Embarrassed to enticing: a personal glasses journey

It seems that most adolescents go through their own “ugly duckling” phase, and while it might be an awkward growth spurt, a difficult to deal with complexion, or something else altogether, it happens to all of us. For me, being a school nerd with frizzy hair and braces wasn’t enough when I was in middle school, the universe had to bestow upon me the unwanted gift of glasses.

Around age 12, I started having a hard time seeing the chalkboard from the back of the classroom and, like any good parents would, mine took me to the local optometrist for a vision test. Low and behold, I needed specs to address my nearsightedness. While I didn’t have to wear them all of the time, the classroom was one of the places where I’d be donning them the most.

That ‘90s fashion!

Just to set the record straight, I’m 33, so when I got my first set of glasses at age 12 it was 1996, when optical fashion was quite different than today’s far more engaging trends. Nowhere to be found were cute and bold styles like the collection I own today, instead, round metals dominated the landscape.


I recall so vividly asking my mother if there were other options available, as I didn’t feel comfortable in any of the choices in front of me. A few weeks later we returned for me to pick up my very first pair of glasses: you guessed it, round metal with a slight tortoise-shell print.

Although I was a straight-A student, I opted to go without my glasses as often as possible. When I needed to see the board, I’d wear them, but the moment the bell rang and class was over, I took them off in a heartbeat. After all, a 12-year-old girl doesn’t need any more reason to feel embarrassed in front of her peers.

Onward and upward

The funny thing is that my relationship with glasses didn’t change until much later in life, even when fashion trends changed for the better. The first acetate frame I ever purchased was a cute purple little number by CoverGirl that actually got me to wear them full time, but I wasn’t in love. As the mid-2000s approached and frames got smaller and smaller, only then did I find comfort in the ability to wear my glasses and feel slightly stylish.

My husband probably remembers this pair well, as I opted to re-lens it time and time again despite being in the industry and knowing that frames only hold up for so long. A rectangular black style with thicker temples (the epitome of cool in 2007), I finally felt like I could accept the fact I was a glasses wearer.

Subsequent pairs of glasses after these don’t even come to mind, so I’m sure they were nothing special. It was only around 2012 that I finally heard the message I’d obviously been waiting to hear. A frame sales rep visited the office I was working in and showed me a plethora of really cute frames, telling me to just “go for it.” I instantly noticed a bright purple frame in an oversized shape and knew I had to have it. This frame by Kensie became my “signature look” for years to come.

How can we make the difference?

At the end of the day, my journey isn’t unlike many others that millennials have faced when it comes to eyewear. We didn’t have amazing choices way back when, and it somehow has jaded our perception of what wearing glasses means. Once we see ourselves looking unattractive in spectacles, we can’t ever seem to believe anything different.

Thankfully, awesome frame styles now abound that can help make the sales process not just easier, but fun too. But it takes a talented individual to get through to the more difficult patients.

Try asking them about their experience with glasses and find out why they’re opposed to certain styles. Develop trust and a rapport with them before opening them up to the idea that a super funky colour or unique shape might, actually, really look great on them.

It’s a process to get to a place where you love your glasses like I do, especially considering how my journey started. If I hadn’t taken up a career in optics, I might never have gotten to where I am now.

When working with patients who are hesitant to try a new style or who simply “hate themselves in glasses,” remember what it was like for me at age 12. It’s really about making your patient feel comfortable in their own skin and selecting a set of frames that accents their true style. Tap into the compassion needed to get through to your patient, so you can make a difference and, believe me, when you get it right, you really do make an incredible difference to someone’s life!

Courtney Elder has more than 10 years of optical experience and loves wearing fashionable eyewear in Portland, OR, USA. Today she owns a content creation company with her husband. Visit www.author-eyes.com for more info.

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