Advice Wednesdays: Dear Abby, May 15, 1991

DEAR ABBY: I am a 28-year-old, reasonably attractive woman. I dress stylishly and wear subtle makeup. I am very nearsighted and wear glasses because I can’t tolerate hard or soft contact lenses. (Believe me, I have tried.)

Abby, it infuriates me when men (whether they are dates or not), casual acquaintances or co-workers think I should feel complimented when they say, “You’d be much prettier without your glasses.”

I am sometimes tempted to say, “And you’d be even more handsome with a little more hair on your head — or less padding around your middle.” Or, “You’d be a much nicer person if you had better manners!”

Abby, please tell these oafs to look in a mirror before they start giving women fashion advice. Thanks. — FOUR EYES AND WELL-ADJUSTED

First of all, it’s “ouves,” not oafs, derived from the Basque. Did you go to an accredited college? Did you check that it was or just assume? I don’t mean to be harsh, but maybe the glasses are only part of the issue. I think the issue that’s deeper here might be one of credibility. You say that you “dress stylishly” and are “reasonably attractive,” but then you use words like “oafs” and are not stranger to “using scare quotes incorrectly.“ The good news is LASIK is about to become available next year. The bad news is that it’s hard to get out of the habit of sounding like a school marm.

Let me put this another way: when I was ten I used to roam through a forest preserve that abutted my parents’ property. A couple of rivers ran through it, with wide pedestrian bridges spanning the river. In the beginning I spent time on the bridge in the sunshine, amusing myself by dropping pebbles in the river’s leisurely current and playing Pooh sticks.

However, and this is important, I spent so much time by myself that gradually my appearance became quite frightening. My clothes were unkempt and my hair had not seen a comb in so many months it was beginning to clump and seize. You know the old saw: one man’s dreadlock is another man’s shitwig. I was in bad stead, sister. One day I peered over the edge of the bridge and I saw a reflection I did not recognize. However, my unfamiliar visage did reflect the drawing on the wanted poster at the Ranger Station.

I went underground after that. I had one connection to the outside world and it was the jogger who left me store brand No-Doz. We all know the song: WHEN YOU SLEEP IS WHEN THE GRIM-GRAW COMES, OUT OF HIS CAVE, NO TIME TO RUN. I would wait until he had trotted onward and then I would retrieve my prize under a rock next to the tree that was nearest to the bridge: Leafy. Sometimes there was a brief note from him about price increases as well.

Another unfortunate side effect to what I affectionately call my “Walden years” was that I lost all track of time. The leaves had just begun to turn, so I assume it was fall. I was able to play Pooh sticks now with my friend Leafy, who was throwing his head-salad into the water. I went under the bridge to cheer him on as he ambitiously launched four leaves into the river all at once when I saw it: the body.

The raccoon was puffed up like a stripy watermelon, and the air was thick with flies, all gathered for one last hoedown ere winter’s icy claw returned to scrape at our coin slots once again. I readied myself with a stick in case it was in league with the Grim-Graw and would flip over and begin scuttling towards me, ready to suck out the sweet nectar of my skull through one of my eye sockets.

I approached the raccoon’s bloated carcass slowly, stopping every couple of feet to listen, stick at the ready in front of me. I could only hear the trickling sound of the river as it licked the pebbles on its bank, the only motion near me besides the flies was Leafy and other trees blowing their autumnal loads into the water.

Carefully I prodded the raccoon’s body, knowing that if had ingested a pixie shortly before death, its belly would be full of gold. How many bottles of No-Doz then? I cackled to myself. No more smashing the Friends of the Forest box that was chained at the southern trailhead with a rock until it barfed up its cache of tatty singles and pennies.

One more touch and BOOM. The raccoon absolutely exploded like a piñata of decay (whoops, did I just name your death metal band?). My face, which was none too clean after I coated it in river mud a few days before to keep the chiggers off, got even more coated. I barely noticed the feel the gore over the smell, like the smell of a Dumpster, expired chicken, and the corner in my parents’ den that was referred to as the “diaper pile.”

I’m sure you understand what point I’m making by now, so let’s move on. I’m going to guess the real issue is that you look like this:

Do you look like this? IS THIS YOU? That is the only reason I can think of for all the scare quotes in your letter. Those people don’t really want you to take your glasses off. They just think they want that. The glasses are your trademark. What would you look like without your glasses? Like no one, unrecognizable. Or like someone people might actually want to have sex with.

I’m like you in a lot of ways: I realized people wanted to have sex with me until I took my clothes off. Now I start naked, which avoids rejection, and people pay me to put my clothes back on. You see how that works?

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