Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Men Seldom Make Passes...

Not so long ago, when I thought I was young and invincible, I used to smirk (inwardly), so unkindly, about people of a certain age who held the restaurant menu at arm's length and still couldn't read what to order. Or my older colleagues who were constantly misplacing their reading glasses despite owning multiple pairs. "Ha! That'll never happen to me," I thought smugly. "I have good eyesight and I eat lots of carrots."

God is punishing me now, big time. "Neener, neener, neener," says God.

Is there a French equivalent of "neener, neener neener?" I wonder. Because living in Paris puts a special twist on the need for reading glasses. There is the weird irony of going to a restaurant avec an English-speaking dinner guest but sans specs. So as my pal painstakingly pronounces, one by one, each menu item to me in phonetic but unrecognizable French, the waiter returns for the third time, asking "Vous avez choisi?" It's pathetic.

Although I'm no longer officially in denial about my need to correct my presbyopia, I still have a Freudian mental lapse about remembering to take them with me at important times.

Last summer I settled into my seat on a 3-hour TGV ride to La Rochelle, with good thick book ... and NO reading glasses. I felt like a wino without a corkscrew, a smoker without matches.

Oh, yes. The trick of always keeping a spare pair or five works great-- until you use the spares and leave them in wrong spot. And I'm too vain to get a chain to wear around my neck. For now. I still want to be oh-so-hip and carefree, not part of the chain gang. I know plenty of women who have gone for the contact-lens reading glasses route, but I'm not ready for that level of daily maintenance. For now. Do French women my age wear reading glasses? I don't recall seeing them do so, in public at least.

In Paris, the best place to pick up a pair of standard non-prescription reading glasses (les loupes de lecture) is in a pharmacie. The pharmacien(ne) will help you with fittings and so forth, and especially love it if you ask their opinions about which looks best on your face.

In the hair salons in Paris, if you are having messy stuff put on your scalp and tresses (of course of course not moi -- my hair is so very naturally auburn/chestnut-with-highlights), the coiffeur will give you des protege-lunettes. These are skinny plastic baggies that slide over the sides so you can keep reading Gala magazine gossip while the color cooks, without getting the staining goop all over your glasses. Maybe those filmy sheaths exist now in the US salons, but I don't think they're as ubiquitous as in France.

Resigned I am. But my all time favorite reading glasses -- the ones I have held onto the longest, too -- came from Bob Slate's, a stationery shop in Harvard Square, two years ago. If you have to be an old fogey and wear reading glasses, these are hands-down the coolest specs to own. Everyone I show them to loves them.

They are -- ta da! -- the Magnificent Nanninis.

Italian award-winning Nanninis have amazing pivotal hinges that move 360 degrees, so the sides simply don't break off.

They are designed to fold as flat as a passport.

In a pinch you can configure them so you simply hold them up like lorgnettes, which reminds me of the fussy socialites in the Marx Brothers' A Night at the Opera every time.

And best of all, Nanninis are not for the terminally middle-aged. (Nannini is NOT Italian for neener, neener. I don't think.) No, there are cool sunglasses and motorcycle goggles, too. The website,, tells you where to order worldwide.

And if I can't get my Nanninis soon enough, maybe I can get me some of these.

1 comment:

Sam Taub said...

Hi PVF, I reply to your title "Men Seldom Make Passes", do you know the French expression:
femme à lunettes, femme à quéquettes

I haven't heard it in around 25 years, but it's still funny and it taught me a slang word I didn't know in French. bisous, Sam Taub

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