A few years before she died, my mom made me a beautiful photo album/scrap book as a Christmas gift. Although there wasn’t really anything in there that I hadn’t seen before, the manner in which she put it together gave it a brand new feeling. Pictures, report cards, old doctors notes for a newborn, these made it one of my favorite gifts ever. Initially I perused it quickly- recalling events and laughing at how stoic my little brother and I looked in each picture. I quickly bypassed all the frills like the baptism certificate and eye exam results and report cards she had also included.
After the excitement of the holiday had settled, I set down to really go thru these pictures and scraps. I noticed little things, like the car my father drove, and the fact I was baptized on her first Mother’s Day. I also noticed the results of this the little eye exam given to me at school, which had a big fat FAIL written in red ink. I saw the year and it put me at about 6 or 7. I didn’t think I had an issue with my eyes until I was in my twenties, but here was proof that not only did I have an issue with them, but she had just glossed over it, and left them uncorrected.
Eyesight, or a lack thereof is a big deal in my family. Almost everyone was thwacked by the Blindness Fairy in some way; Far-sighted, near-sighted, cross-eyed even. Mine was weirdest and most ignored because one of my eyes saw perfectly, and the other was like it’s very handicapped twin, who sort of lolled around, looking the same but unable to do the job. I’ve explained it’s like my nose is in front of my eye. The muscle only works to move the eye itself. Not focus. Nowadays this is more common, and kids like this are given a patch to wear on the good eye, therefore strengthening the bad eye (and giving them there first dose of loving the Pirate life). I missed that patch option and now it’s a little late.
Now whether she only found out about this problem at that exam or earlier is moot — the issue was ignored. It shouldn’t have, because as for the family getting hit with the blindness gene? My mother and brother got it the worst. Pictures of my mother in the fifties showed this dorky looking little shy girl wearing cat rimmed glasses until about senior year high school where she suddenly morphed into a vaa-vaa-voom kinda gal. Contact lenses. Damn contact lenses. How many a time I recall us having to freeze in place because one of her hard plastic contacts had “popped!” right out her eye and we needed to help her look for them, most of the time in our high pile green shag carpeting. Back then they weren’t the pliable things they are now and one wrong step would lead to a tiny little crunch and weeks before a replacement could be made. By the time she died she was legally blind without her contacts.
As for my brother, I remember his sight issues, or lack thereof, weren’t discovered until he was in about 4th grade. If he mentioned his failing sight I don’t recall. I just know he would watch TV laying on his belly and elbows creating makeshift sight-see’ers with a pinhole he created between his thumbs and pointer fingers. A tiny little diamond between four fingers, put most things in focus. Next thing he came home from the eye doctors sporting a pair of thick black plastic framed glasses more often known as birth control glasses back then, cause nobody was going to get laid wearing those! He wore those glasses – until about 7th grade when she finally got him a pair of more stylish wire framed glasses.
I always thought it was cruel to put him in such geek-ridden glasses. This was geek before it was chic to be geek. She knew what it was like to be perceived in that manner, because I recalled her telling me she lived with the “Boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses” mantra for a good portion of her childhood. But now? I have had kids and the continuing mantra of “THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS” blaring thru my head 24/7 and I got it. Kids are too irresponsible. It’s not that they don’t appreciate nice things – wait, yes it is. They have no concept of a dollar, and on her limited single parent income I am sure she replaced those god forsaken fugly glasses more often than I ever knew, which were a helluva lot stronger than the wired versions of later years.
But back to me — I never ever recalled another eye exam my entire childhood after that fat fucking FAILURE was noted.
I called her a few weeks after Christmas asked what the hell was up? She did something about my brother’s eyes, why not mine? She told me that at the time I had 20/20 vision in one eye, and that was batting pretty high scores in our family. Strange enough, it made sense coming from her.
