Sunglasses: A Love Story

Some People claim that Seattleites go so far as to wear sunglasses when the skies are overcast, but I’ve only seen the Californians posing as Seattleites do this. You know a real Seattleite because we’ve become accustomed to the glare from overcast skies. Ask any native to Western Washington if they have ever thought of wearing sunglasses when it’s overcast and they’ll laugh harder than if you asked why they weren’t carrying an umbrella on any given day.

For thirteen years of my life, I never owned a pair of sunglasses. Having grown up in Western Washington (Eastern Wa is far different), I understand the seasons “Spring”, “Summer”, “Autumn” and “Winter” to really mean “nine months of gray skies” and “three months of sun”. So, given that I would have only worn a pair of sunglasses every now and then during the three months known as “The Not-Rainy Season”, owning them was less important than a cheap and expendable coat. They were nice to have around if one wanted to look cool in a scrawny
nymphet way, but I was never a nymphet nor cool and had found that squinting against the sun on the rare times it appeared worked out well.

My first pair of sunglasses were BluBlockers. I still have them laying around, but I rarely wear them as the world turns into a saccharine Technicolor land aged with shades of brown. The lenses have a circumference larger than coke bottle glasses and the frame was coated with a cheap gold foil that has recently started to chip off at a rate faster than the paint on my moss-covered Oldsmobile. But when I first acquired my sunglasses, I thought I was really cool and nothing could take me down from my pedestal. For the next two summers, anytime I left the house I would pull my glasses out of their soft maroon case and coyly cover my eyes. Sometimes, I even lowered my face and pulled my glasses down my nose slightly to give someone that “I’m cooler than you” look. I even mastered the art of walking in shopping centers with my glasses on. My friends humored me, saying nothing to dash my image of coolness. But then, maybe even they felt cool in the presence of my “As Seen On TV” BluBlockers. This was long before Men In Black hit the theaters and I learned that one had to have sleek black sunglasses to look cool, not a pair of brown BluBlockers with gold foil rims.

After my two summers of disillusioned cool, I moved out of the world of Junior High and into High School. With the instantaneous wisdom of a high school student, I knew that my sunglasses weren’t cool, but I continued to wear them when the need arose. After all, they were supposed to block harmful UV rays from my eyes. It wasn’t until I graduated high school and was visiting LA with some friends for our graduation hurrah when I rediscovered that sunglasses could be more than just a tool to keep the glare of sun out of my face.

The three of us were walking along Venice Beach when I pulled out my trusty BluBlockers to block the brilliant glare of sun off white sands. “Oh fuck, those are ugly,” J, my pink, black and leopard print-wearing fashionista friend informed me. “We really need to get you a pair of glasses that compliment your face more,” K, my other friend, agreed. They hurried me into a sunglass booth tucked amidst artisans and palm readers. My friends immediately began selecting pairs of cheap glasses that would highlight or refine various features of my face, handing one pair after another and having me examine each one carefully in a small, hanging mirror tacked to a pole. “Here, this pair belongs to you,” J told me, triumphantly holding it out after only ten minutes of arguing with K about whether a pair of small rectangle lenses would be better for my face or a pair of elongated ovals. I tentatively tried on my pair of trusty BluBlockers and looked in the mirror, examining how they dwarfed me eyes and somehow managed to make my nose appear more angular and beak-like than it really was. I then tried on J’s pair of rectangular glasses, and followed it with K’s pair of oval glasses. I put J’s pair back on, and then removed it and tried on K’s once more. Sometime during my indecisive period, I had the sudden thought that the girl whose glasses were rejected might become offended. It would have been rather silly, should this have happened, but both J and K were equally dear friends and the glasses were so cheap that I managed to buy both pairs for under $12 without having to haggle with the vendor.