Thursday, January 28, 2016

The last vestige of teenage angst

This is how I know I’m in my Third Third: I wore my glasses out in public.

I didn’t explain it. I just showed up. No groveling about putting drops in my eyes and not being able to wear my contact lenses. No qualms beforehand about how I looked. No nervous skulking in the shadows hoping I wouldn’t be seen.

This is a far cry from the teenage Barbara who actually coined the term “Be Ugly Days” for the days when she didn’t put in her contacts and stayed in glasses all day. Granted, eyeglasses back then were a little weird. Funny little pointed things. I can’t remember if I still wore the ones with the silver speckles in the frame, the ones that earned the “Four Eyes” title. The day I got my contact lenses I was set free!
This is also a far cry from the Barbara who brought a DOME HAIR DRYER to college so she could sit under it with giant rollers and tame the frizz. And who wouldn’t answer any knocks to her freshman door until she was properly smoothened and out from under. Whose boyfriend never saw her without what he called her “finely lined” eyes. And he meant eyeliner, not crow’s feet.
There are two sides to this “not caring what you look like” issue. On the one hand, there’s the self-confidence and maturity that mean you’re not stressing and worrying over appearance. On the other, there’s the downhill-slide schtunk problem (which I’ve already clarified here) and my promise to stop wearing slogan T-shirts in public.

Actually, it’s not really a two-sides issue; it’s a continuum. At the far end – things I swear I will never do – is – oh, wait! I have worn sweat pants in public, but I was just on my way to the athletic club. And yes, I have gone out with dirty hair, but that was just for a run and I was going to shower afterwards. And I did spend the entire time in New Orleans in a bright blue “Anchorage Beautiful” slogan sweatshirt, but that was because it was unseasonably cold and I didn’t have any other layer. (Or rather, the other layer – a stylish gray jacket – well, that was too dressed up for just sightseeing, right? And this was a sweatshirt, not a T-shirt, so technically it wasn’t covered by my pronouncement.)

Maybe I need to be more specific: Today, I intentionally went out in public – expecting to be seen, interact, and socialize – with my glasses on. I wasn’t just slipping out on an errand hoping not to run into anyone on my route. I’ve done that before and it doesn’t count because I’d still feel compelled to explain if I did run into someone I knew. I’d still start fumbling around about drops in my eyes.
These drops in my eyes – it’s for five days. I had a little twinge about a social event on Saturday night, but that was about my vision, not about wearing glasses. I am in my Third Third; I don’t have to feel self-conscious about how I present myself in public!

But why is it I can imagine my daughter looking at me, her eyes sliding down my clothes, hair, giant pink sunglasses, and green-purple-pink felt hat, thinking, “You’ve been self-conscious about your appearance???”

Yes, I was a teenager. Now, in my Third Third, I’m not.

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