From Teens Today, Nov. 1960. Click on the thumbnails for the full page image.
Though tanned and five pounds heavier, Bud Rutledge was not a happy man when he appeared in TT’s offices shortly before returning to his studies at Columbia University. He was frowning as he entered our outer office, then as he stopped to talk to Louie Caruso (who replaced him as Male Box editor, remember?) the frown turned to a glare. • By the time he made his way into Mrs. Silber’s office (without knocking, as always), Bud looked weary and depressed. “I’m giving you a story,” he announced grimly. “Free of charge, understand? This one’s on me; I wouldn’t take a dollar even if you forced it on me.”
• (Always glad to oblige, we made no attempt to force dollar or dime upon him.) “This story has to do with my goofy sister,” Bud began, “but it applies to plenty of other girls too—all goofy. They used to write me when I handled Male Box, and I just found out from Louie, they’re still writing. All that’s different are their names.” • Bud shifted in his chair, arranged his feet on Mrs. Silber’s desk, then continued, “So, like I guess you already know, I’ve got this sixteen-year-old sister by the name of Debbie. Who, as sisters go, is a pretty good kid. She’s bright, she’s got a sense of humor, she bakes excellent brownies—which upon request, she sends me at school. Like I said, she’s a good kid.” • Bud paused just long enough to shake his head disgustedly. “So Debbie wears glasses—which she only needs like you need your eyes—but all this last summer, she made a real federal case out of it. By July, I was so fed up hearing her whine, I decided to go visit a school chum in Virginia. Which I did, till the middle of August, and then Jerry—the chum—returned to the family plantation with me for a weekend.” Bud shook his head again. “See, by then I’d forgotten about Deb and her stupid neurosis. I mean, otherwise, I’d have told Jerry the folks were down with bubonic plague, and sorry-pal-see-you-in-school.” • (At this point, Mr. Moll sauntered in—without knocking either—and Bud stopped to indulge hi that back-slapping, whumping all males greet each other with. Five minutes passed, then Mr. Moll, having borrowed a stick of gum and a four cent stamp, left for his own office. And Bud’s tale proceeded.) • “Now, I’m a well brought up little fellow,” he continued, “so naturally, I wrote my mother that I was bringing Jerry back. Which was correct procedure with Mom, but a bad mistake with Deb— or so I was to find out the first night home. There we were in the living room— jerry and I had just gotten there—and in waltzes Deb, looking real nice, but •and of strange. I remember I kept staring at her till finally it hit me: she wasn’t wearing her glasses. That’s why she looked so strange. She— • “Don’t you mean she looked different”!” Mrs. Silber interrupted. “Not ‘strange,’ just -different?” • “I said strange, and I meant strange,” Bud answered. -Look, I told you before; Debbie just about needs a white cane without her glasses. She looked strange because she couldn’t see anything! Kind of vague, understand? Heal wide-eyed and vague.” • “Did your friend from college think she looked strange?” Mrs. Silber asked. • “No,” Bud admitted. But then, laughing, he added, “He just thought she acted strange! I mean, what would you think if somebody couldn’t walk two feet without bumping into a lamp? Or if somebody asked you to please pass the pepper, and there was a two-foot-high pepper mill right under your nose? Sure, Jerry thought Debbie was real cute—and real peculiar. Later that night, he asked me if maybe my sister was worrying about something. ‘She seems . . . well, kind of pre-occupied,’ was the way he put it.” • “So Debbie didn’t get very far with Jerry, is that the moral of your story'” Mrs. Silber queried. • Bud shook his head. “That’s just the beginning of my story,” he sighed. “And it gets worse as I go along. See, Jerry’s kind of a kook himself— and besides, Deb is basically okay, with or without glasses—so we fixed up a double date for the next night. I took out Jan, my ex-steady, and the four of us dancing at a place in Montvale. • “It was a great night—just swell. Deb left off her glasses and within half an hour she, 1) spilled a drink—on me. who else? 2) tripped getting up to go to the Ladies’ Room, and, 3) would have marched into the Men’s Room, except Jan grabbed her in time.” Bud closed his eyes and shuddered perceptively. Then, in a half-bewildered voice, he went as. ‘You know how you’re always reading that blind people develop an acute of hearing? Well … it sure wasn’t true where Deb was concerned. So help me, not only was she blind without her glasses, but it was like she’d gone deaf too. Poor Jerry; he’d have to say something to her three, four times before she responded. And then when she smiled at him, it wasn’t quite at him, but a little to one side of him.”
“Your sister’s far-sighted, I gather,” Mrs. Silber commented.
“My sister,” Bud said impatiently, “is no-Sighted without glasses.” Bud waited, then observing that Mrs. Silber had no further comment, he continued, “Well, to put it mildly, it was a pretty weird night. We bumped into—and I mean bumped into—kids Deb had known for years and she didn’t recognize them; we stopped off for junk to eat and she couldn’t read the menu; we went—Well, I don’t have to go on, you get the picture, don’t you?”
Mrs. Silber nodded, then asked, “But what about old-friend and pal Jerry? Did he get the picture?”
Bud began to giggle—and, really, that’s what he did; it wasn’t a laugh, but an out-and-out giggle. “Not exactly,” he chortled. “Oh, Jerry knew something was wrong, all right, but he couldn’t figure out what. At one point —no kidding!—he actually said to me, ‘You know, Bud, I’m not sure your sister’s having a good time. I mean, sometimes she seems so far away—like she doesn’t really see me!'”
