Part 2 To The Look Of... Pretentiousness

Put Them On
I had pretty much given up on the idea of glasses until I met Ashley. You know you've found your soulmate when, while walking hand-in-hand through a crowded mall, you are both stopped dead in your tracks at the sight of kiosk vendor selling designer brand, knock-off, eyewear at $24.99 for two pairs, and, they are absolutely fake. I believe it took all of 3.5 seconds for us to pick out ones that we each liked and fork over the cash.

At first, I was a bit apprehensive to put them on and wear them around the mall. Typically, I would take them home first, and walk around the apartment until I had gotten used to them. I needed to work out my eyewear mannerisms like taking them off and putting them back on again. Do I use one hand, or two? And when I readjust them do I pull them part way off and then slide them back on? Or would pushing them back with one finger right above the bridge be fine? Believe it or not, these are important considerations in convincing a more than casual observer that your eyewear is completely authentic.

Ashley, however, encouraged me to do otherwise. "You look hot." She said it as if it were an actual arguable point of logic rather than a subjective description. If a senator were to ask for your vote because he was “hot” (regardless of whether he may or may not be) it’s certainly not a criterion on which to base a major decision. “Oh, just put them on,” she finally said.

I noticed, however, that she was placing her pair in her purse. “What about you? Aren’t you going to put yours on with me?”

“What? No!” She looked as if I had asked her to change her shirt right there in front of God and everybody. “I can’t just put on glasses and walk around like I’ve always had them. I still haven’t worked out all my mannerisms yet.”

Finally, we gathered up enough nerve to just do it, as if we were some sort of narcissistic version of Thelma and Louise running away from our past lives through fashion accessories sold next door to Taco Bell in the nearby food court. Indeed I, uh, we looked hot.

These glasses could not have been more perfect. With stylish rectangular, mocha frames that were just the right thickness and width to highlight my eyes and accentuate my facial features without making me look like a raccoon. They were the sort of glasses a man could wear and unabashedly declare that they read Playboy solely for the articles, and no one would think to question the authenticity of his statement. Putting them on instantly gave me an air of elegance that only "Prida" is famous for. I only wished I had an equally impressive “Rolax” watch to compliment them with.

Ashley’s pair was equally fashionable, having a similar effect on her appearance. We looked like that couple. The one living near the university in that adorable townhome on the street where all the trees form a cozy canopy of foliage each fall while the city skyline looks down on them fondly from above as they walk home carrying a canvas bag containing that evening’s dinner which they just purchased from the corner grocery. The ones sitting in the cafĂ© on Saturday morning drinking coffee and bantering over the president’s economic policy in Lower Mozambique, while their children quietly sip organic 2% milk from cartons promoting ecological responsibility. The couple who wears turtlenecks, listens to NPR, packs sushi in their children’s lunch and makes them speak French when playing Webkinz. We were the look of pure pretention.

As we shopped, I imagined the check-out clerks making small talk with us as they operated the register. “Ya’ll ain’t from ‘round here are ya?” they would say. To which we would look at each other and smile, flattered that someone was fooled enough by our eyewear that they actually believed we had no logical reason for being in this part of Texas.

Compliments and Confusion
My little fantasy was not far from reality, as we both wore our new specs on a regular basis. Upon coming home from work, Ashley would mention the number of times co-workers commented on her “new look”, or how store clerks now went out of their way to offer assistance in finding such hard to locate items as bread and milk. It happened often enough for Ashley to issue a friendly challenge to see which of us received more attention as a result of our eyewear. However, before she could finish writing our names on the white board, I declined given the fact I stay home with Allie and Avery most of the time and the odds would be weighted in heavily in Ashley’s favor.

To Allie and Avery the concept of fake eyewear seemed a bit confusing. Avery pitched a slight tantrum over not being allowed to wear her princess tiara to the library. “You don’t want to bring your toys to the library,” I explained.

“But you wear fake glasses,” she said through her protruding lower lip. Apparently, in the mind of a 5-year-old, the concept of “fake” holds the same meaning as “toy” and being that we were trying to get out the door I could not come up with an explanation that would shatter the paradigm.

