Article Date: 11/1/2003

lessons learned
Accentuate the Positive
Glasses are no longer geeky.
By Jack Runniger, O.D.

"A London eye specialist, Dr. Charles Brown, has disclosed that people who wear glasses are smarter than those who don't," wrote columnist Don Harrison.

"How about that, fellow myopics?"he continued. "Since glasses are now a badge of honor, I'm mortified at all the years I spent trying to pretend that I didn't really need them. I was a third grader when the optometrist said I needed glasses, and I wept with chagrin. The kids were going to call me 'Four Eyes' (they did), I'd never be a great athlete (I wasn't), and if and when I'd care about girls, they wouldn't give me a tumble (no comment).

"Throughout childhood and adolescence, I went without the glasses whenever possible. My own vanity was nothing compared to girls' in those years. But it's no wonder. A stock scene in hundreds of movies was when Prince Charming removed Plain Jane's glasses, and, voila, Miss America!

"This usually surprised her as much as it did him, which I could never understand because she must have known what she looked like without the glasses, unless pressing her nose against the mirror distorted the image.

"Times have changed though, and in this case for the better. My kids started with glasses at about the same age as I did. They didn't weep -- in fact, they were quite pleased and they're still not self-conscious about it."


It backfired

Reading Harrison's column reminded me of how fortunate we are that glasses have become a sign of intelligence rather than weakness. In my infinite wisdom it dawned on me that it would be beneficial to remind patients of this. It could make glasses (and thus me) more loveable.

As many of my bright ideas do, this one backfired on me. I informed an 11-year-old boy after his examination that he was nearsighted and needed to wear glasses. He wasn't too thrilled about this, so I told him that it had been shown that nearsighted people like him were smart.

"Are you nearsighted?" he asked me. When I admitted that I was not, the look in his eye showed that I'd confirmed his suspicion that he had a stupid optometrist working on him.

Don't give up

It took a lot of years to undo the image of glasses as something negative after popular author Dorothy Parker made famous the ditty:

"Men seldom make passes
At girls who wear glasses."

Unfortunately, S. Oman Barker's replying ditty didn't receive nearly as much attention:

"Whether men will make passes
At girls who wear glasses,
Depends quite a bit
On the shape of the chassis."

There's a reason

"I see as many kids with glasses," concluded Harrison in his column, "as I do with braces on their teeth, something else all the kids seem to be wanting. My kids say nobody ever calls them 'Four Eyes', so maybe that means kids today really are smarter.

"Smarter or not, I'm suspicious enough to suspect that more kids wear glasses than ever before because that's the only way optometrists can afford to pay orthodontists for the braces on their kids' teeth.

"What do you think, Charlie Brown?" 

Jack Runniger, our consulting editor, lives in Rome, GA.  He's also a past editor of OM.

Optometric Management, Issue: November 2003