I’m interested in the recent phenomenon where LeBron James and Dwayne Wade and half of the NBA have taken to speaking at their postgame press conferences sporting chunky frames. In an interview broadcast recently on the Freakonomics podcast, James stated that he didn’t need to wear the glasses. In fact, Wade has been seen wearing glasses with no lenses at all. So why?
Some suggest that the players wear glasses in order to signal that they would be the kind of good, responsible citizens who should get fat endorsement contracts. A man who wears glasses wouldn’t throw a punch or get himself in trouble with the law, would he?
Although Charles Barkely famously stated a few years back that he’s not a role model, he was a hero to the little boys I grew up with, just like LeBron is a hero to my little boys.I hoped they’d remember him today when I I spent this morning at the eye doctor with my twelve-year-old and his little brother. Bryce has always come home from school and dropped his shoes and glasses right by the front door, where they stay until he leaves the next morning. He says that some kids call him four eyes, while others tell him that he look smarter. Smarter or not, he’s determined that he will enter junior high wearing contacts, NOT glasses.
I felt like I was talking out of both sides of my mouth when I was telling Bryce that, yes, I’d support ditching his glasses for contacts, while in the next breath encouraging Isaac, who’s going into second grade, that he was going to look really cool in his first-ever pair of glasses. He seemed convinced, but didn’t embrace the chunky LeBron James frames I tried to push on him (“those are ‘nerd glasses,’ Mom”).
It wasn’t until we got into the car, halfway home, that the tears started. We were talking about his piano group lesson, coming up in two weeks, and the piece he’d play for the other kids. “But Mom,” he sniffed, “I don’t want to go to group lessons anymore.” I asked why not. “By the time I go to my next piano lesson, I’m going to be wearing glasses, and the kids might laugh at me.”
I remember being simultaneously delighted and mortified by my glasses, which I started wearing the summer after kindergarten. They enhanced the fact that I was decidedly NOT cool. Those awkward upper-elementary years were even more awkward, and I had a Pygmalion moment when I traded in the purple frames for the Bausch and Lombs. And I’ve never once regretted getting Lasik in my 30s– my only wish is that I’d done it ten years sooner.
Why have glasses retained the persistent association with nerdiness? Do you feel that your own glasses make you feel nerdier/smarter/more/less cool? Can LeBron change the age-old stereotype, along with changing the game of basketball? Will Isaac’s friends really make fun of him? How do I convince him that his glasses aren’t something to be dropped at the door when he walks in from school?