Most of the time I do a pretty good job of looking like a sane, fairly well-balanced individual. But every now and then something happens upon which I look back a few weeks later and think “Well, clearly, I was not entirely mentally stable just then.” It would be nice if I could recognize that I’m being a little bonkers at the time, but at least noticing it later is a start, right?
So it appears that every time I go to Ireland I fixate on something that I need, because that thing will
(a) make me look like a normal Irish person, not an American
(b) make me look really great, because when you see people you haven’t seen in ages you want them to think you’re looking fabulous
(c) signal that I have a good life and am happy even though I live far away
(d) magically make me look ten years younger, to prove that parenting hasn’t made me middle-aged and frumpy
(Stop the presses: It’s time that’s made me middle-aged. Parenting was just along for the ride.)
Sometimes I obsess over having the right jeans, sometimes I need new shoes, and sometimes, in a move that’s particularly bad for my bank balance, I just have to get a new pair of glasses because the old ones are horrible and the perfect frames will make me look so much better and then everyone will say “Didn’t Maud look great?” and “I liked her glasses” and “Yes, very on fleek” and … right? That’s my life, right? I say “on fleek” non-ironically and so do my friends.
This time it was glasses. Two weeks before I left I found myself in the glasses store, practically on impulse, browsing the frames. I wasn’t exactly due a new pair, but one arm kept coming off the ones I had, and had been glued three times now. (Three is the magic number, right?) I had planned ahead enough to call my previous optician and find that it was a little less than two years since my last test, so my prescription was still valid, and I had a copy of it with me. I had experienced buyer’s remorse with those glasses almost as soon as I had them: I felt they were too heavy-looking and too dark and generally just not nice enough. I vowed to fix that this time.
I found a pair of frames that were everything I wanted. The saleslady agreed that they were the perfect choice, gave me a big discount, and didn’t even try to upsell me on anything. I had to ask for the thinner lenses and the transitions coating.
I spent an impatient ten days convinced that my life would be perfect as soon as my new glasses arrived. I would look in the mirror at the face of a modern, savvy, attractive, grown-up woman; neither sad fashion victim nor tragically trapped in the last decade. I would probably look exactly like Kate Winslet when she put her glasses on at the Oscars. Only not blonde.
Then my glasses arrived, just a couple of days before I flew to Ireland. The nick of time, I thought. I couldn’t possibly go to Ireland in the same old glasses I had last summer: everyone would notice. I picked them up with Mabel in tow. Mabel was not impressed with my new look. I told her she could look somewhere else, then. She demanded that I put my old glasses back on. I put my old glasses in the case and walked out with my shiny new glasses on my nose, dragging a recalcitrant Mabel before she did something terrible, having had barely a chance to see what I looked like.
When I got home I looked in the mirror. Where was the elegant modern woman I had seen when I selected the frames? This was just my same old (and getting older) face again, behind a different pair of glasses.
It’s always going to be my face. It’s always going to be me inside. Nobody else actually notices the extraneous details much, they just see me, and they’re happy to see me because they’re my family and my friends.
Remind me of this next time, okay?