Cheers, Ears!

06 Jun Cheers, Ears!

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 13.6.22


There was a time when I might have been embarrassed about the size of my ears, but those days are over. Two years into this pandemic and it’s my ears doing much of the heavy lifting in keeping me safe.

“Might have been embarrassed” is a low-key way of saying I kept my ears hidden with hair and hats for decades after one too many childhood comparisons to Dumbo the Flying Elephant. Terrific book, but the titular character is not exactly aspirational when you’re a 6-year-old girl.

Now, however, I am grateful that the shell-likes each side of my head (giant clams, really) provide sufficient acreage and anchorage for current requirements.

Not just glasses and earrings as per previous eras (anagram, geddit?) but now also a hearing aid and mask. Plus on some work days, we’ll throw in a microphone headset and an earpiece on the spare side. On these days, my head can feel like an orange stuck with cheese-and-pineapple loaded toothpicks at a party in the 1970s.

I’ve mostly mastered wearing glasses and mask without fogging – pinch that mask nose clip nice and tight. In the kitchen, I still find it entertaining when I open the oven door and my specs steam up like I’m a mad scientist in a lab.

I’ve barely contemplated contact lenses or lasers – the truth is, I like wearing glasses. With them on, I can see stuff; take them off and the world is a delightfully soft focus place where objects blend gently into each other and people appear kinder and less judgemental.

Those of us who are bespectacled like to think they make us look clever. We also like to think that, when we take them off, we look younger and sexier, and we might toss our hair in an ironic yet hopeful way. Obviously we don’t know if we really do look sexy because at this point we can’t see.

I have trouble seeing things far away (street signs, movie screens) and also close up (books, thread going into the eye of a needle) but there’s an area in the middle that is pretty much 20/20. If I don’t have my glasses on and you walk towards me, I’ll be guessing, “Is it Dave? It’s Melanie! Or Brian?” until I hear your voice.

Sometimes to live dangerously I leave my glasses off. I have several lipsticks in the same brand and can’t read the labels glassless, so it’s a lucky-dip whether I’ll be wearing fuchsia or blood-red. Small things entertain me. When I can see them.

I have, however, learnt not to play lucky-dip with price tags – $180 looks exactly like $30 to my naked eye and that’s not a discovery you want to make at the counter. I’m already playing Russian-roulette with the eftpos machine at the best of times. My relief when it comes up “Accepted” is less to do with having enough money in my account and more to do with having stabbed the right keys using little more than muscle memory.

So mostly I wear the glasses. Different ones for different moods. Heavy black frames for what I like to think of as “science laboratory chic”; rose gold rims which I intend as “ironic hippy” though I see now they mostly make me look like my mother.

My ears, however, make me look like my father. Industrial size, super strong, doing more than their fair share to help me see, breathe, hear and be heard. My 6-year-old-self apologises. Three cheers for ears.