Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Darcy’s Dilemma

by Dieter

My first encounter with Parker was unimpressive. It was the second day of the new school year when he walked into the classroom. He seemed no different from any average junior in high school. Sure, I did my usual double-take when I saw that he was wearing glasses. And yes, he was cute enough, but that was the problem. My assumption was that he would not assimilate with the group of friends with which I associated. Over time I would learn that he was shy, self-conscious, and somewhat socially challenged. More importantly, I would find that there was one thing that set him apart from most boys his age. That’s when I would realize that he was everything that I had ever dreamed about having in a boyfriend.

That discovery occurred when I was with my friends at a gaming convention in downtown. As each member of my group gravitated towards their personal interest, I found myself playing a new and as yet unreleased video game. Since there was no one waiting in line, my opponent and I were fully engaged with the intention of getting the best of each other. I was in the zone until I felt the sensation of someone watching over my shoulder.
"Cool game, Darcy," an unfamiliar voice observed. "The graphics really jump . . . . . almost looks real."
"Uh, huh," I uttered perceptively.
At the next pause, I turned to see who had invaded my space and crashed my concentration. It was Parker and in close proximity, he had the face of a geek god. I could only muster a timid smile before I was obligated to continue play. Upon reaching the next pause, I turned to attempt further inarticulate mumbling, only to realize that he was no longer there. I had to find him.
Eventually, I caught a glimpse of Parker across the large convention room. By the time I worked my way through the crowd, he was gone. For the rest of that evening, I could think of nothing else. I have always had a thing for glasses on boys. Moreover, it was common knowledge to my friends and I was often taunted for it. But it may be a big part of the reason that I enjoy the friends that I have. All of them wear glasses. Of course, you would expect that. They’re geeks. But I had never experienced the thrill of looking into eyes as striking as Parker’s. They appeared tiny, forceful, eager, yet needy. It was obvious that the lenses in his glasses contained immense strength. I had to find out more about him.
The next week at school, I tried everything I could to talk with Parker. That was difficult because we shared only one class. Since he was new to our school, for that matter to our city, nobody knew his schedule. He hadn’t made many friends, yet. After several days, I managed to position myself between his path and the doorway to the classroom.
"Good morning, Parker," I cooed. A great deal of pride must be lost before a girl geek will coo.
"Hi, Darcy," he replied timidly.
"Neat convention last Saturday, wasn’t it?" I delved.
"Yeah, I wish there was one every weekend," he answered while continuing to his desk.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t catch him after class. For the next several days, I developed the traits of a stalker. I skulked and watched from every distance as I settled into a routine of trying to determine his schedule and habits. There was one thing I uncovered. The few girls with whom he could gather the courage to speak wore glasses. Was that it? Did he prefer girls with glasses? Why not? I could relate to that. There was a certain irony in the fact that he had the same first name as Dorothy Parker’s last. He definitely appeared capable to "make passes at girls who wear glasses". But then, perhaps Parker simply felt more comfortable around the girls with whom he shared a mutual trait. Whichever, maybe I could use it to my advantage.
The following weekend, I discovered something useful while shopping for a gift at Claire’s in the mall. Next to the racks of bracelets and earrings, I found inexpensive glasses with clear lenses on the shelves with sunglasses. At first I thought that seemed silly. Who would wear phony glasses with no prescription? But as I contemplated that question, it soon became evident. I would! What could be more ideal? There was a large assortment of styles and colors. With little expense, I could try wearing glasses. Perhaps Parker would take notice.
In a fury, I began trying every pair on my face. Looking into the mirror at the top of the rack, I wanted to find the ones that made the right statement. I finally settled on frames in an ivory color. The shade, though a bit audacious, worked well on me. As I gazed at myself, I concluded that I looked genuine and profound at least until I was shocked back to reality when my best friend, Jennifer, interrupted.
"Uh, what are you doing, Darcy?" she asked in that "girly attitude" tone that she knew I hated.
"Picking out some glasses," I answered with an implied, "Duh?"
"Why would you wear glasses when you don’t need them?"
It was a valid inquiry coming from her. Jennifer had worn glasses since the third grade. Over the years, she had made me well aware of the traumas she endured. As we grew older, I figured her glasses would be supplanted by contact lenses. But eventually she began to fit right in with our crowd of friends. As I said previously, I was the ‘odd man out. By the time we reached high school, Jennifer had eased into acceptance. And I think she realized that glasses were part of the uniform. But the ordeals of Jennifer’s past made a useable excuse for me.
"Do you remember how you felt when you first got glasses?"
"Of course I do," she stated flatly.
