Every once in a while a news story announces the results of a study and the results are so outlandish, and so contrary to normal human experience, that you wonder whether there was some problem with how the study was designed or conducted. So it is with a new study, funded by the vision care division of Johnson & Johnson, that finds that kids between 6 and 11 who wear contact lens have better self-perception than kids who wear glasses. The study, led by a doctor from The Ohio State University College of Optometry, somehow found that kids who use contacts were more satisfied with their appearance and their ability to participate in sports and other events.
Huh? Does anyone really believe that kids who wear glasses aren’t the envy of every other kid in the neighborhood? We all know that people associate glasses with innate studliness and a carefree, devil-may-care charm. And how could kids with contacts have more self-confidence when it comes to athletic events? After all, who wouldn’t want to play contact sports wearing flimsy glass and plastic devices that will be broken into smithereens by even an indirect hit? Another obvious advantage to glasses is that boys can advertise their manliness by wearing spectacles that are held together by scotch tape at the bridge of the nose or the corner of the frame, thereby transmitting a powerful subliminal message to all that the glasses were broken in some ultra-masculine pursuit. And who wouldn’t want to develop the fine motor skills needed to try to replace the tiny screws that hold eyeglass frames together? What right-thinking kid would want to turn down the chance to display the rakish bonhomie seen whenever a kid comes inside on a frigid day wearing glasses that immediately became hopelessly befogged? In short, why would anyone want to look like a normal person rather than some goggle-eyed freak?
You really have to wonder about these studies sometimes.
Recently, the weather has taken a sharp turn in a much colder direction. This change has brought about one of the worst drawbacks to wearing glasses — the annoying fogging phenomenon that occurs when the glasses-wearer walks from frigid climes into a warm room, the lenses turn to milk, and the blinded nerd stumbles aimlessly until some kind of equilibrium is reached and the glasses once again allow, rather than prevent, clear sight.
I’ve worn glasses since I was in first grade, and they have their good and bad aspects. The drawbacks of glasses are many and well-recognized. When I was a kid, and glasses actually were made of glass, they didn’t really facilitate aggressive participation in contact sports. It’s not easy to crowd the plate when your brain conjures mental images of an inside pitch shattering your spectacles and lacerating your eyeballs. If the frames of your glasses got broken — and they inevitably did — your beleagured Mom was likely to patch them up with scotch tape. Several of the school photos of UJ and me feature us sporting taped-up, horn-rimmed glasses. It was, candidly, not a good look. And the reality is that glasses are never a positive fashion statement. No one with 20-20 eyesight decides that no-prescription glasses would enhance their appearance. This is why the large blow-up photos found on the walls in an “eye center” are so misleading. I’m convinced that none of the laughing skinny 20-somethings or the smiling, rugged 40-year-old outdoorsmen shown wearing the latest optical fashions really need glasses. (They never show them wearing fogged glasses, either.)
Still, to my mind there is one central, dispositive positive aspect to glasses. If your eyesight is poor, there are only two alternatives to wearing glasses — being unable to see anything clearly, or either regularly sticking something into your eye or paying some mass-marketing practitioner to perform “laser surgery” on the most important of your five senses. I’ll take glasses — even occasionally fogged glasses — over those alternatives any day.