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Peterson: Wearing sunglasses obscures mirror of the soul

Published: Friday, June 21, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

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I’m an eyes person. I need to see them to determine whether I’m being looked at straight on, or cross-eyed, or rolled eye, or closed eye or glazed eye.

Call me insecure, but I need to look people in the eye to know what they’re really saying. If you put a pair of sunglasses on, I’m the one who is left in the dark.

It’s summertime, and lots of people are wearing sunglasses. And some of them probably have good reason to. The intensity of the sunlight is just too much for their eyes, and they need sunglasses to see without their eyes watering up, or the brightness causing headaches, or the sun’s glare blinding them. They get a pass for therapeutic reasons.

Baseball players provide a good example for proper sunglass use. I don’t watch baseball games on TV like I should, but baseball players wear flip-up sunglasses. When the ball is in regular play, the sunglasses are flipped up. But if a pop fly is hit, the sunglasses are flipped down so they can see the ball against the sun. It’s for professional reasons.

Otherwise, they might lose ball, not be anywhere near it, or worse, get hit in the face.

And that might have been my problem when I was playing baseball. I was a terrible fielder– and right field is where the terrible ones are farmed out to because few balls are hit there by youngsters. And I was fine with that.

Nothing quite stirred terror in my heart like a pop fly to right field where I was playing. I would look up for the ball, try to judge where it was going and put the glove in front of my face to prevent it from giving me a black eye, or on the off chance, catching it.

I didn’t have flip-up sunglasses to flip down to cut down the glare. Not that it would have eliminated the terrors, but I would have had a better idea of the ball’s trajectory to be near enough to miss the catch – and my face – and near enough to retrieve the ball to throw it back to the infield.

To this day, I do not play softball or baseball because I can’t judge fly balls, and I still am terrified by them. It’s a matter of self-preservation.

And I do own a pair of sunglasses that clip on to my regular glasses with magnets. They are in the car, and the only time I use them is in the early morning or late afternoon if I am driving directly into the sun and the glare causes my eyes to water and I have to squint to see traces of the road. And the sun isn’t at that angle for long.

I watch people as a pastime, and I’m always surprised by the number of people – men and women, young and old – who wear sunglasses, far more than the number who might wear them for therapeutic reasons.

But even people who wear sunglasses have their limits. And I am even more surprised by the number of people who prop their sunglasses up on the tops of their heads, which is the non-baseball player’s version of flip-up sunglasses, and drop them down when in full sunlight.

And a lot of people, usually younger, wear their sunglasses on the backs of their heads, like they have two sets of eyes. You never know these days with the marvels of modern medicine. Mothers have been talking about eyes in the back of their heads for millennia. I’m guessing that’s a fashion statement, more than a literal four-eyes statement, and I don’t quite get it. It looks silly.

When I was in my teens – before I had to wear glasses – I would occasionally buy sunglasses to wear. My favorite pair had the mirror lenses, which are disconcerting to the other person talking to you because instead of seeing your eyes, they see themselves, and that makes one a little self-conscious. Kind of like talking to yourself.

But they reminded me of the correctional officer in charge of the chain gang in “Cool Hand Luke,” and even though he couldn’t take credit for the memorable line, “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate,” I couldn’t help but think of that confluence of scenes in the movie when I wore those sunglasses.

But now, unless the sun is at that certain in-my-eyes angle, I don’t wear sunglasses. I like untinted color. And people who wear sunglasses, despite their possible need to wear them, make me uncomfortable. I’m an eyes guy, and I need to make eye contact. Just to know they aren’t crossing their eyes at me, the unknowing fool.

• Dick Peterson, who lives in Woodstock, is a mental-health advocate, freelance writer and a former Northwest Herald Opinion Page editor. He can be contacted at dickpeterson76@gmail.com.

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