Appropriate Quote: "Saying, 'I notice you're a nerd,' is like saying, 'Hey, I notice that you'd rather be intelligent than be stupid, that you'd rather be thoughtful than be vapid, that you believe that there are things that matter more than the arrest record of Lindsay Lohan. Why is that?' " - John Green
Most of the time, to the delight of fellow motorists, I wear contacts. I can't see a darn thing without my contacts. I can read if I hold a book close to my face (if I literally stick my nose in a book). But put something a few feet away from me and I don't know if it's a chicken or a llama or a bag of microwave popcorn. Contacts are a must do.
When I'm not wearing contacts, I'm either a.)sleeping or b.)wearing glasses. Sadly, my eyes are uber-sensitive to sunlight. I wish I could wear my glasses more often though because my frames are quite funky. I have spoken of them before, I think. I have big nerdy dark rimmed glasses. *sigh* It was love at first sight.
There were only two other customers in the store the day I tried them on. The first customer was an older lady, already seated across from a sales associate so she could pay for her specs. I tried on my winner frames and looked at my reflection. I smiled. The seated lady pointed to me, then looked at the sales associate and said (very loudly):
"Why didn't you show me frames like that?"
To which the sales associate replied, "You have to have ... a certain kind of face to wear those."
I shall assume she meant this as a compliment. Though I'm pretty sure she didn't because I think they might be men's frames. Alas. I'm wearing the cute glasses in the picture there to the left. I would also like to point out the ethereal glow about my face. This is always present. (It has nothing to do with the open window beside me.)
I got my first pair of glasses back in fourth grade and I was ... wait for it ... thrilled. Really, I was. I thought glasses were adorable, awesome, and pretty. I couldn't wait to wear them. I had a hunch I needed them too. The chalk lines on the blackboard (does anybody remember ye days of olde before marker boards?!) were starting to smear like yellow paint. Upon entering the magical glasses portal at my doctor's office, I was smitten. Hundreds of shiny lenses sparkled underneath the flourescent lights. Where to begin? What to try on first?
A soft beam of light shone down on one pair in particular: a pair of gigantic hot pink frames.
"Thoooose," I purred.
I put them on and looked in the mirror. They were approximately the size of my face. I smiled. "Theeese," I said.
As you might imagine, that decision lives in infamy.
On picture day, I wore my hot pink glasses. I also wore my hot pink knit outfit, the one with tapered pants and a t-shirt complete overlapping layers of puff-paint that sort of created the illusion of a shield. It was like my own tacky suit of armor, with little shiny dots scattered all around. (The shiny dots made it fancy.) That outfit was one of my favorite ensembles. On days I wasn't scrunching two different colors of socks over stirrup-pants (leggings that hook around one's heel), I was hoping my puff paint shirt was clean because I liked the way it matched my glasses. And my slap bracelets. Permed hair. Puff-paint. The glasses were the final touch. Hawt.
Confession: There has never been a moment in my life I have not been aware of my nerdiness. Fourth grade was probably the pinnacle. Maybe. The tendency toward, um, loud clothing was only one small factor. There was also the book factor. Like how my hands would shake with excitement when I got a new Troll Book* order. Like how I got so excited about picking a book from the library, I couldn't concentrate until library hour arrived. (And I don't know why. All I did was alternate between The Chronicles of Narnia and Judy Blume.)
If the tendency toward bibliophilia wasn't a giveaway, my love for 4-H might have clued you in. Cool people like 4-H too,** but I took my enthusiasm to a dorky extreme. I was the secretary of my 4-H club and I was mostly convinced I had the most important job in the world. I took copious notes during the meeting. Then I went home and wrote a rough draft of my "minutes." Then I wrote the actual entry in my white 4-H book. That moment every month when the man with the handle-bar mustache came and asked me to read the minutes of the last meeting? It was my moment to shine. And I wore hot pink glasses. And a hot pink knit outfit. I was invincible. The first time I remember ever giving a speech was for a 4-H competition, which I won. As I left for recess, my teacher said, "I'm calling it right now, kiddo. You'll either be a writer or a politician someday." (Awesome teachers rock my world.) (Even though I pursued writing, the current political atmosphere is most certainly in need of that speech, in which I compared conflict management to the episode of Full House where Stephanie let Uncle Jessie remove her pink bunny wallpaper).
