Changing the Frame
Dealing with difficult life changes, I needed to adapt and heal. Then an Oprah-inspired purchase helped me create a new vision of wholeness, beauty and possibilities.
“Your glasses are giving me life!”
I had just finished taking a qigong class at HealHaus, a new black-owned wellness center in Brooklyn, when a young woman complimented my eyeglasses. I’d been rocking different specs, depending on my mood. Today’s rims were octagon-shaped, marbled eyeglasses with geometric patterns of turquoise, gray and black. They always drew attention, sparked conversation and gave me a boost. The first time I wore them was at the HealHaus launch party. A sister gushed over them and then asked, “Can I give you a hug?”
Two years ago, I could have used several hugs. I lost my job. I lost a friend to cancer, then that same week learned I had triple-negative breast cancer. At the time, I had knee-length, coppery-bronze dreadlocks, a look that sparked positive comments that helped me, an introvert, make connections with people. The locks had been a part of me for 14 years, growing with me, at times breaking off, at times getting entangled, having good hair days and bad days, much like my life.
My locks held on for 16 months. Then during one guided meditation, my peaceful visualizations were cut short by an image of me with a bald head. I was in my last month of chemo. A drug nicknamed the Red Devil was now flowing through my veins. My locks detached from my scalp like Velcro strips. But I was calm. Meditation and yoga kept me emotionally and physically fit. I had positive people in my life: my super-support-system sister Lillian, her friend Betty (who sent inspirational texts after each treatment) and blues-relieving, get-your-ass-out-of-bed lunches with Tracy, to help me maintain my surprisingly positive attitude. Connie, who took the very last photo of me sporting locks, reminded me that I lost my hair, but I didn’t lose my life. My hair would grow back and it would be new growth, symbolizing my life starting anew.
Pre-cancer Gerrie was still focused on how others saw her. My confidence could be shattered when I didn’t meet expectations for success, looks, social-media followers, whatever — all framed for me from the other side of the lens. Now I was happy with the new me that was emerging. I’m fierce the way I am, thank you. I wanted this change reflected out into the world.
At first I dabbled with the idea of wearing various fun wigs, changing my hairstyle like Porsha Williams on the Real Housewives of Atlanta. A bob, a pixie cut and three Afro/kinky/curly wigs later, I wasn’t feeling it.
Then I had a conversation with my older brother James and told him about my plans for a new look to compliment a now-bald head — chic-as-hell bold frames, changeable like mood rings. He was encouraging. “Get your Oprah on,” he said.
I hadn’t thought about it, but I had been coveting Oprah’s ever-changing eyeglasses. So I head-ed to Warby Parker and brought my friend Tracy as an extra set of eyes. I bought styles named Margot, tortoise shell cat’s-eye glasses, and Tilley, thick navy octagon-shaped frames. Tracy nodded her approval. Later, walking past the window of SEE eyewear, those gorgeous turquoise octagon frames said, ‘I see you.’ Once inside, my eyes also gravitated toward a pair of glittery, gradient-green cat’s-eye specs. I sat down with the sales associate to tally up the damage.
“So, you’re going to cancel the order at Warby Parker?” Tracy asked.
“You’re going to get both frames at Warby and these?”
To save me from myself, Tracy asked the saleswoman to adjust the design options on the two pairs of glasses. I conceded by trimming the frivolous add-ons and purchased both frames.
Back at Warby Parker to make an exchange, I bought transparent rose-gold cat’s-eyes. It seemed I had found the key to my transformation. (Or so I keep telling my broke self.)
The specs bring me joy. I love the compliments. I love that people see me. I’ve learned that the color of eyeglass frames can affect your mood, give off certain vibes and show your personality (or give you one). The glasses aren’t what has changed me, but they reflect how I feel.
When I look in the mirror, they magnify the person I am now and continue to become as I grow. I feel self-confident. Inspired. Happy. Alive. While my credit card is on lockdown because of this, I don’t regret it. I got my Oprah on and it’s given me life.