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Glasses Are Verboten! Contacts only!

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Average Everygirl #65, Average encounters the Makeover | Panel 1: Average and Nerdly have come to consult MarySue. Average says, "MarySue, Nerdly seems to think he can win Prissy's heard if he looks a little cooler. I thought maybe you could help." | Panel 2: MarySue, looking skeptical, examines Nerdly, saying, "Hmm. Tough case. First off, those glasses have got to go." | Panel 3: Nerdly removes his frames, with a sound effect of *Transform!* He is somehow leaner. MarySue cries, "Whoa! Hello, hottie!" | Panel 4: Average, one brow raised, says, "Did you just… grow taller?" Nerdly replies, "Sort of. My lenses are so heavy that they make my shoulders hunch and my spine compress."

Ah, the insta-transformation: Nerd – Glasses = Hottie.

Those of us afflicted with myopia take exception to this particular trope, rampant though it runs through fiction. I’m sorry that in my quest to see the world in focus, I sometimes don such an offending and uglifying accessory.

Wait. No I’m not.

Comically Ugly

Despite the fact that glasses offer a wide range of looks and styles, somehow, fictional nerds always seem to wear the worst possible option. They have to appear unflattering to the extreme, you see, thereby making their transformation all that more dramatic.

Because if a makeover character wears glasses, you can bet those glasses are the first item marked for the trash bin, ahead of any ugly clothes or excess body hair. They might not be the first item to go, but rest assured, they were toast from the moment this character set foot on scene.

In their place comes a pair of sleek and attractive contact lenses. And you can pretty much spot writers who have never worn contact lenses in their lives based on how easily those lenses are procured.

The Pitfalls of Switching Glasses to Contact Lenses

Because I’m a giver, I’m going to provide some standard requirements for those unfamiliar with the actual process.

1. Contact lenses require a prescription, which means that they also require an eye exam from a certified professional. 

A previous prescription for eyeglasses does not suffice. Because the contact lens rests on the cornea, the exam determines what type of lens is appropriate or if the candidate is even eligible for contact lenses. Some people aren’t.

2. You cannot borrow someone else’s contact lenses or commandeer their extra set and expect to see clearly.

And you would never use a lens that’s already been in someone else’s eye. Never.

3. The school nurse does not carry replacement contact lenses.

Not only do lenses require a prescription, but they also include a range of variables: hard/soft, daily or extended wear, and astigmatism correction, to say nothing of the prescription itself. An inventory of lenses makes sense only in an eye doctor’s office.

4. There is a solid learning curve for putting in and removing lenses.

You have to train yourself to touch your finger to your eyeball without blinking or flinching. Hard contacts are super easy to remove (pull the corner of your eye tight and blink), but soft lenses require more training to pinch that flexible piece of plastic from off the surface of your eye. It takes practice.

5. Right and left lenses can be identical, but more than likely they’re unique to one another.

My right eye is -0.50 weaker than my left. My optometrist about had a fit last year when I tried to receive my new right lens with my left hand. He corrected me, not wanting me to get the two mixed up, at which point I told him that I always go by the numbers on the packet. (I get the terms “right” and “left” mixed up all the time anyway, but I can tie spacial associations to numbers pretty easily.)

6. Even though a person has contact lenses, it doesn’t mean the glasses are gone.

Certain things are more difficult with contacts: windy days, sandstorms, staring at a computer screen. Dry eyes are the bane of contact wearers, and a set of glasses makes life easier on those days you just don’t want to walk around with a piece of plastic in your eye.

Beware How You Discard Glasses

Now, I’m not saying that every fictional story with a glasses-to-contacts makeover requires extensive details about how the character procured their new lenses, but a sure-fire way to lose all credibility is to ignore this process.

  • “Here. I have a spare set you can wear.”
  • “Hey, I got you some contact lenses from the nurse’s office.”
  • “I filched these from my sister. Try them on.”

IT DOESN’T WORK THAT WAY. What’s more, your glasses-wearing character would know as much, because contacts have probably gotten at least a passing mention at every single eye appointment over the course of their life. Logically, they’re not going to use a lens acquired in a shady or slipshod manner.

So, if you must include this particular element in your makeover trope, be responsible. Make your character an appointment with an eye doctor.

The end.