Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Story of My Eyes

When I first went to the optometrist, I was slightly in denial and tried to defend my vanity. “Maybe it’s because I spend a lot of time on the computer and reading big important reports,” I pleaded.
He was blunt and merciless. “It’s because of your age,”
Maybe it’s because I read books in bed in poor light,” I tried again, full of hope.
“It’s your age, he stated flatly.
“Well, maybe it’s because….” I continued in a whiny, cutesy-pie voice, like a child trying to prise a chocolate from a strict parent, thinking ‘Can’t he see how young I am?’ But his explanation for my failing eyesight came back to one harsh statement.
At 39 I had reached the age, right on cue, when your eyesight weakens, when you need your first pair of reading glasses.
So I got my first pair of glasses, big gold-rimmed specs in a shiny new case and I turned the blow to my pride to an advantage, realising just how intellectual they made me look! They could actually enhance my image, be a whole new fashion accessory to team with my big gold eye rings, big gold chunky bangle and my big gold belt buckle.
Sitting in council meetings I would seriously place the glasses on my nose to read reports, then strategically remove them to eyeball the Mayor and then carefully place them on the desk with the arms facing outward in a studious flourish. I had practised this impressive movement like Clark Kent changing from street clothes to tights and cape.
The CEO watched me with amusement. “You’ve got new glasses, haven’t you? Are they your first pair?”
“Yes, I demurred, like a blushing virgin. My first time.”
My glasses and me went from strength to strength, literally, you know how it goes. Once you’ve succumbed, each year the prescription gets stronger. I worked my way through a succession of funky frames in red, blue, green (that was when I joined the Greens Party) more red, purple, back to red.
I used my intellectual glasses for close-up reading, sitting at the computer for hours each day and reading magazines and books. My middle and long distance vision was just fine. I could chat to friends, decipher traffic signs, watch a movie and gaze at the horizon across the ocean spec-less.
But I got really tired of the glasses sliding off my sweaty nose in the humid climate of the Sunshine Coast in Australia where we lived. About this time I started noticing ads for laser eye surgery and enquired with my GP.
Now the Doc was a down-to-earth, sensible little Scot, not fooled by clever marketing. He pointed out that messing with your delicate eyes is quite drastic, that the correction isn’t permanent because your eyes continue to deteriorate with age (there’s that word again!) and how would I cope with ‘mono vision’? Excuse me? Mono vision?
Doc explained, in his heavy brogue, that it meant having one eye corrected for reading while leaving the other eye to handle distance! Yikes, now that put the moggy amongst the pigeons, scattering my thoughts in all directions, because I am easily disorientated and would go quite mad with mono vision. So I dismissed the whole idea of laser surgery and went back to my cosy relationship with my good ol’ reliable specs, even with their annoying habits of sliding off my nose and fogging up.
But when I got to the ripe old age of 51, my eyesight took a sudden plunge. We were living in London for five months, trying out city life and taking trips in the countryside and then we jumped on a plane and travelled across the States.
Somewhere in Montana my favourite little red glasses snapped and I was forced to wear cheapies that magnified my eyes to spooky proportions. At the same time I suffered a bad hair dye experience and went ginger instead of honey blonde and gained a stone on Denny’s breakfasts. So I wasn’t looking my best but out west no one cared except the poor horse I attempted to ride.
But I digress. When we returned to Australia the test showed my eyes had deteriorated rapidly. I now needed help with three ‘zones’; close-up reading, medium and long distance. It was getting quite complicated and I invested in powerful, new glasses.
I didn’t like this new dependence. I hated the fact I now had to wear glasses all the time. I had to wear them out to lunch with a girlfriend, to focus on her face in an animated conversation. I couldn’t make unencumbered eye contact. I couldn’t talk to my husband with a naked face. I couldn’t interview people unadorned. Faces became a blur without specs. This was tough for me as I am a real bonder and need direct eye contact.
I felt self-conscious and embarrassed about my permanent ‘face furniture’.
My glasses started to really weigh me down. No longer a fashion statement enhancing my intellectual image, they simply said OLD in the cruel tone of that optometrist 12 years ago. Just like grey hair can never say ‘stylish’ but only scream the blunt three-letter word.
I suffered my specs for two more years, a permanent fixture, like a clingy barnacle, through foggy conversations, headaches and constant irritation. I had fallen out of love.
Now living in London, I visited the Laser Eye Surgery Clinic and explored that drastic option again. Yet again the prospect of mono vision sent me into a spin. And it turned out my eyesight, with its three zones, was not suitable for the simple Lasik procedure. I would need the more complex Refractive Lens Exchange, implants of artificial multi-focal lenses. However I considered the cost prohibitive (I could do a world trip or install a new kitchen with that money). And, I’ll be honest, the idea of eye surgery still scared me.
So I now have my funky red frames with close and medium range for computer work and reading, my fancy purple frames with close, medium and long distance for reading a menu then going to a West End show, my cool multi-focal, transition lenses that magically turn into sunglasses for walks in the park.
But still frustrated with wearing glasses for up close and personal conversations, I longed to go bare faced. So I looked into the option of contact lenses. However I was to be disappointed because contacts are good for correcting long distance but not intermediate vision.
So it seems I am destined to wear my specs even as we speak! However such is my vanity and desire to look youthful, they will always come off for the camera! I’m ready for my close-up, Mr De Mille.

PS In April 2012, with patient lessons from a lovely young woman at Spec Savers in Richmond, I mastered the art of inserting and removing contact lenses. I opted for daily disposables and although they are not ideal for reading, they give me middle and long distance for spec-free conversations across a table and clear vision of the stage at a musical show! 
I can now add them to my array of options, wearing contacts on days out and my glasses at home for reading books and working on my computer! We are fortunate to live in a society and time when we have these choices!  


  1. I feel for you! All the frustrations you listed up there are also my sentiments. That’s why I only wear my eyeglasses for work. It’s annoying to constantly wear them, even though it does give one an intellectual look. In my case, I’m a teacher, so I guess it’s good to wear it at school. But outside of school, the eyeglasses can sometimes get in the way of a good conversation. For vanity reasons, I use contact lenses when I go out with my girlfriends or on a date with someone.

    Augusta Tippins

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