Ramblings on Spectacles

I went to have my eyes examined the other day and was greeted with the usual joy in the optometry department, since my prescription isn’t the lenses-in-one-hour type but a high-powered one that sets my wallet to groaning.

One of the many reasons I’ve never been a fan of romance novels is because (if the covers are any indication of the contents), women with glasses simply don’t exist in their universe. Admittedly, I may be dead wrong about this, since I’ve read very few contemporary romances, but I suspect that I’m right, at least in the case of the vast majority of books in this genre. One reason, I guess, is that glasses simply don’t make for very good love scenes. They have a tendency to get in the way during kissing, especially if (God forbid) both parties are wearing them, and once things get steamy, lines like “She placed her glasses on the nightstand,” just don’t have the appeal of, “She let her negligee slide to the floor.” (OK, I know that’s not very steamy by modern standards. But this is a family-friendly blog.)

Romantic movies are equally inhospitable to those of us in glasses land. If a glasses-wearer appears at all in a lead role, it’s most often as a mousy woman who gets transformed into a beauty, usually through the simple expedient of getting a decent hairstyle and–of course–getting rid of her glasses, the general idea being that she’s wearing them to hide from the world, not for any mundane reason such as being able to see.

Though glasses-wearers have pretty much been exiled from the world of romance, there is a place for them in historical fiction, at least. I was delighted to find when researching The Traitor’s Wife that one character, the ill-fated Bishop Stapeldon, owned a pair of spectacles, then a relatively newfangled device, at least in the West. I couldn’t resist including a scene where the bishop, talking to a colleague, gestures with his spectacles.

Us spectacle-wearers have to stick together, after all.

5 thoughts on “Ramblings on Spectacles”

  1. Myopians unite!

    I agree – one of the major criticisms of Queen Anne was of her squint. That always gets on my near-sighted nerves.

    I always feel a bit closer to “successful” people who wear glasses – it put John Lennon over Paul in my esteem early on. He made granny glasses iconic. I don’t think this would have worked for him if he was female, though.

    Thanks for this post.

  2. That’s a nice anecdote about the bishop. Spectacles feature in Name of the Rose, too – if I remember rightly, Brother William owns a pair and gives them to the young monk somewhere near the end. I don’t think Sean Connery wore glasses in the film, though. Can’t imagine why not.

  3. Carla,
    he did when reading the manuscripts, until they got broke during one of those pursuits through the library. Which was disappointingly devoid of books in the movie. 🙁

  4. elena maria vidal

    I love this post!! So true, every word!!

    The only thing I liked about that awful film “The Affair of the Necklace” is that Marie-Antoinette is shown wearing spectacles.

  5. Susan Higginbotham

    Thanks, all!

    I rented The Affair of the Necklace once but never got around to it. Maybe I’ll try it again, for the spectacles if nothing else.

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