When I was in 6th grade, I began having trouble seeing what was written on the blackboard from my seat. I was the kind of kid, though, that would just work around the problem rather than solve it, or even ask whether there was problem in the first place. If I couldn’t read something, I would either write down what I thought it was (which was often incorrect), or I would just skip it altogether. As you might have guessed, this had a negative impact on my grades. My Social Studies teacher, who knew I was no slouch, noticed this downward trend, and after a conference with me and my parents, I ended up getting glasses. I didn’t mind wearing them–unlike Jan Brady, I didn’t view it as some sort of horrible cross to bear. They improved my vision and, subsequently, my grades. It was a win-win.
My glasses took on several iterations. First came the plastic frames and, being a middle-school boy and somewhat accident-prone, I was often unintentionally hard on them. This would frequently lead to the “spaz” look of tape on the frames to hold them together until my parents could order me new ones, but this would sometimes be several weeks, or even months. After a while, though, my parents tired of having to replace my glasses so often, and my next pair had metal frames. Not just any metal frames–these were the heavy, industrial-strength, will-hang-out-with-the-cockroaches-after-the-apocalypse frames. This pair, while not attractive, lasted me through to my senior year of high school. However, the lenses were glass, which would become quite heavy (these were the days before scratch-resistant plastic), and were sometimes a bit painful to wear. It was during these times that, like Jan Brady, my glasses did become a bit of a burden–I got the whole “not making passes at guys who wear glasses” thing.
Once I was working, I was able to afford my own glasses and own frames, and was free to pick out sleeker, more stylish, and lighter-weight pairs. Then, my wife introduced me to the world of contact lenses, and I was free to wear sunglasses again (a major plus while driving), and not have to worry about so much wear and tear on my long-suffering glasses. Moving to contacts brought in a whole other category of expenses (lenses, cases, contact solution, etc.), but it was worth it to not have to worry about the prospect of another broken pair.
This went on happily for about fifteen years or so. And then something happened.
One afternoon when I was doing laundry, I went to look at the care instructions on a tag for a piece of clothing I had never washed before. And I found that I couldn’t read it. I turned on a light and backed it away from my eyes a bit, which helped, and I didn’t think anything of it. Until it happened again. And again. And with things that weren’t laundry tags–books, instructions for putting my kids’ toys together, texts I receive on my phone.
I brought this up with my eye doctor during my next visit, and she adjusted the power of my contact lenses and glasses. However, when I went to order my glasses, the technician gave me a bit of a shock:
“So, do you want progressive bifocals or traditional ones?”
Bifocals. This was something my eye doctor hadn’t mentioned. I feel like nothing says you’re over 40 quite like bifocals. However, I knew that this was not a condition that was going to get any better (if anything it was getting worse), so I swallowed my pride and said “progressive, please.”
If you’ve never worn bifocals before, let me explain the experience: for the first week or so, it feels like you’re experiencing a constant state of vertigo as your eyes try to focus on everything all at once. After a while, though, my eyes adjusted, and I figured out where to look and how to tilt my head in order to best focus on faces and text. Now it’s very natural.
For my girls, it has been a source of unending amusement when I wear my glasses for long periods. “What are you doin’ with those weird glasses on?” Daughter #1 will tease. “It’s not bedtime!” I explain to her that they help me see better, sometimes better than with my lenses in. At my most recent eye exam, the doctor made further adjustments to my contact lenses, so this may change. In the meantime, though, I will continue to (happily) be the butt of their jokes. And I have a feeling that, given how much they love their books (and because of our family’s eyesight history), we will probably be visiting an eye doctor with them in about six or seven years. And then it will be a waiting game to see how long before they ask for contacts.