on spectacles

The Spectacle of Spectacles: A Response to Perec’s “On Spectacles”


In fifth grade, a little girl whose name I don’t remember called me tacky—and I was, good god back then I was the oddest confluence of patterns and colors, bowed skirts with striped t’s, without a hint of the irony hipsters today sport—and so my older brother took me shopping. I didn’t need glasses back then, but he needed a new pair so we stopped at a little spectacle boutique, and I tried on the cutest pair of specs, equipped with rounded tortoise-shell frames, practically wire thin, that hooked around the ears. Back in 1992, I wished my vision would go awry, just so I could look intelligent and stylish. Keep in mind my distorted sense of fashion, which I have yet to shake.

Three years later, I needed glasses, my vision had completely deteriorated, though I hadn’t noticed, except that I began falling down arbitrarily, a habit that’s stretched my ankles beyond repair, and to this day, I fulfill a prophecy of falling down annually. It’s embarrassing and painful and debilitating. But when it came time to get those glasses I’d wanted so badly before, it was sister who took me, and although she’s quite fashionable, I ended up with the most hideous glasses—to large, disc-shaped, odd colors—or at least I thought they were and never wore them, such is a story of first glasses.

In high school, late high school, I got my first pair of square plastic frames, tortoise-shell, and despite my very flat bridge, I found the right pair and style. Now, when I was seventeen, I don’t remember square frames as being “hip.” None of my friends had them, preferring instead oval wire frames, usually colored, but this past January, I gave a reading in Amherst, and I stopped in a coffee shop to do “work” (and meet the very cool Jedidiah Berry), and I looked around. Hot damn, there were twelve people there, including me, ten of which had on square plastic glasses (the other two didn’t wear them), eight people had silver Mac Book Pros (two had black Mac Books), I counted three people reading Foucault and five people with Moleskines displayed in some way. And I think back to &Now or AWP, somehow glasses becoming the sign of intelligensia and creativity, commodified, like Apple products, easy, and I’ve fallen for the trick.


Behind the Scenes / 25 Comments
June 15th, 2010 / 2:25 pm