This is a blog post wherein I attempt to deconstruct the anxiety I feel about white imperialist racism and the purchase of new eyeglasses I do not need.
I recently finished up reading Inga Muscio’s Autobiography of a Blue-Eyed Devil: My Life and Times in a Racist, Imperialist Society. I think everyone should read this book. It is a book about racism, yes. White imperialist racism. A book about how white imperialist racist ideology bleeds into pretty much everything we do and see. It’s a book about genocide, a book about sexism, a book about ecocide.
Oh Inga, how I love you. You give voice to the parts of me that our racist, imperialist society has tamped down over the years. There were so many moments in the book where I felt this keen recognition—this feeling of ah, that’s me. That’s a more badass, eloquent, educated me. Those are the thoughts I would be writing about if I were braver. Those are the kinds of critical skills I so wish I’d already been developing, but I hadn’t because I’ve allowed our, you know, racist, imperialist society to hack away at some of the more just wishes of my heart and soul. I’m talking about wishes of equality, wishes that I’d had the bravery to call BULLSHIT, for example, when my mom told me that yes, I had to go to college because there were just some hoops that you needed to jump through, or when the gross ex-boyfriend (soon to have a restraining order set against him, so I guess my family and I did have the bravery to call BULLSHIT) dragged me across his dorm room by the ankles.
But, Inga, you exposed those ideas in your lovely book, which uncovered the germs of similar ideas in me, and there they are! Now, to just read the entire bibliography of Cunt, Blue-Eyed Devil, whichever book of yours I read next, and l shall watch those ideas fully germinate, growing into a veritable forest of pinko commie convictions within my heart! Mom will be so proud. (Maybe not.)
After I finished Inga’s book I got the summer flu. I suspect I got the summer flu due to some antibiotics I was on for bacterial vaginosis. Kill all the good bugs in my gut in the process of killing all the “bad” bugs in my cunt, and destroy my immune system. Western medicine at its best.
While convalescing, I read Barbara Kingsolver’s Small Wonder in three feverish hazed days. (Such a race through a book is unusual for me. Busy life and no time to hang out sniffling on the couch enjoying yourself, see.) Incidentally, especially after reading Inga, Barbara Kingsolver’s eco-friendly-motivated garden growing, left-wing leaning political essays seem positively tame.
So this is the fevered brain-space I was swimming in for days and days. White imperialist racism, bad! And it’s everywhere! It’s means government-endorsed autogenocide, ecocide, climate change. These things are caused by ignorance and greed! Shit is hitting the fan! And what can we do? What can I do?
Here’s what I did. I went about my business.
I went to the eye doctor, because I’m turning 26 in a week, at which time my parent’s insurance plan will no longer cover me. But, yay, Obamacare! for extending that timeline from age—what was it, 24?—to 26. You gotta use that shit while you still can. I had the exam. Then funneled me in from room to room and performed their tasks and deemed my eyes in almost the exact same condition they had been last year (and the previous year).
Then for some reason I put a pair of those fancy trial frames on anyway, and sat down with the salesperson. And then bought the glasses that I DO NOT NEED, because the glasses that I currently wear are of almost exactly the same prescription.
This is the state that I am in. Because I am a white, privileged, middle class person, I am in a state where I am able to agonize over how much waste will go into to the production of the glasses I will purchase even though I DO NOT NEED them. I can agonize over what the longer-term costs may be for the environment based on said unknown waste. I can agonize about what the workers conditions are like where the glasses are made, I can agonize about what toxins may or may not be leached into my face from the plastic of the frames or the anti-reflective coating of the lenses. I am able to agonize over whether or not they should put the slightly creepy dilation drops in my eyes (which temporarily paralyze the muscles surrounding your pupils so that the pupils remain open, with I-don’t-know-what-other-known-or-unknown-long-term-side-affects). I am in a state where I can agonize about what it will do to my bank account in the long term to spend $160 on a pair of glasses I DO NOT NEED that would have cost over three times that much without the coverage of the happy insurance of my parents.
I should probably mention that it has taken me up to this point in my early adult life to not feel a deep, cringing sense of remorse and fear for my future each time even the smallest amount of money is emptied from my wallet.
I can agonize about all the waste that goes on within the office itself—all the paper used, all the tiny little disinfectant wipes wiped on all the elaborate optometry equipment, I can agonize about gender equality in the offices—on why my doctor is male, but everyone else who works there is female. I can agonize about their respective salaries. I can agonize about race, too—on why, for the three years I’ve been going to this office, I have only seen one black woman working there, just this last time. I can agonize over how much energy is used to keep that place at frigid temperatures during the warmest summer months.
I can agonize about a hell of a lot of things in a very short period of time, realize I am a ignorant of the answers to basically all of my questions, and then go ahead anyway and buy the glasses I DO NOT NEED.
I am incredibly fortunate to have the luxury to worry about these things instead of the many other perils plaguing people around the world, often at the hand of our gross government (see Inga for more details).
My glasses saleslady could sense my agonizings, I suspect, and told me that I was merely spending 43 cents a day on them for the next year. But you don’t understand… I moaned internally, there’s so much more to it than that. The earth, you know. The waste. The labor. The money. Plus, if I’m gonna make an investment in something for 43 cents a day for the next year, it might as well be something that has a better chance of improving life for me and everyone else than a pair of glasses I DO NOT NEED. Like some fund for pandas. Or zooplankton. Or a fund that would make sewing machine repair free to this badass self-employed cool-things-making woman.
Instead, I was handed my receipt, told the dilation drops had only worked for around twenty minutes, rather than the four to eight hours they should have, and had this extremely pointless conversation about those “disposable,” “one-use” sunglasses things you’re supposed to slip in behind your eyeglass lenses after you get your dilation drops. See, I DID NOT NEED to waste the resources involved in taking this little sheet of tinted plastic shaped charmingly like some fifties style glasses, because I had a pair of prescription sunglasses in my purse, and, as you might remember, the damned dilation drops had stopped working anyway. (My eyes, just like my heart, shall be paralyzed by ignorance no longer!)
We were almost at the end of our pointless negotiation, the glasses saleslady and me (I didn’t want to take the one-use sunglasses because it’s a waste of resources, and she had already taken them out of their little plastic sleeve and wanted to hand them off to me and be done with it), when she finally said, “You can just take them and if you don’t need them, you can throw them in the trash.”
I took them.
I did not need them.
I threw them in the trash.
And, clearly, I am still agonizing over it.