Kath Kolumna: Looking through rose-red glasses

When we are in love, we look through “rose-colored glasses.” The view of the chosen one is benevolent, not to say far from reality. 

The darker our view turns when we think about ourselves and judge our own lives, bodies, achievements. Not everyone knows this gray veil in the same density; some have more, some less self-doubt. How hard someone is in judgment with himself certainly depends on each person’s character, and it is known that it is different. 

A good friend recently said to me, “I think I’m getting to know myself better as I get older, and although I’m often dissatisfied, my self-confidence is growing with every year.” With our alert, still youthful gaze only slowly giving way to the wisdom of experienced life, we look at our parents’ past with admiration. At least that’s how I feel when I hold old photos of my father and mother. They were so carefree cool. I use this word deliberately because what does “cool” mean if not this nonchalant attitude of young adults, whose love of life and their will to change could only be captured to some extent by these photographs?

Here, too, is my personal view, which makes them and their existence something special. My perspective of a loving and critical daughter possibly resembles that of a person in love. 

So is it so far-fetched to state that we – just as we wear sunglasses when the sun is shining and reading glasses due to visual impairment – look through different glasses depending on where and on whom we are looking?

The rose-colored glasses of lovers are only one of many examples, based on which literally or symbolically, the wearing of such glasses signifies that we humans can change our perspective and color our perception. If we feel tired and depressed, we cover our eyes with oversized, jet-black lenses of sunglasses. If we want to emphasize our extravagance, we reach for glamorous, unusual frames. Peggy Guggenheim or Lagerfeld are just two of the prominent representatives who, by wearing sunglasses, not only factually but also symbolically sealed off their personal gaze from that of their fellow human beings. Behind the glass that protectively covers the eyes, one remains a silent observer of one’s surroundings. One’s own thoughts and feelings remain hidden from the gaze of others. 

So what do my friend’s statement and wearing glasses have in common? I think that the process of maturing enables everyone to see themselves with different eyes, from a perspective that opens up more and more. Just as we have outgrown our children’s clothes, we also grow out of our narrowness of vision. As adolescents, we may still perceive ourselves as too “uncool,” too shy, too naïve, too weak; as time passes, our view becomes more evident that these categories are in the eye of the beholder. The more aware we become of ourselves, the more we sharpen our childlike vision by correcting our sense of sight. 

But I do not mean to say that aging alone and without our intervention grants us the “rose-colored glasses.” How often do we stand there, lose ourselves in doubts, thoughts and ask ourselves “for what?”. Why did I choose this study of all things, why did I move to this city, why did I stay, and why don’t I live healthier, more conscious, more relaxed…?

All these recurring, essential questions cloud our view again and again. And I think that’s a good thing; it’s a corrective of the human consciousness to question itself. To put on the sunglasses with eyesight, because through them you look forward and see what you want to work on, where there are parts that need to be mended or healed. 

But shouldn’t we reach for the other kind of glasses more often? To the model that envelops everything in soft, gentle light, blurring reality with our fantasies. When we look at ourselves, we should sometimes be just as enamored as we are when we look at our friends, our partners, or perhaps even strangers. Sharpening or clouding, looking down from above or up from below, changing perspective is essential. Maybe then it’s not just our children who will eventually hold old photos in their hands and think “cool,” but ourselves.

Kath Kolumna shares her thoughts and insights about dating in the big city of Berlin, the confusions of a late 20’s woman’s sex life, and never-ending discussions with friends and strangers about relationships.

Header artwork by Cara Brock