"Remember how you were made to feel different and left out at times? How you felt like nobody would pick you for games and stuff?"
"Yes, so what’s your point, Darcy?" she responded obviously not wanting to be reminded.
"Sometimes I feel left out, now. Without glasses, I don’t look as smart as everyone else in our group. I’m not taken seriously like the rest of you."
"Listen, I know you better than anybody else does, Darcy. You’ve always been jealous of anyone with glasses," she scoffed while rejecting my concern.
She was right. I had never been able to hide that fact and I had been especially envious of Jennifer in the third grade. It was obvious to her even back then when I badgered her with silly questions about how it felt to wear glasses. I inquired if it hurt, I probed how different things appeared, and I wondered if she felt as smart as she looked. I often asked to wear her glasses. But my desire to have glasses and my sympathy towards her had helped Jennifer battle through the resentment she felt. Her appreciation of my encouragement and support had built a lasting bond.
But now, my story was lame at best. I never felt left out of our group in any way. There was some truth to my account, however. People, both inside the group and outside, dismissed my ideas and suggestions often, especially teachers. I could tell that I wasn’t considered to be as intelligent as my friends because I simply didn’t look as smart. My test scores could prove otherwise. My theory was that it was because I didn’t wear glasses. But the real issue at that moment was, basically, that I was too embarrassed to tell my best friend the truth. And that was that I only wanted to wear glasses to attract a boy. Regardless of my reasoning, Jennifer cut me some slack and let the subject drop. And, I trusted that she would not tell anyone that I bought fake glasses.
I left for school on Monday morning with the glasses in my backpack. Since I only lived a few blocks away, I usually walked. What I hadn’t planned for was my own reluctance to be seen wearing glasses for the first time. While passing through the neighborhood, I feared being spotted by someone I knew. When I got to school, I couldn’t seem to find the right time to be "discovered". Before I knew it, my class with Parker had come and gone. After that it seemed pointless to wear glasses. He was the one by whom I wanted to be seen.
I stewed about my predicament well after going to bed that night. Why had I made the situation so incredibly hard? In order to implement my plan, I had to be courageous enough to get past vanity. But as I deliberated, I realized that it wasn’t vanity. I had considered the possibility of needing glasses ever since my sister got them at age fourteen. Given that I was only ten at the time it was something that I had been expecting to happen for years. In fact, since both of my parents wore glasses, I had prepared myself for that likelihood. Who am I kidding? I had been wishing for it since age eight when Jennifer got her glasses. Actually, what was difficult to grasp was how I had managed to make it to age fifteen without needing them still. No, my only problem was that I was afraid of the attention that I would receive from classmates, teachers, friends, and even strangers. My fear was of the personal questions and embarrassing conversations that I expected to arise. Once I resolved the real issue, I felt relieved. Wearing glasses is what I’d wanted. What the heck? Who couldn’t use a little more attention?
At my locker the next morning, I pulled the glasses out of my pack. Apprehensively, I tried to study them in my shaking hands. Then I thought to myself, "just do this," and placed them on my face. There, it was done! My heart palpitated so strongly in my throat that it would have been impossible to speak. As I began walking down the hallway, I felt unguarded and alone. It seemed like everyone was staring but they weren’t. They were simply looking. My expectation was that someone would stop me or say something unsolicited. No one did.
When I walked into the classroom, few heads even turned. But, I saw Parker take a long look as I walked past. Good. Maybe, I had made an impression. As I took my seat in the back corner of the room, Karen, who sat behind me, tapped my shoulder.
"Cool glasses, Darcy. When did you get them?" she whispered.
"Yesterday. I feel really awkward wearing them," I pretended.
"They look great on you. I wish I needed glasses." she replied.
It was a surprising yet absolutely perfect exchange which helped diminish my tension. I had managed to fool Karen. Now if I could just get a comparable reaction from Parker.
For the rest of the morning, I received additional positive comments. The worst remarks I heard were not directed at me actually. Several classmates made some form of the statement, "I hope I don’t need glasses. I would die if I had to." Though it feels like a slam towards you for accepting your fate, they really are only saying that they don’t want to join you in that fate. After hearing that the first time, I learned to acknowledge the statement for what it was and nothing more. Besides, I knew I would relish that fate.
Being around my close friends was most difficult. Since we’re a tight group, they seemed more betrayed than surprised. They felt excluded because I had not confided in them previously. I tried to smooth it over by telling them that it had happened too quickly. Having experienced headaches, I’d gotten a prompt appointment on Saturday. I explained that I never expected to need glasses and especially never dreamed that they would be made so quickly. It hurt when I saw the look on Jennifer’s face, though. I could see she was wondering if I had ever been honest with her.
