The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Behind the glasses, Rick Perry’s Superman problem

It has long been among the Internet’s articles of faith that Glasses Improve Almost Everybody.

At least, glasses make you look like someone else. Or make you think you do. They are like hats, that way. (I always have difficulty hearing in hats, for some reason. Everyone tells me this is ridiculous. I don’t know that it is. They say that dulling one sense makes your other senses sharper — maybe the reverse is also true and sharpening my sense of style comes at a cost.)

It is always these little wardrobe changes — glasses here, eye-liner there — that have the most impact.

On days when I am wearing a well-considered belt or have actually remembered to put on mascara, the world seems to be my oyster. I get on the bus, pleased to actually be wearing a coherent Outfit for once. I can feel the eyes of strangers on me. I bask. They have a glint in them that suggests approval. Generally I convince myself that these people are totally indifferent to my appearance, because generally what I am wearing looks like something that an angry wardrobe threw at me on its way out of my life forever. But today is not like that. Today, I am well-dressed. I notice an old lady smiling at me in a significant way. She approaches. I brace for the impending compliment.

“Miss,” she whispers, “your dress is unzipped on one side.”

It is experiences like these that have soured me on fashion. It is altogether too capricious.

But I still have hope for glasses. Glasses make you look smarter and more sophisticated and/or less threatening.

So states the Internet, and the Internet has not steered me wrong before, except for every piece of medical advice the Internet has ever given me.

I tried on some glasses one time and was so enthralled with my appearance in them that I started cold-calling people asking to be made into a cable news personality. “I JUST SEE THIS WOMAN,” I shouted, “AND I FEEL LIKE SHE KNOWS THINGS ABOUT THINGS.” (This ended pretty quickly because I had no idea whom to call.)

I like the look of them because I do not need them. I know on “Veep” they get called “a wheelchair for the eye” but I think of them more as one of those swank canes for the eye, one of the ones you can twirl on your arm and pretend that you’re an anthropomorphic peanut.

Of course, glasses might loom on the horizon for me. Both my parents’ vision went downhill when they went to law school. But I am cleverly getting around this by not going to law school at all.

So I understand where Texas Gov. Rick Perry is coming from. We share the idea that you can put on a pair of glasses and suddenly become somebody different. Without glasses, Rick Perry is just Rick Perry. With glasses, he is a New Smart Better Governor Man Who Loves Nothing Better Than To Recall All The Items That Are In A Sequence And Is More Than Prepared To Do So On National TV. If he is anything like me, Rick Perry has been secretly hoping that the response of people when he put on his now-trademark glasses would go something like this.

People: Man, Rick Perry — what a disaster that was in 2012.

(Rick Perry puts on glasses)

Same People: (blown away) WHOA! Who’s this new guy? Haven’t seen him around the convention! He looks smart! I hope he runs!

After all, we have seen Superman. We know what a difference glasses make. Without the glasses, Rick and I thought to ourselves, what do we have? Kal, a lonely alien in loud Spandex who really likes the letter S. Put the glasses on, and what do you have? Clark Kent, a great, normal guy with a steady job at a newspaper. Give me the glasses, every time, Rick and I said to ourselves.

Except, unfortunately, it does not really seem to work like this in real life.

Put glasses on Rick Perry, and he’s still Rick Perry.

Sen. Rand Paul noticed this, unfortunately, and made a cutting remark about it Monday in Politico. “There are many things I like about Texas Gov. Rick Perry, including his stance on the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution.  But apparently his new glasses haven’t altered his perception of the world, or allowed him to see it any more clearly,” he wrote.

But wait until Paul hears him in a hat.

(Regardless, I’m just excited to be commenting in a shallow and frivolous way about the physical appearance of a male politician, for once!)