Since the age of nine I have been wearing glasses. Unlike today’s trends, my bold pink frames were not a fashion choice but rather a necessity. In elementary school, my glasses were considered cool. My peers assumed I was smart and that I read a lot of chapter books. While some assumptions were true, my glasses were merely a way for me to be able to see the world without squinting my way through life. When middle school rolled around, my glasses began losing their cool factor, and by eighth grade, many of my classmates had gotten contacts.
In today’s society there is a stigma against glasses. While over 14.4 million U.S. children wear them, they come with the territory of being labeled “geek”, “nerd” or “four eyes.” According to a study published by Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, children who wear glasses are 36% more likely to be victims of bullying. These children tend to have lower self esteem and reportedly would rather have blurry vision than have to wear spectacles. A CDC article discovered that children who wear contact lenses reported significant improvements in the perception of their appearance.
Over the summer, I decided to get contacts. Not because of the stigma against my glasses, but because I felt like it was time for a change. While many of my close friends took time to adjust to my new look, I noticed many differences to how I was treated right off the bat. People who I was not as close with were more likely to talk to me, my outfits were getting more compliments, and I stopped getting asked “Who do you know here” when showing up to fraternities. While it may just be a coincidence that my lack of glasses caused these things to happen to me, it certainly did not feel that way in the moment. People’s perceptions of me seemingly changed after I placed small pieces of silicone in my eyes.
While glasses are no longer a part of my day to day wardrobe, I’m not afraid to place my frames on my face and head to class. I have many friends who solely wear glasses in the comfort of their own home, only allowing close friends to see them at their “worst”. It’s shocking to me that people are scared to show the world that their eyesight is not 20/20 when over half of Americans have to wear some form of corrective lenses.
The need to feel socially accepted is not an uncommon phenomenon, but one that has been strengthened in the age of social media. With the normalization of social media in children’s lives, there is an expectation to look a certain way from a young age. While we all would love to stand out, the easiest reality is to just fit in. Any flaw or imperfection visible to the human eye makes one feel insecure.
Intentional or not, there is a difference in how people with glasses are treated. It’s frustrating to think that there are children who would rather squint at a chalkboard than wear glasses in fear of getting bullied. While there are individuals fearful to wear their seeing eyewear out in public, glasses have now become a fashion statement. It irks me that glasses are becoming a trend — something cool influencers and hipsters constantly wear on Instagram — but glasses for a function come with all sorts of stereotypes attached. Although I have switched to contacts, that does not mean I am not still a glasses girl at heart. I’m not afraid to flaunt my frames every once in a while, but I will admit I’m afraid to go back to the stigma that will come with the territory.