Do these glasses make my gut look big?

There’s nothing like a visit to the optometrist to make you feel old.

I’m already wearing trifocals – for distance on top, computer in the middle and reading on the bottom. I was afraid I would soon need quadrifocals: distance, computer, texting and reading. But it turns out my long-distance vision is actually improving.

After the exam, new prescription in hand, I went to order new glasses. The worst part of buying eyeglasses is that you can’t see what they look like on your face because – you need glasses! Duh! You’d think that by now some tech-savvy 18-year-old would have invented a 99-cent app that photographs your face and lets you see what you look like with different frames. Well, he hasn’t. (You know what a good name for it would be? Face Book. Too bad that’s taken.) So you try on frames and squint at yourself in the mirror and try to figure out what you look like, even though all you can see is a blur.

I asked the optometrist’s assistant what she thought looked best, and, without looking at me, she said, “Try these.” The ones I was looking at cost $147. The ones she wanted me to try cost $373 and weren’t covered by my insurance.

I put on the more expensive glasses and squinted at myself. I thought they made me look like Dame Edna. Is this really what they’re wearing in Milan this year? Do men really buy frames with rhinestones? “It’s from the Elton John collection,” she said.

The trend for the last few years has been small, narrow glasses that make everyone look like they are in a rock band that is so hip it plays only music you’ll never hear on the radio. I can’t really pull that off anymore. I could barely do it when I was young; now it would look ridiculous. But I don’t want glasses that are so big I look like I come from Planet Bug-Eye.

I’m not a vain person, if you don’t count all the hair- and skin-care products in my medicine cabinet, or the elevator shoes, or the corset – I mean, back supporter – but I like to think I have a little style, a little flair, a little panache. Actually, my panache is getting pretty big. I’ve really got to lose some panache before I have to buy bigger pants.

So I went back to the section with the cheap frames that my insurance does cover. I looked among the hundreds of round, oval and even trapezoidal frames for something that would complement the shape of my face.

I have a square face. Imagine Clark Kent, if he were old, fat, gray and out of shape. But Clark wore ugly glasses as a disguise. Who would ever recognize him without his glasses? Yet when I whip off my glasses, people still recognize me. They say things like, “Have you put on even more weight?” or, “I’d sue the plastic surgeon who did that to you.”

What, I wonder, could possibly make a little metal frame cost $147? The reading glasses sold in every drugstore cost only five bucks, and most of them have metal frames. I could buy 29 pairs of them for this price. The only difference is they don’t have a fancy Italian fashion designer’s name on them.

Funny, I never see any of those designers wearing glasses. Just because they can make a ball gown doesn’t mean they can make a decent pair of glasses. More than likely, some low-paid schmuck at Frame Central designs them for pennies and the designers slap their labels on them and keep, oh, $140 of the $147. Nice work if you can get it.

Funny thing is, no one has ever asked me who designed my glasses.

Jim Mullen’s book “Now in Paperback” is now in paperback. You can reach him at

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