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12/4/1999 Being known for something

It's strange what a person gets known for. There are people out there who are famous for one reason or another. Most famous people have several things going for them: a certain look, acting talent, singing talent, political aspirations, an interesting social life. The truly famous have several of the above, and it trickles down until you encounter the people who only have a semi-remarkable characteristic, and little else. You end up with the people that own the Biggest Ball of Twine in the world, the lady with the most lawn ornaments in town, the guy who shot the deer that had 2 pairs of antlers on it's head, and you encounter me.

My identifying feature is a pair of glasses. As far as I know, I'm the only person in the world who has worn pince-nez glasses in the last several decades. I've always had an affinity for antiques and thrift shopping, and about 5 years ago I picked up 2 pair of pince nez frames at an antique shop. One pair seemed to be over 100 years old (and was exceedingly uncomfortable), and the other was more modern, "standard" pair. Being handy, I took the lenses from an old pair of glasses, cut them down on a bandsaw, sanded the edges, and fit them to the frames. That pair was lost or stolen, so I picked up a new pair and had them professionally done. That frame broke, so I bought my third frame (a Shur-On, plated in 10K gold) and installed the lenses from the last pair myself. I now have a 4th frame as a spare, just in case. I've never been able to find a definitive answer on where the chain on the right side goes, but my solution was to attach it to a cuff and clip it to my ear. All together, it's a pretty slick pair of glasses, I find them exceedingly comfortable, and people seem to like them on me.

From the time I first started wearing pince nez glasses, I've answered questions about them several times a week. Usually, the question consists of "Where did you get those?" or are worded as a statement "wow--now those are neat glasses!", which implies they want a background on them. That's fine by me; I don't mind talking about them. My only problem is on how to pronounce "pince nez." No dictionary has been helpful; it always sounds dumb when I say it. But, people listen, appreciate the info, and commit it to the area of the brain reserved for strangeness and oddities.

That place in the brain seems to have a quick recollection turnaround time. I've been working in my current position for a year and a half, and this summer we had an agent recognition dinner. I ended up at the table with the vice president of the company, and his wife told me a short story. She said that, a couple weeks before I started at Lincoln Mutual, her & Jim noticed me & my glasses while at the grocery store. Jim, the vice president, had nudged his wife and pointed my glasses out to her. A few weeks later, Jim came home from work and said to her, "you remember that guy with the glasses? He works for me now!" 'That Guy With the Glasses' has become a treasured title to me. The really cute girl at the Burger King drive-through remembers me because of them, little kids remember them, and some of the people who comment on them tell me they saw me at... on .... and wanted to ask about them, but didn't get the chance.

When you get down to the nitty gritty, though, it doesn't mean anything. Whether I wore these glasses, or some other glasses, or whatever, I'm still the same guy. I did pick them out of fashion sense, so it does reflect on who I am, but I don't have to do anything to get recognition. Actors act, doctors heal, paramedics rescue people, and the best of them get recognition for the things they do. I get recognition because I liked this pair of glasses, chose to wear them, and nobody else is.

If these become a fad, will I get any recognition for starting it? It may be in my interest to track down the designs and patents for these frames, and commission a manufacturer to make some for me. For all the people that comment positively, I'm sure plenty would be willing to wear them. Also, quite a few of the people who talk to me about my glasses are wearing very strange eyewear themselves. My recognition only lasts as long as I'm an oddity. I'm not a bad oddity, like having a dead conjoined twin attached to me or anything, but it is something different about me, something non-mainstream, something out of the ordinary. Is it good? Is it bad? It's not that important of a thing. Let's say you had a really neat t-shirt, and people asked you all the time about it. It's a similar case, but I have to wear my glasses during all of my waking hours, so it gets noticed more. Unlike a t-shirt, my oddity is a constant part of me, which brings the recognition closer to home.

The larger question is: Does this make me famous? In all of Fargo, I'm sure a large part of the population has seen me, taken note of my glasses, and gone on with their lives. They might even think that pince nez glasses are a common sight these days, if they've run into me more than once. In this world we live in, it doesn't take much to get yourself noticed and recognized. It takes something to set yourself apart from the world around you, something to make you different, something that nobody else is doing. If you're really smart, you find a way to exploit your uniqueness and put it into common culture, using it to gain yourself icon status, money, or both. I don't have that much ambition; if everyone starts wearing pince nez glasses again, I'll immediately be resentful of it, because I was first, just out of the standard human emotions that all of us are obliged to have. It's not that important, though. I'm still me within, regardless of my glasses, and that's the root of it all.

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