Most everything else was going as planned. Nobody had created a scene or said anything to embarrass me until I bumped into Parker in the cafeteria.
"Why are you wearing glasses with bogus lenses, Darcy?"
His voice revealed an air of hurt and deceit.
"What do you mean?"
"One thing I know a lot about glasses. I’ve been wearing them since before I was school age. Those look a lot like the ones that my little sister tries on when she goes shopping. She’s always wanted glasses so she could be like her big brother. But it’s something my family has told her not to wish for."
He walked away shaking his head while I stammered for words. I’ve never been a smooth talker with the guys. I felt awful. Instead of making a good impression on Parker, I had done worse than the opposite. By his reaction, it was as though I had resolved in some way to insult him. I went back to my locker, stuffed the glasses in my pack, and slammed the door shut. For the rest of the afternoon, I moped around pretending to have a headache.
Walking home after school, I contemplated my actions. On the positive side, I had received mostly compliments concerning my glasses and how nice I looked wearing them. It would be interesting to continue the experiment to see if people would begin to consider me more intelligent. I really wanted to prove that. On the negative side, not only had I managed to offend Parker but now my best friend was even more disappointed with me than she had been previously. Parker thought I was a poser, but Jennifer knew it. How could I possibly fix this? There was only one answer. I needed real glasses. Then my experience would be taken seriously. But how could I accomplish that? How can you need glasses when you don’t? The dilemma could be solved by looking at it from a different angle. What if I just wore real glasses? That I could resolve rather simply.
My sister had three pairs of old glasses tucked away in a drawer of her desk. Since she was far from home at college, she only came home at semester breaks. When we had moved from our house to the townhouse, my mother had suggested that my sister donate her old glasses to charity since their scripts were outdated. She hadn’t because my sister never gets rid of anything. I knew so because I had "borrowed" them a few times.
When I got home I went straight to my sister’s room. Each of the cases rattled when I picked them up. I took all three of them to my room and locked the door. It was time for a quick assessment to confirm what I already knew. The first case contained her oldest pair of glasses. The style was too outdated. Besides, they reminded me of one of the saddest times of my life. We had retrieved them from the optician earlier on the same day that my parents announced that they were getting a divorce. That was hard to forget. The second pair was too tattered. Using them would not be an option. Besides noticeable wear on the frames and hinges, there was a large smudge-like scratch on one of the lenses.
But as anticipated, the third case contained my sister’s most recent glasses. I remembered when she wore them during her final months in high school. That was a couple of years before. Being quite different from me, my sister was athletic, bubbly, and well-liked by teachers. Those assets bestowed upon her the ability of popularity. I have always wanted to be as polished as my sister. But of course, that would require trying. Even back then, she possessed maturity. I was just a kid but I had always wondered what her secret was. I could never seem to look as finished. Not then, not now. I’m seldom accused of maturity, not physically anyway. Of course, I know that part of my problem is that most of the time I dress purely for comfort and nothing else.
As I lifted the glasses from the case, there was a certain familiarity about their feel in my hands. But, I was studying them in a new way because now I was considering how they would look if being worn as though they were mine. The glasses were slightly outdated but only to the point of looking a little conservative. Upon close inspection, they seemed brand new as there was no evidence of wear and tear. That was logical. She only wore them for a few months. These glasses had been a quick replacement when she broke her previous ones playing tennis. Later that summer they had become obsolete when she bought new ones with her current prescription. Getting her two-year exam was one of her final acts before leaving for college.
I unfolded the temple pieces and placed the glasses on my face. Seeing with them was nothing short of difficult. I knew my sister was nearsighted but had never seen her scripts. The lenses in this pair had always seemed considerably stronger than in the others. She must have had a large increase between her second and third prescriptions. Even now, my neck and shoulders tensed while my eyes strained to focus. Initially, my reaction was to remove the glasses and give up. But I didn’t. They were my best option. Instead I concentrated on looking at things far away; the farther the better. I went to the window and focused on objects outside. Though my eyes felt stretched and my temples pounded, I was determined to make this work.
As the ache dulled, I walked to my dresser and looked into the mirror. It was like seeing my sister when she had been my age. I was her. Wearing her glasses, made me realize how similar we look. That didn’t bother me, in fact, it was reassuring. My sister has always been my advocate. In every way, my appearance seemed normal and natural. I looked warm, approachable, and more mature. I went to the bathroom where the light was brighter. Using the mirror over the sink with an additional hand mirror, I could observe my image from all angles. The frames were tiny oval-shaped metal rims in a very distinctive dark bronze color. The temple pieces were attached to elongated hinges which widened the look from the front view. I especially loved the nose piece that was rounded to fit the shape of my nose. The overall style of the glasses, though less bold than the plastic ivory fakes, was minimal, unfussy, and looked studious. I liked that. They were appropriate for a ‘geek girl’.
