“You look like a million bucks,” said the optician’s assistant when I tried on my new prescription sunglasses. She wasn’t trying to sell me anything— I’d already paid for the glasses— so she sounded sincere. I was pleased, proud to have a gorgeous new pair of shades Made in Italy after a couple years struggling along on an old prescription.

Eric tells me I need to embrace eyeglass wearing but I have a problem with it. Glasses on, glasses off. In some situations they seem to help, in others they give me vertigo; disorient me. I’m almost blind in one eye—amblyopia since childhood—and add on the disintegration of aging and too much screen time and my prescription is an insane combination of progressives + near coke bottle on one eye. Contacts have never been an option.

I walked out of the opticians wearing my sunglasses, but a small staircase loomed in the parking lot—sunglasses off. Depth of field is the problem, like going to see a 3D film— the flat picture plane I’m used to over-emphasizing certain objects when I add spectacles. 

Glasses on, glasses off. I tried getting used to them. And they were glamorous! I felt like Kim Cattrall in Sex and the City! Which seemed a little bit of stretch because…

She’s Kim Cattrall. In Sex and the City! Wearing slinky dresses and tottering around city sidewalks on high heels. And I—

I’m me. And I live in the country. Wear cutoffs and (sigh) sports sandals much of the time. Do a lot of messing around with lawn mowers and weed whackers, and on boats.

Boats. I never thought I’d develop such a fondness for boats. But heading down to the creek and puttering around for a little while on the water is a joy. I’ve even finally taken a turn driving and will aim to become comfortable piloting this small aluminum craft myself because if Eric’s away for half of September and I’m home, well, that’s a big patch of boating season I don’t want to miss.

Sunglasses on the creek…

I thought about Newport Folk Fest while I was on the boat a few days ago- how I wished I could play there just once and how the moment when that was possible has probably passed unless I hang around til eighty-something and they push me out onstage in a wheelchair as a relic of the late twentieth/early twenty first century. I hate the jealousy I feel seeing pics of other performers up there on stage. I don’t have an agent, a record label, a publisher etc etc so the festival folks likely won’t come knocking on my door but I remind myself I’ve had all those things – should I be looking for them again? I write, put out music, perform, tour and publish book(s -my first and the second one that’s in the works -aiming for 2022)  AND I’m learning to pilot a boat.

My new sunglasses. The boat. Glasses on, glasses off. Glasses in bag. Creek running fast, Eric steering us north, sunset warming the old red brick factory buildings along the water to a mellow orange. Cider drinkers under a bright blue sail at the new local cider place, young couples strolling along the creek bank. A child waving. Me turning to point at the high tide mark on the old wooden moorings and—

A dark arc from boat to creek. “Your glasses!” Eric said.

Glasses don’t float. They were gone in a second, down down down to who knows where. The rocks on the bottom or out to the Hudson River, up to Canada or down to New York City where they no doubt will wash up near the new City Winery—where I also probably can’t get a gig —and Kim Cattrall will step out of a town car and pick them up and amazingly, my prescription works perfectly for her.

But Kim lives in Canada now. Maybe she does boating?

I can’t even think about the expense, only the relief, that I don’t have to pretend to be the person those leopard print Made in Italy designer shades hinted at but didn’t deliver. If I couldn’t wear them for boating what were they doing in my life?

Glasses on. I’ve got this other pair, more utilitarian. I’d almost declined to have transitional lenses put in – you know the kind that darken to make regular reading glasses into sunglasses. I’d told the optician I didn’t really like that concept, because I wanted to be a different person in sunglasses. But the practical me thought it couldn’t hurt, would give me in effect a second pair of glasses for the price of one.

My dream of that specifically sunglasses person – a glamour queen in screen legend shades – is in a watery grave right now. I’ve got to get something that will work behind the UV windshield, on my bike and on the boat. And eventually stalking a stage. Maybe those kind the fishermen wear? I could always go with aviators, on a cord around my neck. Or maybe stick with the maxim I’ve used in the past – what would someone in the Velvet Underground wear? Why oh why did I stray from the maxim?

Persona is an ever-evolving format. Maybe growing up with paper dolls put the idea in my head that who I am could evolve forever. Settle on one character, one costume, and the game is over. That feels sad to me – but to another person might feel like peace.

You’ll have to excuse me, I have some writing and recording to do. And I need to check on the boat. If it’s meant to be, maybe the glasses will wash up in the next rainfall.

10 thoughts on “persona

  1. John Stribley

    I have also slipped into becoming a glasses wearer over the last 10 years or so. From readers and a fre pair of darkened readers (for holiday reading by the pool or on the beach) to full on varifocals (in both dark and normal too). When I go away now though I have to carry 4 pairs as I can’t read properly in the varifocals, but I can’t walk around doing the shopping in reading glasses (well, I did at first but that meant sitting my readers on the end of my nose and looking over the top of them as I walked around. The look reminded me of a teacher at my school, a look I didn’t want to follow).
    I constantly break them, lose them, take the wrong pair etc. There are pictures of me on holiday in at least 2 places with one arm broken and held on place with tape. I hate them, no I loathe them! But I can’t do without the bloody things!
    PS, there are plenty of smaller festivals around that would be glad to have you play, must better than thebbig ones for people of our age, and with our glasses!

    1. amyrigby

      Same for me with walking/shopping/looking at street signs etc. I see people with three pairs sometimes, one on their head, one higher up the nose and another pair down on the end of their nose. We weren’t meant to be working on computers/staring at phones for decades!

      thanks re the festivals – I had so been looking forward to the Laugharne Literary & Music Fest last year…got to get another book out so I can be asked again.

      Take care Stribsx

      1. John Stribley

        Would be great to see you and Eric at Watchet or Chagstock next year. We go to both every year and have a great time

  2. Sharon Liveten

    I too have a complicated eyeglass prescription (tri-focals? I thought he was kidding when my eye doctor mentioned them) and an awful habit of losing sunglasses. Ugh. I live in Los Angeles and the kind that darken and lighten drive me nuts. I have had this pair for over a year. A record!

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