Mrs. Silber broke up herself then, and a full minute passed before she asked, “Why didn’t you tell Jerry the truth? What I mean is, were you protecting Debbie—or having a good laugh at your buddy’s expense?”
“Both,” Bud grinned matter-of-factly. But then, more soberly, he added, “Mostly the first though. See, I kept telling Deb she was acting like a little jerk, but she wouldn’t listen, and— well, she is my sister. I mean, if she was willing to risk walking into a car to impress Jerry, I figured the least I could do was keep her secret.
“Well, anyhow, we finally got through the night, and then all the next day Jerry and I went fishing so we didn’t see Deb till dinner. And darned if she wasn’t wearing another strange expression that night—a new one, I mean. She still didn’t have her glasses on, only instead of vague, she looked kind of bulgy-eyed and dazed. And, when Jerry wasn’t looking, she’d blink like crazy. One good thing though—” Bud smiled slightly, “she could see! At first I figured maybe she’d memorized where things were on the table, but as the feast progressed, I knew that wasn’t so. When she wasn’t blinking, Deb could actually see.
“Which bewildered me, I admit, however, with Jerry at my left, I knew better than to ask questions. Especially as The Romance was doing fine. Jerry kept smiling at Deb; Deb kept smiling back—right at him now—and except that she occasionally looked somewhat weepy, Love was indeed in bloom.'”
Bud paused to light a cigarette. which he then stared at while continuing, “The gimmick was—as I found oat later—Deb was wearing contact lenses. Which would have been okay. I guess, only the idiot just got them that day and she wasn’t supposed to keep them in more than ten minutes at a time! See, that’s why she kept blinking and why her eyes were tearing; she wasn’t used to the things.
“But, would you believe it, that lunatic actually wore those contacts to the movies that night? Jerry suggested going—at the time, I couldn’t figure why Mom looked upset—and there we ended up, eating popcorn and watching some real tear-jerker.”
Bud sighed heavily, flicked his cigarette ashes, then went on, Tin not sure when I noticed that Deb was wider her seat, instead of in it, but I didn’t pay much attention; I just assumed she’d lost a shoe and continued watching a fascinating short on snakes in Africa. Jerry, however, was concerned and a couple of times he whispered, ‘Deb, let me help. You’re missing the show.’
“Both times, my sister answered with an unpleasant hiss, and finally Jerry just left her alone. Which so did I, until it was time to go. And that’s when the poor child had to admit the truth. In a voice that must have carried to the balcony, she wailed, 1 can’t go! One of my lenses washed out—and it costs seventy-five dollars:’
“Well . . . Jerry and an usher and I weren’t very popular during the next ten minutes. I mean, do you know how little a contact lens is? And how dark, even with a flashlight, the floor of a movie is? We finally found the thing, but, oh boy, what a mess. People going, ‘ssshhh,’ Deb crying, the usher swearing under his breath. Like I said, it was a real mess.”
“Did your sister say anything about the lenses after you left the movie?” Mrs. Silber asked. “What I mean is, did she try to explain about needing glasses to Jerry?”
“Please, don’t be naive,” Bud snorted. “She didn’t say a word to either of us. Instead, seeing out of only one eye— she was too shook to ask me for the lens—she ran to the car and sat frozen-faced in the back seat. We didn’t even stop for fodder on the way home.”
“But how did Jerry react,” Mrs. Silber persisted. “He must have said something to you later.”
“Sure, he did,” Bud nodded. “He said plenty, but what it added up to was he thought Deb Was crazy. And he tried to tell her so himself the next day, but she wouldn’t budge out of her room. I guess it was lucky Jerry just came for that weekend. Otherwise, my feeble-minded sister would probably still be hiding!”
“So the moral of your story is that girls who need glasses should wear them, yes?”
“That’s part of the moral, sure,” Bud agreed. “I mean, what guy wants to date a girl who can’t see three feet away? But the biggest moral is that dopes like my sister lose out because they make such an issue about glasses. They get complexes, you know? You should read the letters they write to Male Box! To hear them, you’d think wearing glasses was the same as having an extra head!”
“So you don’t think Dorothy Parker was right?” Mrs. Silber smiled.
Bud looked blank, so Mrs. S. quoted the line that’s caused bespectacled females to cringe for years: “Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.”
“Oh, for Pete’s sake!” Bud groaned. But then, his face brightening, he commented, “Hey, wait a second; a woman wrote that. Not a man; a woman!”
“True,” Mrs. Silber nodded.
“Which proves my point exactly!” Bud beamed. “See—this notion that guys have a thing about glasses is a woman’s brainstorm! Women made up the idea—but they carry on like it’s something they’ve heard from men! No kidding, I mean this seriously. Most guys I know—I’d say all guys, but I don’t want to be accused of sweeping generalities—most guys I know, don’t give a hoot about a girl’s wearing glasses. As a matter of fact, on this entire glasses bit, I’ve only heard one complaint from males. And that’s about girls who need their glasses, but don’t wear them—and then get that weird kookie look my sister had! That’s what guys don’t like!”
It was lunchtime at TT, and Mrs. S. had an appointment so the discussion came to a halt. But not to an end. The end came two days later in the mail— in the form of another poem, accompanied by this note from Bud: “It’s just like I said. A woman wrote ‘Men seldom make passes,’ etc., but look at what a man—Ogden Nash—wrote on the same subject!
A girl who is bespectacled,
She may not get her necktacled;
But safety pins and bassinets
Await the girl who fassinets.”