The lenses were gorgeous. Because of their minimal size, they didn’t appear too thick but did possess an affect of great power. There were a multitude of continuous oval-shaped rings, each being smaller than the previous. Looking at myself through the sparkling glaze made me feel attractive and sexy. My eyes showed passion, looked vivacious, and exuded enthusiasm. I felt wise beyond my years. Then I realized why.Glasses had been the secret to my sister’s polished look! And now I had it!
Without changing anything else, I felt more finished. With my hands, I gathered my hair into a ponytail and lifted it above my head. The working end of the temple pieces grabbed my ears as if they had been made just for me. It looked so feminine. The fit of the frames seemed comfortable, though they could probably stand some tweaking. But could I accomplish my daily tasks while wearing my sister’s prescription? The lenses were very stout for a beginner. My eyes had relaxed some and weren’t straining as much. The dull ache had been replaced with something different. It was a feeling more like being challenged to maintain focus. It took effort, but it was doable. It but it would require major concentration. Should I dare to try?
Since my mom worked late that night, I experimented for hours into the evening. At the time it didn’t register that anyone getting glasses for the first time would be expected to have a period of adjustment. While only wanting assurance that I had the ability to cope naturally, I realized that there were new lessons to be learned. There is an art to wearing glasses. But as I mastered those discoveries, experiencing vision through lenses became sensational. I found it to be seductive, addictive, and it left me wanting for more. Most astonishing was seeing in the distance. The clarity was extraordinary and my eyes felt particularly centered. But reading books and magazines was sketchy. Words and photos seemed small and distant. I was enormously conscious of the overcorrection. Sitting down at my laptop, I had to push the monitor farther away to focus.
"That’s better," I heard myself say aloud.
I had researched vision issues on the internet for years and felt I had considerable knowledge, probably more than most people that wear glasses. I recognized that almost all of my friends were nearsighted and, therefore, wore lenses similar to the ones I was using. Only Jason, Jennifer’s boyfriend, was farsighted. Each of his lenses looked like a magnifying glass. More significantly, I was able to appreciate that Jennifer did appear to wear the strongest prescription within our group. I supposed that was logical since she needed glasses at the earliest age. But even her prescription was nowhere in the same league with Parker’s.
Now, I wanted to explore strictly into the issues of myopia. I needed to understand more about the use of my sister’s ‘hand-me-downs’. By the time my mom got home, I felt well-informed. Armed with more knowledge, I made plans for the next experiment. I would wear the glasses all day at school in an endeavor to function normally. The real test would be to do that without instigating suspicion. Since I attended a different high school than my sister, few friends knew her well enough to remember her wearing these glasses. That was important because everyone, especially the teachers, had to believe that the glasses were mine.
First I needed to call Jennifer and try to rationalize a new story in order to make amends. I explained to her that I had gone for an eye exam on Saturday morning. I told her that I had conflicted feelings after finding that I needed glasses. Before finding the courage to discuss my thoughts with her, I discovered the display rack of fakes. Confused, and not yet secure with my prospect of succumbing to the inevitable use of glasses, I thought why not try some phony ones to test reaction at school. That was when she ‘caught’ me browsing. Then I explained that today I picked up my real glasses after school and would be wearing them tomorrow. I told her that it was such a relief to be able to see. I hadn’t realized how bad my eyesight was until using my new glasses. I didn’t care how I looked or what anyone else thought anymore. I was just happy to have my glasses.
I apologized, Jennifer apologized, and she reprimanded me for not trusting our friendship and confiding in her. I hated lying further but I couldn’t think of another way to mend our tiff. Now Jennifer felt good because she was the first to be told my ‘real’ story before it would begin to unfold. As my best friend, she deserved the privilege of knowing everything first. There was one problem with all of this. I had left myself no room for turning back. If I couldn’t continue to wear the glasses, for any reason, I was painting myself into a corner.
The next morning, I felt an urge to be more aware of my outfit and general appearance. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to look stylish. I just had a need to look mature. I spent a bit more time getting ready. With my sister’s glasses in my backpack, I left the townhouse. By the time I rounded the first corner, I stopped to put them on. I was too impatient to wait any longer. Initially resisting, my eyes slowly surrendered. As I felt their progression, I clumsily navigated the sidewalk. In the soft morning light, the sensation of seeing through the lenses was pleasing and immensely enjoyable. Reflections from windows, car bumpers, and other shiny objects glistened. Heat waves from driveways shimmered. Colors on houses and lawns were brilliant. Perhaps I was just noticing the vibrancy of a new day but it was as though all of my senses were heightened. As I neared the school, I’d begun to realize that wearing glasses with prescription lenses was intoxicating.
