Looking to upgrade my optical style, I recently went shopping in a swank downtown optical store. With the end of the year approaching, I had to burn the remaining money in my medical savings account.

“Well,” the optician began, “your eyes didn’t change, but your insurance pays most of the cost of a new pair each year. Debbie can help you find just the right pair.”

Debbie was pretty in her expensive frames, but I think her main job was to tell middle-aged men how handsome they were in a pair of her most expensive frames. Reaching for a pair of titanium frames that looked like they were constructed from stretched-out paper clips, she asked, “How do you like these?”

“Wow!” I exclaimed as she wrapped the feather-light frames around my ever-expanding head. “They feel like they aren’t there.”

I wasn’t sure they were there. Demo glasses have no magnifying power, so I was unable to see how I looked. I was leaning close enough to the mirror to count nose hairs when Debbie began praising my newly upgraded style. Still unable to see them on my face, this was beginning to feel like the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes, only these were “The Chaplain’s New Glasses.”

“They’re really great, aren’t they?” she asked.

“Yeah, I think so. How much are they?” I muttered.

“Insurance makes them very affordable!” she proclaimed.

There, I had my answer. “Affordable.”

Fortunately, I know I have a wife who’d want that word defined, so I strained to read the tiny price tag.

“$500! That includes the lenses, right?” I asked with ever-widening eyes.

Well, no. With the lenses, special coatings, cleaning and built-in virtual reality screen, they’re well-priced at $2,000.

I knew I was losing touch with reality to even be in the shop, so I told her I’d do without the screen and promised to clean them myself.

“OK, let’s just see,” she said as she started banging her calculator like she was the finance manager working out monthly payments. “Looks like your share is only $395.”

Geez, were these glasses or night-vision goggles?

“Can I talk this over with my wife?” I asked in my best impression of a whipped Homer Simpson.

“Sure,” she said with a smile half upturned.

That night over dinner, I mumbled, “Honey, I found a great pair of glasses.”

“Good, sweetheart, tell me about them.”

“The saleslady said I look really good in them and . . . ”

“How much are they?”

“Uh, what makes you ask?”

“How much?” she pressed.


“I trust you get a free VCR with that?” she inquired through a pressed-lip smile.

“No, but I can get clip-on sunglasses for another $80.”

“Tell me, dear, what kind of frame did this saleslady have?”

“You mean the glasses?”

“No. I don’t mean the glasses.”

My wife is such a detective. The last time I was persuaded how fashionable I appeared, I was trapped in a downtown shop full of beautiful Turkish salesladies. The damage then was pretty near $500.

“Why don’t you go back and tell Ms. Suzie-stretch-pants to find you another pair of glasses,” she suggested. “You’ve got a family to feed!”

Occasionally, life presents the opportunity to upgrade. Maybe it’s your optical image; maybe it’s a hotel, flight or rental car; or maybe just a Biggie fries at Wendy’s. Some people even find the opportunity to “upgrade” relationships or faiths. They may suddenly find themselves smarter or wiser or more cultured than the person they married, so they “move up.”

Or in the case of faith, they may find the religion they grew up with seems outdated and unsophisticated. So they move up to something that fits their “new and improved” status.

There is a way to grow and still maintain a connection with roots that fits your basis of being. It’s as much who you’ve been as it is who you’re becoming. Here I was trying to fit an expensive pair of glasses that wasn’t harmonizing with where I’d come from, who I was and — most importantly — who I’d like to become.

However, weeks later I found the same pair for the same amount I had remaining in my medical savings account and, enamored with the lightweight design more than the style, I bought them.

Returning home, I modeled my new glasses for my wife. Framing her incredulous look with shrugged shoulders, she replied, “They look just like your old ones.

So much for “upgrading my image.”