Friday, September 12, 2008

The Eyes Have It

This is not an article about Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. It’s about her glasses.
(For some background on Sarah Palin when she was running for governor of Alaska, including the source of the accompanying pictures, click on this link.)

I took only one “easy” course in college, “drawing and painting.” They actually gave me three academic credits for it! I didn’t feel guilty about taking something I considered easy, or even fun, because most of my other courses were science courses, and I spent most afternoons doing what they called “lab work,” while the ec and poly sci majors got their assignments out of the way so they could drink all night.

One of our first assignments was to draw a self portrait. I suppose the idea was to show us just how hard it was, or to make some kind of a statement on one’s abilities of self-perception, or perhaps just to see if we had any talent at drawing. I can’t remember what mine looked like, only to be thankful that I crumpled it up and tossed it into a trash can where it undoubtedly belonged.

What I do remember, and what stuck in my mind over the years about this exercise, is the instructor’s outrage at how the women’s self portraits turned out. “The guys’ drawings are about what I expected,” he said in his rasping, New England-accented voice. “They’re vacuous. They stink.” (With the possible exception, of course, of a couple done by those who turned out to be his “favorites.”)

“But I’m totally concerned with the ladies’ self-perception here. There’s something distinctly annoying about all of them,” he whined in his irritating-to-this-day manner. “Can’t you see what they’ve done?” he said, using the third person. This fellow was a great one for handing out insults under the pretext of personal eccentricity. “They’ve all made themselves look like Jackie Kennedy!”

I took a look around, and sure enough, in one way or another, all of them did look like Jackie Kennedy. (Later that year she would marry Aristotle Onassis, thereby becoming Jackie O.)
This was at a small, selective, coeducational New England liberal arts college in the late Sixties. Now, I have to confess to a degree of misogynistic tendencies stemming from the time I spent there, but I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say that most of these “babes” looked like stereotypical androgynous librarians and sounded like Diane Rehm of National Public Radio on a very bad day.

So I was amazed that what the instructor pointed out was true. These ladies, with some of the highest College Board scores in the country, most of whom went on to graduate school AND had the requisite 2.3 chidren, had the same tastes and perceptions as their less-favored counterparts who were lucky if they went to vocational school somewhere. Do we have a similar situation in this country today?

“Listen to this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who tell their lords, "Bring, and let us drink.” Amos 4:1

I recently made a rare visit to a big-city mall, and was surprised to see merchandise marketed to ladies, bearing the faces of Hannah Montana and Paris Hilton. So I guess it’s true, as Mencken noted, “Nobody ever lost any money by underestimating the taste of the American public.”

And having learned all this, I wasn’t surprised to see the following article:

It seems that Sarah Palin has catapulted Kazuo Kawasaki's designer eyeglass frames into the spotlight in a huge way, and it looks like the beginning of a celebrity eyewear trend. Palin wore the custom fitted frames during her speech at the Republican National Convention, and consumers are now clamoring to get a pair of the exact frames.

According to an article in USA Today, the VP of Italee (the US distributor of the eyeglass frames) said that her company is getting calls from dealers who want to stock the exact shape and style that Sarah Palin was wearing. The manufacturer is stepping up to produce enough of new lightweight, titanium, rimless rectangular frames to meet the growing demand.

The designer eyeglass frame Palin was wearing starts at a suggested $375.00, without the lenses. Getting the exact frame and shape right away might be hard because Palin's frame was customized to fit her. She chose from about 300 frames (ed. note: Vanity, thy name is woman?) before picking the 704 series Kawasaki frame in the 34 gray color, but the strong rectangular shape was custom-cut just for her.

So as the popularity polls swing toward the Republican side, we have to ask ourselves if this a result of the electorate’s finally focusing on the real issues. Or could it be disaffected Hilary voters coming over to John McCain’s brilliant choice of a woman for a running mate? Or could it be that, simply, they think her glasses are cool?

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