By the time I approached the front steps, I felt relaxed in every way. Seeing with a real prescription seemed genuine even if it wasn’t mine. I didn’t care what anyone thought. I wanted the prescription to be mine and that’s what mattered. Since most everyone had seen me with glasses the day before, few showed surprise anyway. Comments were subtle and more directed towards the fact that I had a different pair. A couple of acquaintances told me that they preferred the ivory frames. They had no way of knowing that I would never wear them again. Even I wasn’t sure of that at the time. Most importantly, though, I was able to manage all activities just as I had in the confines of the townhouse the night before. In fact, by the end of the day I had lost awareness that glasses were on my face. After arriving home, I was startled to see myself in a mirror in the entryway. I had walked past neighbors without second thoughts. It would have been too late to change anything by then. But, I hoped no one would mention that observation to my mom. I realized how lucky it was that she is rarely at home when I get there from school. Right then I made a mental note to remain more aware of my surroundings. Otherwise, I might get caught wearing glasses by someone when it mattered.
To my astonishment I found how distorted my vision was when I removed the glasses. I had worn them throughout the entire school day. Without them, my eyes were unfocused and felt crossed. They seemed to object to the withdrawal. Reclining on my bed, I closed my eyes for a few minutes, relaxed, and reflected. Is this what I had desired? I wanted to be seen by my friends wearing glasses with real prescription lenses. If imperfect vision was the price of that quest, was I willing to pay? I had to be ready to accept that prospect. I was playing with fire. Was it agreeable to face that reality for the rest of my life? There may be no return if I continued. I suspected I would be forced to make that decision soon either by choice or acceptance.
When I opened my eyes, my vision seemed better though not fully restored. The decision may have already been made for me. That uncertainty felt very real. But what the experiment of that day revealed was that the door had been opened to a new possibility. If I maintained the use of glasses throughout the entire day, it might be feasible to encourage myopia. Do that for enough days in succession and I may eventually become nearsighted. I was sitting in the captain’s chair guiding the starship. What I was considering seemed feasible. Full time wear for eight hours had definitely left my eyes in a state of distress. I couldn’t be sure the end result would be myopia but I was convinced that it would provoke visual troubles of some sort. That was the catalyst I needed. After my day at school, I felt sure that I wanted to continue what I had started. Wearing glasses was different than what I thought it would be. It was better. The day had been one of discovery. Perhaps for the first time, I felt sure about what I wanted to do.
Now I know what you’re thinking. I’m just a kid. I shouldn’t be allowed to make such decisions without parental guidance and adult supervision. Good luck with that ploy. There are worse things that I could do. Efforts to impair my eyesight hurt no one but me. I know girls that have had nose jobs while still in high school. That is freakin’ surgery for crying out loud. Think of all of the time, effort, and money spent so that young adults can physically and perceptibly look better to advance in their endeavors. Could wanting to be nearsighted so that I get to wear glasses be so wrong? I imagined being required to attend a 12-Step program because of my addiction. My introductory meeting dialogue would go something like this:
"Hello, I’m Darcy."
"Hi, Darcy," the mass would respond.
"I am an optical obsessive. I wear glasses even though I don’t need them. But my father wears glasses, my mother wears glasses, my sister wears glasses, and all of my friends wear glasses . . . . . so I have no shame, really. In my opinion, everyone would look better wearing them. I’ve never seen a bad pair of glasses, just a bad fit occasionally. So, I’m hooked. I mean I really got it bad. I want to wear glasses even if it trashes my eyesight, maybe especially so. But, I make this promise to you. I won’t get caught up in all that other stuff like drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, and wearing football jerseys."
I still felt some reluctance about wrecking my vision. Maybe I wasn’t thinking sensibly. But I was willing to do whatever it took to prove to Parker and Jennifer that my plight was real. I sought their belief that I wasn’t a fraud even though I knew I had been. I wanted my friends to believe in me. Most of all, I wanted Parker to be my boyfriend.
If compelled to do this, it was time to modify my plan a little. I would have to find a way to use corrective lenses at all times. Since it would not be an option to wear my sister’s glasses in front of members of my family, what was my next choice? Contact lenses. Would it be possible to buy and wear contacts? Interesting idea, but it would have to wait. I had to get ready for my job.

More to come . . . . .

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