To See and To Be Seen

Once every year I get my fix of people-watching at Royal Ascot with thousands of people and parts of the Royal Family dressed up in their finery to enjoy the races. It is – literally – a spectacular event and it’s amazing to watch the work of the best couturiers and milliners of the land.

Me too, of course, put on my best frock, a big hat and contact lenses for the day. Big hats don’t go with the big varifocal glasses I usually wear. The problem for me is that my eyesight has become so dim over the last few years that I need reading glasses even when I wear my contacts. And contrary to my varifocals it’s a constant on-and-off with reading glasses which is seriously annoying.

That’s why I tend to limit my use of contacts to sports, gardening or when I want to look pretty, even though they are uncomfortable and I need copious amounts of eye drops when they are in. The first two are for practical reasons, the glasses are in the way on the tennis court and when I get mucky in the kitchen garden. But I ask myself, why do I think I’m prettier without glasses than with? And why even bother at all at my age?

The last question is easy. You’re never too old for vanity and I actually find it healthy to care about one’s appearance, old or young. The interesting point is the delusion that glasses make me less attractive. Why do I take them off when I go to a party or have my photograph taken? I have been thinking quite a lot about that and the only reason I can come up with is the beauty stereotypes from my childhood. I can’t believe that they still have such an impact on me.

On the other hand, maybe nature actually wants to protect us when “we’ve seen it all”? Maybe we should accept the bliss of hazy vision as we grow older as an excuse not to engage in every little detail? I can see the outlines and the bigger picture without glasses or contact lenses, why not leave the nitty-gritty to the next generation? That may be enough in the overall scheme.

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