At some point over the age of 30 (when I magically, finally became fully comfortable in my own skin), I stopped feeling the need to look perfectly done up all the time.
As my career got crazier and my “me time” diminished, I found myself going out more often than I probably should have with either chipped nail polish, noticeable roots, or a subpar outfit.
But (thanks to regular facials and a decade-long use of pure vitamin C cream), I still sort of had my appearance to work with.
A few weeks back, I was having major issues with my eyes thanks, in part, to a complete overuse of my contact lenses. I needed to take drops and wear glasses for one whole week – doctor’s orders. There was only one problem: I didn’t own glasses. In fact, despite having eyesight worse than – 6.00 (that’s not good FYI), I haven’t actually owned a pair of glasses since first year university, when I mangled the pair I had by stepping on them (they were on the floor next to my bed in my dorm room).
Meaning, I wore my contact lenses every waking moment.
Anyway, after a brief scolding by my doctor, I decided it was time to put on my “big girl” dress and take my eyesight seriously. My eyes were now – 7.00. Although my eyes are healthy (thank God), that high of prescription means you’ll likely have to order contacts because your supplier won’t have ones that strong laying around and that you have to get your (extra expensive) pair lenses especially compressed to avoid the whole ‘coke bottle’ look (bye-bye paycheck).
The thing is, the special lenses would take 7 business days to arrive in store – and I needed to start taking the eye drop medication (which can’t mix with contacts) right then. That meant, my “lucky” self would be forced to wear the ultra thick, temporary lenses for the time being.
And yes, they were hideous.
My only saving grace was that I happened to be working from home for most of the following week and didn’t have a ton of lengthy or important events at night. I could fly under the radar behind the super thick lenses, I thought.
But the moment I had them on my face, I immediately felt like a different person (and it’s not just because I could finally see clearly). As I strolled out of the optical store and down the city streets, I felt my confidence start to sink with the onset of the feeling that I had turned invisible.
Nobody glanced twice at me: not the construction workers on the sidewalk, nor the group of finance guys standing outside of the overpriced, douchy financial district hotspot, or the hot little hipster behind me at the bank.
I walked into my local coffee shop, where I often spend hours on end. The barista (who I’ve shared dating horror stories and career banter alike with) didn’t even recognize me at first. When he did – and I kid you not – he gave me a look of mild horror as he not so discreetly exclaimed, “Wow, you look really different.”
And I felt different. For the first time in my entire life since the onset of puberty, I felt visually displeasing. Unnoticeable. Perhaps even a turnoff.
I would only wear the glasses when my makeup was done and my hair was up. But it didn’t make a difference in the whole ‘noticeability’ department.
In the week following, I didn’t want anyone to see me in the glasses. Not my boyfriend. Not my local dry cleaner. Not even my concierge while I was on the way back in from grabbing coffee (seriously, I took the side door in). I know it sounds trite; I know it sounds ultra vain – and no, I don’t feel great about it. There are women my age being diagnosed with things like breast cancer and severe depression, after all. Here I was acting all horrified by a pair of Tory Burch glasses on my face.
The thing is, the whole experience got me thinking. Am I really this wrapped up in my appearance? Am I really that superficial? Or vain? How do I want to define myself? These were the thoughts that plagued my brain as I dodged people I knew on the street, feeling like the typical “four-eyed” geek in high school.
And even worse, the whole time I naturally beat myself up for having those absurdly self-indulgent thoughts in the first place.
How was I going to handle the inevitable fading of my youth and looks if I couldn’t even handle wearing a pair of glasses for a week?
I have yet to get Botox or any sort of work done, but I’m sure I will. Probably soon. It’s something I’ve known I’ve wanted to do forever, and something a growing number of my far-from-plastic girlfriends have done. But the sad reality is that at some point, it’s going to become increasingly rare (and a subsequently welcome surprise) to get checked out on the street, smiled at by a stranger, or hit on at a bar. And that may not be an easy pill to swallow for some of us.
The irony is, of course, when we do get smiled at on the street, or checked out in a bar, we usually roll our eyes or even get slightly offended. One day, it won’t even be an issue.
Most females over the age of 30 can already relate to that feeling of being wallflowers at a nightclub (even if it’s just in our head), as most of the guys in the immediate vicinity ogle over the scantily clad 22-year-olds.
So, while I believe that female beauty can be equally as striking at 20 or 75-years-old, no amount of Botox is going to help our cause if we a) don’t feel beautiful or b) don’t have a million other amazing things about us aside from our appearance.
And it took an “eye-opening” visit to the eye doctor to solidify that.