. The owner himself helped me, wasn't too pushy, gave me time to think, but gave me real reasons to consider the ones he was picking. I bought the first pair I tried on at his request. Though I tried on many others in between, and then different colour variations of the first pair, I ended up with the first pair. He had an eye for faces, I can tell you that.

This is the difference between great service from a professional and standard service at big box stores. The cost wasn't even higher than I expected either, which was good news.  I don't know if it is something to do with getting older or if it comes from having worked in a service industry before, but I really appreciate professional service. The best haircut I ever had was from a talented stylist to whom I gave the instructions "a haircut please". After all, he's the pro, right? Why am I trying to tell someone who sees faces with glasses or people with heads of hair all day every day what works and what doesn't? I appreciate a business who will straight up tell you when you are making the wrong choice. When I worked at Secrets from your sister... this was something we did every day. After all, you don't spend 45 minutes helping a woman find the perfect bra and then just let her walk out of the store in the wrong size. You tell her it's wrong. Because you know, and you're the expert, and you've seen happy customer after happy customer who followed your advice.

So, I'm just a few days away from the next phase of my glasses-wearing life. In an odd way I can segment my life and memories by the glasses I was wearing at the time. Though I like to think of myself as someone who isn't really materialistic, I do sometimes like to think of what I would buy with an unlimited budget. After giving my friends and family a boatload of gifts (and maybe a boat as well) I'd definitely splash out on an eye wear wardrobe. A different pair for every occasion and event. So many people try to hide the fact they wear glasses, wear invisible frames, or contact lenses. Lately I've even been taking off my glasses for photos, because someone somewhere said I look better that way.

But I think the reality of the situation is I'm not me without my glasses. And when these ones arrive in a few days, I get to be a new-and-improved me. And that is boatloads of fun.

No comments: