Category Archives: marriage

A Girl Who Wears Glasses

Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.
–Dorothy Parker


In fifth grade I thought glasses were cool.

I told my mom I was having trouble reading the green and white exit signs on I-95 as we drove each day to Bangor for school. I may or may not have been exaggerating, but when she took me to the eye doctor, I did, indeed need corrective lenses for my near-sightedness. I loved my glasses.

For about a day and a half.

This was the eighties. My glasses had over-sized, pinkish-brown rims. They would quickly become smeared with fingerprints as I couldn’t stop touching them, pushing them up the bridge of my nose, just making sure they were still there. I don’t remember testing my newly clear vision on the exit signs. My glasses became a part of me, another thing to keep track of along with my school books, homework papers, and various Bonney Bell Lipsmackers.

By the time I entered seventh-grade, I hated the way I looked. Skinny, no curves. Crooked teeth, no braces. I’d had my long, dark hair chopped off for some reason, and the cowlick which had stopped sticking up when I grew my hair long and heavy now created a natural part which left a big, open expanse of oily, pimply adolescent forehead shining beneath a boyish cap of feathered, eighties hair. Pretty picture, huh?

Junior high was an awkward and ugly time for me. As Dorothy Parker wrote, girls with glasses don’t get much male attention. So I stared at boys across the classroom, daydreamed while gazing out the window of the car on our daily commute to town, and began to keep a journal, write stories, and wait for the day when I’d grow out of my awkward stage. It took a long time. Years, really, but I learned to make the best of things and kept on writing in those journals and writing those stories and daydreaming. My skin cleared up a bit. I got some curves. A boyfriend, even. I took my glasses off for pictures and for playing sports (looking back, I wonder if I might not have made a few more baskets if I’d worn those specs. Sorry, Coach Frost!)

By the time my senior year in high school rolled around, I acquired contact lenses, soft ones that were supposed to work for a week without cleaning. Soon my eyes were gunky, runny, sore, and red. I was allergic to my own eye secretions. Lovely, right? So began a span of years when part of my daily routine included putting in my contacts in the morning and taking them out for a good cleaning with Bausch & Lomb solution every night. I grew my hair out. My braces came off. I gained confidence, and a little bit of style. Off to college I went, hiding my “girl with glasses” persona.

Well, sorta. By then, I knew something about myself. I knew I liked to read, to write, to learn. I knew I didn’t want to be much of a party girl. I made friends with people who were interested in theater and writing and education and movies (and watching reruns of MACGYVER whenever possible). I wanted to find true love, and I did. I gave up sports and embraced poetry and prose. I traveled. I ate an incredible number of times at the Farmington Diner, usually accompanied by my future Hubby. Glasses made appearances. They never held me back.

When I sat down for my yearbook photo my senior year of college, you know what I did? I ditched the contacts and wore my glasses . . . really over-sized, dark-rimmed glasses.

I continued to put up with contacts for years, spending a fortune on yearly exams, prescriptions, gallons of saline solution, and tiny, over-priced bottles of lubricating drops. One year quite a long while ago, I decided I’d had enough. I would go back to glasses full-time.

And I’ve never looked back.

Do I like the way I look in my specs? Not really. I keep hoping one day I’ll find the perfect pair that makes me look like a sexy librarian. I’m also having trouble seeing up close with my glasses on, so they spend a fair amount of time perched on top of my head. Soon, I suppose, I’ll succumb to bi-focals, and won’t that be a trip?

And what of that Dorothy Parker line about men seldom making passes? Doesn’t bother me in the least. Hubby seems to like me just the way I am, bespectacled and all. Plus, this year he acquired his own pair of reading glasses. We match. He still makes passes now and again. Take that, Dorothy Parker!

Bite-Sized Holiday Fiction

Coffee and Cookies

Dear Reader:

No one really needs Christmas cookies. Likewise, no one really needs holiday-themed fiction. According to one John Lane, a guest host on Bill & Dave’s Cocktail Hour (one of my fave writerly blogs), holiday-themed fiction tends to be disappointing. He’s probably right. Like the cookies, holiday stories are a little sugary, a little too sweet, and ultimately, they aren’t all that satisfying compared to, say, a good medium-rare steak. But they are fun, sparkly, something to make the season special. Or at least, different.

It’s fun to make cookies, especially around holiday time. It’s fun to write holiday stories, too. You can channel all that pent-up nostalgia into a sweet, powdery confection of a narrative. O’Henry did it. Dickens did it. Like chocolate no-bake cookies or iced sugar cookies or those wonderful little peanut butter jobbies with the chocolate candy drops pushed into the middle, Christmas tales can be delicious holiday treats you might not have the stomach for any other time of the year.

If you accept these stories for what they are . . . dessert or tea-time snack . . . if you don’t expect them to replace some heftier fare, perhaps you won’t be all that disappointed by a couple bites of a Christmas fable now and again.

So, Dear Readers, I give you a holiday story, presented in small, bite-sized servings like rum balls, to sweeten your holiday season. (Look for a new page every day.)

I wrote this one at least fifteen years ago, never made a copy, gave it to a friend who lost it for a few years, discovered it in one of her old VOGUE magazines last summer (a miracle!), and stuck it into my filing cabinet. It is the story of a recently married couple, fresh out of college, struggling with bills and part-time jobs and differing expectations and trying to catch a bit of that ol’ Christmas cheer.

You can read UNLIKELY OBJECTS by clicking on the title or by looking under my newly renovated Fiction Corner.


Name Changer

A Rose By Any Other Name . . . Amaryllis?

Dear Reader:

My name is a teeter-totter. Hyphenated. Maiden Name-Married Name. Teeter-totter.

Just prior to getting married, my husband and I drove up to the town office and asked for a marriage license. We began to fill in the paperwork, and I realized I would have to make a decision regarding my name.

I’d just finished college, earned my degree in education, and was about to start applying for teaching positions. My advisers, my supervising teachers, my college profs all knew me by my “maiden” name. Wouldn’t things become complicated if I started requesting letters of recommendation with a new last name? Would they remember who I was? Would I be giving up my new and fragile adult identity?

I decided to hyphenate.

I began applying for jobs. No offers. Instead I took a job in a different field. Eventually, as the years went by, I began leaving off the maiden name and the hyphen and I “became” Shelley Burbank. Medical records. Employment records. Who knows what else records. All have plain old Shelley Burbank on them.

My driver’s license, however, still has the fancy-dancy hyphenated name, and a few years back I worried that this might cause me problems. I checked into legally changing my name to Shelley (no hyphen) Burbank. This meant a trip to the county courthouse, paperwork, and a fee. And contacting any business, organization, or entity with which I had done business in the last fifteen years and announcing my intention to change my name.

Did I mention the fee?

I gave it about two seconds’ worth of thought and muttered, “Uh, no thanks” before tossing the paperwork in the trash.

So, here I am, of a certain age, well out of college, using a name that is, well, not really mine. Legally, I do not share my husbands nor my daughter’s last name. And I have this silly hyphen. Does any of this mean anything?

Probably not. I just look at my driver’s license and ponder the fact that I am no longer the person I was twenty years ago. I’m older. Maybe a bit wiser (debatable). I’m not a teacher. My degree may have helped me get a few jobs over the years, but I’ve never needed those recommendations I was once so worried about that I decided to hyphenate my name.

If I had it to do all over again I would have made a firmer choice: maiden name or married name. No hyphen. No straddling of the fence. One or the other.

I suppose one of these days I’ll go back to the courthouse and pick up those papers and make things official.