Women Who Wear Glasses
Women wear glasses on chains, like metal dogs on a leash. They whip them around in the air like a lasso. They bite the earpiece of the temple, than which simply nothing is more suggestive. They lay their glasses down on the table, allowing the whole world to go fuzzy on them, while they rub their eyes. They crawl around on the floor, looking for their glasses, which they can't find because they're not wearing their glasses. They find their glasses and hug you in a frenzy of unblurry relief. They clean their glasses with your T-shirt. They read in bed. They place their glasses on top of their head like deep-sea divers emerging from the deep sea. They push them halfway down their nose so they can neither see you nor not see you, so you can neither see them nor not see them. They remove their glasses, exposing the little red indentation across the bridge of their nose. They smash their glasses while making love to you. They tuck their glasses carefully in a case, like putting a baby to bed.
A woman recently riding the crosstown bus struck me as extremely beautiful, if in a rather traditional, all-American way; without glasses, she would have been a statue, a mannequin, a doll, a cartoon: her beauty would have been too too. Her simple red tortoiseshells eroticized her to an almost intolerable degree. They drew me in and stood me off. They said, "You can look at me all you want, but you can't see me in public. You have no idea what I look like or am like. You have no idea how interesting things get when I take these off. I'm so sexy I need to wear these as a buffer."
The way her glasses worked against her beauty was exactly what made her more beautiful: more human. Glasses insist upon the constant simultaneity of body and mind; the beauty of a woman's face is deepened and complicated by the antiglamour scholasticism of her eyewear. Superman without Clark Kent would be perfect, completely unconvincing, boring.
Glasses have the spectacular virtue of suggesting that there is everything left to imagine: only someone in special circumstances will see the veil removed, the gate opened, the cage unlocked - her naked eyes. Only I get to see her without her glasses; only I get to see the beauty behind the barrier. Glasses make completely explicit the relationship between eyes and I, between love and trust. Glasses, mask of masks, allude to the difference between how a person appears in public and how the same person might perform in private, and thus suggest the bedroom. The arrogance implied in believing that one's beauty can afford to be concealed is entrancing. By contrast, people not wearing glasses sometimes seem preposterously accessible, uncomplicated, unmysterious, trampy.
What is so sexy about glasses is that they block the male gaze and return it redoubled; they transform the woman from viewed to viewer, from looked-at to looker. "Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses"- Dorothy Parker's aphorism tells us much more about her particular brand of self-loathing than it does about eyewear. "Smell me, touch me, but don't look at me": needless to say, this is a tantalizing message to send.
When a woman wears glasses, she is - to me, anyway - displaying her woundedness. (In the wild, a wounded animal doesn't get courted.) She seems both very vulnerable - I could remove her glasses, causing her to be disoriented - and very brave - choosing not to conceal her defect in the most vital of the five senses. One sense is diminished; another sense (touch? taste?) must, in order to compensate, be particularly acute.
In high school I read Philip Roth's "Goodbye, Columbus". The book opens like this: "The first time I saw Brenda she asked me to hold her glasses. Then she stepped out to the edge of the diving board and looked foggily into the pool; it could have been drained, myopic Brenda would never have known it. She dove beautifully, and a moment later she was swimming back to the side of the pool, her head of short-clipped auburn hair held up, straight ahead of her, as though it were a long-stemmed rose on a long stem. She glided to the edge of the water and then was beside me. 'Thank you,' she said, her eyes watery though not from the water. She extended a hand for her glasses but did not put them on until she turned and headed away. I watched her move off. Her hands suddenly appeared behind her. She caught the bottom of her suit between thumb and index finger and flicked what flesh had been showing back where it belonged. My blood jumped." Immediately I was deep into Brenda.
"Now what can you do?" I once asked a lover who, in bed, had just removed her glasses and who without glasses was legally blind. I thought I meant "How well can you function without your glasses?" but my question clearly implied another question - concerning mattress acrobatics. I wanted her to put her glasses back on so I could tear them off.
Is anything more unnerving than to be asked, in the middle of a lovers' quarrel, "Why won't you look at me?" The eyes, as the Renaissance never gets tired of telling us, are the windows of the soul. What glasses say is: "My soul is not so easily accessible."
The terms for frame parts are about the distance between me and you, between here and there - rim, bridge, hinge, shield. Some temple parts: bend, shaft, and um, butt portion. Is everyone aroused by looking at diagrams of glasses, or is that only me? I love how the long thin temples screw into round liquescent lenses. In the interest of full disclosure: absolutely nothing could possibly be more erotic to me than the subservient-yet-unreachable paradox embodied by a woman performing fellatio while wearing glasses.
I must acknowledge that some things about glasses just don't work. All sunglasses, for instance, which are striving so strenuously to be mysterious that they work zero magic on me. So, too, the cat's-eye, which is much too obvious in its female = feline, Cat Woman = Bitch Goddess equations. Movie stars at the Academy Awards wearing horn-rims in order to read the TelePrompTer do not suddenly seem deeper and more widely read. Pornographic photos - intended to excite the bookish gentleman - in which glasses are perched on the tip of the model's nose as a totally alien accessory are not very exciting. Glasses can't be a self-consciously sexy accoutrement; the joke can't be explained; the contradiction can't be resolved in favor of overtness: glasses are sexy precisely to the degree that a woman's sexiness appears to emerge despite her attempt to hide it.
My wife needs glasses only to drive at night and read subtitles in movie theaters. As often as possible, I tell her I'm not sure I know the way home-would she mind driving? As often as possible, I suggest that we sign up for, say, the Fellini retrospective at the Grand Illusion.
And yet, finally, no one, as I've learned all too well, wants to hear: "I love how you look in your glasses; I think you look even better with them on." The sexiest thing about glasses is that they come off. The sexiest thing about glasses is that the first time you kiss, she lets you take them off and then blinks once, trying to focus.
--David Shields, "Girls Who Wear Glasses" The Best American Erotica, 1996.
It perfectly explains why I enjoy wearing my glasses, and why I do so adore a man who wears glasses.