I really do have a point. I don't think my glasses were a symbol of my weirdness. They were a symbol of something greater: the fact that I didn't mind being weird. My parents loved me. I had a cool group of friends. I wasn't embarrassed about pursuing stuff I loved. For a very small, wonderful chunk of my existence, I didn't care what other people thought of me. If only the pink, puff-paint, perm days could have lasted forever. Metaphorically.
In middle school, I decided it was time to stop dressing like a bag of skittles. But I didn't stop loving glasses.
At some point in middle school, I saw this video:
And omigosh I wanted to look just like Lisa Loeb. How cute is she? Do you see how she rocks her big, nerdy glasses? It was a win. So I went to the eye doctor for my yearly check-up determined to find some Lisa Loeb frames.
Sadly, this new eye doctor did not have cool frames. Maybe he does now but back then, they were all unfortunate. The glasses I wore in 8th grade weren't pink, but they were wiry, bendy, and funkily shaped. Not good. And that sort of fits. Because the end of middle school - ugh. Those were the years I remember becoming extremely self-conscious. That was the first time I was severely teased (by a bully who had a bad perm and acid wash jeans).*** Those were the years I started comparing myself to other girls at an exhausting rate. I felt like the glasses made it all worse. They didn't, really. Glasses are just glasses. Still, I got contacts. (And probably would have anyway. Sometimes they're just more convenient.)
Even now, I think Twelve-Year Old Me with bushy eyebrows could teach Twenty-Something Me a lesson. It's not like I was a wellspring of confidence at any point in my life, but at some glorious puff- paint-point, I was more comfortable doing what I liked, and wearing what I liked. I never felt like I had to apologize for being a nerd. I never felt like I had to apologize for being myself. That's a really good way to be.
I guess I'm in rant mode today because I've received a few sweet emails this week from readers who connected with a specific chapter (chapter 3) in Paperdoll (yay!). One of the sweetest compliments I've received about the book so far came from a reader who said: "I've never been the thinnest girl in my class and I'm learning that's okay. I'm tired of comparing myself to other people."
That is more than okay, you fabulous reader, you.
And in honor of my speech writing fourth grade self, I shall also add this:
I hope you never ever get to the point where you decide it's time to fade. Be the scuffed up Converse sneaker in a room full of stilettos. Be the artsy girl who writes song lyrics on the back of her notebook. Play your guitar, or your flute, or your tuba, and don't pay any attention to people who tease you for it. Embrace your inner band geek. (Consider this brilliant band people: you can read music. It's like you know this perfect secret language no one else can appreciate and that language is music. Crazy awesome!) Fly the nerd flag and take every AP course you can squeeze into your schedule. Take the upper level math and science classes and prove all those boys, who say girls aren't smart enough to do that, wrong. I hope you audition for the lead role, even though you know you won't get it. I hope you write stories you know no-one else will ever read. May you fill up sketchbooks, practice free throws, and read books you love (regardless of whether or not other people love them).
No matter how much older you get, or how much cooler you become, I hope you never stop embracing your inner nerd. There is always an elusive who, this uber-exclusive-cool group who set the bar for hawtness and stand ready to make fun of you for something. They are so not worth your time. As I get older, I'm realizing usually when people tease you or make fun of you ... it usually has to do with the fact that you have a little something they're jealous of. May you smile at them, in all their hipster glory, and then walk away without giving a second thought to their empty words. The best revenge is a life lived full.
So ... my new glasses. I still don't look as cute as Lisa Loeb ...
And they aren't hot pink (thank goodness). But I think they're super fun. :) And I think the quirky 12-year old girl who loved Star Wars, Judy Blume books, and Full House marathons would totally approve.
If you're in the mood for some retrospection, I would love to hear about the dorkiest outfit you've ever worn. Happy weekending, lovelies!
* Troll Books was the name of the company. The books weren't made by trolls. Sadly.
** Really cool people got to participate in the chick chain, an event in which the 4-H agent would give you chicken eggs to hatch at home and raise! Every year, I told my mom about it and asked her if I could do it. And ever year it took her approximately .5 of a second to say, "NO. NO. NO." :)
*** That was the first time I heard someone make fun 0f me, at least. I still remember exactly what she said. Isn't it crazy how stuff like that sticks in your heart?