“It’s a grown-up thing,” was the best I could offer. “Now finish up your milk and throw the carton in the recycling bin like Eco the Cow says we should.”

Although comments on my glasses (excluding the children) were few and far between, they were memorable. During a visit to my psychiatrist, I handed him my new business card which sports the likeness of Superman’s alter ego, Clark Kent. After examining the card and then glancing up at me several times, he smiled and commented that I looked like the guy on my card. You would have thought I was the head cheerleader being told she was pretty by the high school quarterback the way I turned my head and blushed. “Oh, you’re just saying that.” I said sliding my foot back and forth over the carpet.

Over Our Heads
For all the positive attention our new glasses earned us, Ashley and I were soon about to learn the meaning of that phrase, “be careful what you wish for” while on a weekend trip to Dallas. Prior to our return home, we were to have lunch with friends, but plans fell through giving us some time to kill which we did at the Galleria Mall. There are few retail locations of this size in Texas that are as upscale as the Galleria. It’s where professional athletes, celebrities and the generally well-to-do shop with the same indifference the rest of us would display during a rollback special at Wal-Mart.

Although we did not have a dime to spend and no intention to do so in the first place, Ashley and I felt we could at least play the part under the guise of intellectual superiority provided by our glasses. Our assumption proved true as we sauntered from one high-end boutique to the next attracting eager but reserved sales reps like hookers in Vegas during a business convention.

They would offer to show us a new line of shirts or a great pair of shoes to which Ashley and I would furrow our brows and look the item up and down thoughtfully through our glasses and reply with something like, “Yes, that is a great color which is why I have two just like it”, or “I supposed these could work, but all that sparkle is a bit gaudy.” Then we would smile at one another, amused with our little shenanigans.

Bored with clothing we would not be caught dead in, let alone could afford, the two of us happened upon an art gallery on the upper deck near Saks Fifth Avenue. From the window, it appeared they had some striking prints of Dali, Picasso and Warhol which Ashley and I decided to grace with our presence.

I have to say here that despite giving off the appearance of intelligence, our eyewear did not provide the actual intelligence needed to navigate certain social interactions where one would want to avoid looking like an idiot. As it turns out those prints were not prints at all, but, in fact, the real deal. A discovery we were unable to ascertain without the assistance of the gallery’s art consultant who casually walked up behind us as we fumbled through some foreign phrase associated with the exquisite “print” we were admiring at the time.

“Are you both collectors?” she asked with complete seriousness. The mere image of us as collectors almost made me choke in a fit of laughter, however, the fact she ignored the presence of a middle-aged man wearing a bolo tie and cowboy hat and his gum-chewing, diamond-studded wife who carried a small manicured dog made me think she earnestly believed Ashley and I were actual art aficionados. Thankfully, Ashley explained we were only admirers visiting from Houston.

I would have thought the consultant would have taken that to me she no longer needed to waste her time on us, but apparently, she interpreted this to mean we made a special trip just to evaluate this gallery’s offerings. “And how do you like the art scene in Houston? Is it favorable in comparison to the one here in Dallas?” she asked, fully expecting a meaningful retort worthy of an editorial in some uppity art magazine.

There are times when BS’ing your way through a topic of conversation is a challenge worth taking on, and you can do so with a certain degree of confidence. Politics, sports, dating experiences, these are a few of the subjects most men can tackle while having absolutely no idea what the hell they are talking about. The comparison of major artwork in Texas is not on that list, and even with a reasonable amount of alcohol you’re bound to be exposed. Given this fact, I went straight for an honest reply. Aside from the application of Crayola to scrap paper by kids, my knowledge in the matter is for crap and I explained I was not qualified to have a valid opinion in the matter.

Nevertheless, the image given off by the glasses was too strong for our new friend to take the hint, and the next thing Ashley and I knew, we were engaged in a discussion over Dali’s commissioned illustrations for Dante’s Inferno. I tried to position myself out of the conversation by stepping closer to the works so to appear as if I were examining them for slight errors or previously unseen message hidden within the brushstrokes. In actuality, I was debating whether I should pull my glasses off so I could tap against my lips to accentuate my feigned concentration.

However, before I could make a decision, Ashley sold me out. “You really should ask my husband,” I heard her say. “He’s the painter.”

“Reeeeally,” the consultant turned to me with a look of I-knew-you-were-holding-out-on-us. “So tell me, what subject matter do you prefer? Who are your influences?”

I smiled shyly, “Well, I, uh paint stuff…” my glasses were sliding down my nose, riding the sudden beads of sweat that started to appear. “Stuff like, uh, people, and buildings, and that kind of stuff.”

Then Ashley jumped in. “Oh, stop it, honey. You’re being modest.” She turned to consultant. “You should see this portrait he did. We have it hanging in our loft…”

“Your loft? Well, you must be an artist. Let me get my card,” and she excused herself.

I gave Ashley one of those withering glances from over the top of my glasses only making her giggle all more at our situation. It’s true I do paint from time to time, but nothing serious enough to be considered as having any influences other than paint-by-numbers.

Our consultant returned and handed over her card possible thinking she would one day, be showing some of my more stellar works such as My First Landscape or Fruit Bowl for Beginners.

“I have a piece I think you will enjoy,” she said motioning for us to follower her. There, on the opposite side of the gallery, hung a large painting of an outdoor bistro with the Eiffel Tower in the distant background. It reminded me of those paintings sold at furniture stores as an accessory to help tie a sofa and an aweful chairs together.

As we stood their looking it over, the consultant quietly asked, “So, how does this painting make you feel?”

My instinctive response was that I felt like upgrading our living room setup, but I had the sense enough to know she would never get the joke. It would be too cruel. Still, I figured that if she believed I was something I was not then I at least owed her the courtesy of playing the part. Removing my glasses, I leaned back and folded my arms. “Hmmmm,” I sort of hummed as I brought the tip of my glasses to my lips with a look of intellectual concentration.

“You know, I really like the detail and coloring used here,” I finally said using my glasses as a crude sort of pointer to make vague circle motions over the middle of the canvas.

“Ahhh,” the consultant nodded as if she’d never considered that point before, which I’m sure she had not since whatever point I was trying to convey had never even been mentioned in the whole history of artistic criticism.

“And the perspective,” I continued, “Is quite…yet the angles are so…”

“Yes?” she leaned forward slightly.

“They are very much – well, I could never begin to…”

“Uh hu?”

“It almost reminds me of… of…” I looked up at the ceiling and pressed the glasses to my chin. “Oh, you know”

She mentioned a name, but in such situations, you never go with the first suggestion as it opens you up to looking like a fraud.

“No, no. Oh, never mind. I’m sure it will come to me later while I’m balancing the checkbook or unclogging a toilet. Anyhow, It’s a very nice piece to be sure.”

I don’t know if our consultant felt overmatched or finally realized we were just your average garlic-eaters, but she mentioned something about a phone call and quickly left Ashley and I to stand there alone suppressing our laughter. We had not been there 2 minutes when another consultant asked us if were Warhol fans and would we like to view one of his Marilyn Monroe portraits. We agreed and followed him to a private office where the work was displayed.

“I’ve seen this in books,” Ashley said, “But it’s so much more thrilling to see the real thing.” She was genuinely impressed and so was I.

“And just think, only five or six people will get to even see this today,” our host said, “The buyer, my colleague whom you were just talking with, myself and the two of you.”

Thanking the consultant for this private showing, we left. “We’d better get out of here before someone else ropes us in.” I said.

Ashley agreed, and as we walked out the door she said, “I didn’t realize these glasses were so powerful.”

Lesson Learned
Since then, we’ve determined it best to wear our glasses only in certain situations. These include family gatherings, church (but only the morning service), and any function held in a suburban or rural setting. Conversly, in addition to art galleries, those times generally thought of as unfavorable to fake eyewear are the theater, the library, settings involving anyone considered a doctor or published author, and optometry appointments. It just tends to be inconsiderate to those around us.

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