That one good eye served me very well for a very long time. I never had to worry about glasses in high school or contacts popping out in the least likely of situations. But like a horse that you ride too long, my good eye started to take a toll from sole reliance. I first noticed it at night – I loathed driving in the dark (and to this day I still do). Going to clubs and bars was a pretty big deal in my twenties, but as soon I got separated from my group of friends, it took me a very long time to find them in the darkened rooms again. It became a joke with us all that if I had to leave the group, they needed to either stay in place, or keep an eye out for me as I wandered the club. I’m certain to this day I saw a lot more good looking men from a distance than most of my friends did. That’s a semi-blind joke, in case you didn’t get it. 😉
I finally broke down at about 23 and got my first pair of glasses, but even in the relief of sharpened eyesight, I kept hearing “Boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses.”. They were cute for the time, but they were glasses my inner vanity monster screamed at me. I really only needed them for the abovementioned, but like hot fucking hell was I go to wear a pair of glasses into a club. They did help tremendously in watching TV, movies, and driving. So I continued the blind thing for about 85% of each day, with a smidge of relief in the evenings. Not even all evenings. Just when I wasn’t too lazy to fish them out and put them on. Years went by and while I wasn’t hitting the clubs as often, I was sick of not seeing things as clearly as I should. I knew my vanity wouldn’t permit me to wear glasses 24/7, so I finally got fitted for contact lenses. Don’t ask what took so long. I don’t even recall myself.
I could not believe I hadn’t done this sooner. My life literally felt like it had opened up. Clarity and sharpness ALL OF THE TIME, at half the cost, because yes I only needed correction in the one eye. The other eye was still there for decorative purposes only. Contacts, once I got the hang of them were a Godsend. Yes I slept in them when I shouldn’t, and then I slept in them when I was allowed. I was never blind, except in situations like bodies of water – which became my kryptonite. If I took them out to swim, I couldn’t see, and if I swam with in, I still couldn’t see. (Because I was closing my eyes). About ten years later, I picked up a pair of cool little frameless spectacles. It was the first pair of updated glasses I had in years.
Unfortunately with age, your eyes don’t care if you can see 20/20 or 20/500, they start to wear out. Print gets smaller and smaller until it’s just not visible, and moreso a problem when you are wearing contacts for nearsightedness. I stopped teasing my older friends who were whipping out reading glasses left and right and joined them. I have had about 10 pairs at one point, because vanity still will never allow me to wear them on a rope around my neck, yet I stupidly place them in the strangest spots, and then forget where I put them. The triple threat is God forbid I needed to read something by the pool or at the beach because I would literally have three forms of eyewear: contacts, sunglasses and sometimes reading glasses on top of those. Yes, I am a walking form of embarrassment to my adult children. Fortunately with age comes the ability to say who gives a fuck.
My five year old glasses had seen better days, so I finally bit the bullet and got new ones. My new optometrist was strongly suggesting that I reconsider the 30 day wear contacts, because lots of studies were showing high infection rates in wearers of these and let’s face facts, this is the only eye you have – keep it healthy. So I rethought exactly what I would want. These needed to be a pair of glasses that I would be comfortable wearing a lot more than before. Something I hopefully wouldn’t have to take on and off to see this close, or that far. Progressive lens (recall this is only one eye that needs the help, the other lens is clear) were suggested, and I took the bait. My vanity loved the idea that the bifocal little line wouldn’t be an issue, and the old lady in me who is sooooo tired of the constant swap was thrilled that one pair could do the job. I looked at the rimless ones again, but the guy helping me steered me another direction.
Birth control glasses. Black shiny ones. I hesitated. Boys won’t make passes at girls who wear glasses, briefly went thru my head. He showed me a half dozen pair, until finally the right pair showed up. He loved them on me, and my ego was already bruised at the idea of wearing glasses more often than contacts, so I sucked up what felt like a fawning attitude intermingled with sincerity. I giggled when I saw myself because in one sense they were so not me, but in another – they stated Wear Me. Wear me daily. Love me. Embrace that inner Clark Kent, you super woman, you. Love yourself in glasses, Goddamnit!
So I did.
I’ve worn them for a half of a week, and I love them. They may be a tad too weak, and I’m going to check on that. I want to take them off when I am done reading, out of sheer habit, but the immediate blindness has me swooping them back on. I want to put my hair in a bun, because they feel very librarian to me. I still have the contacts which I will continue to wear at times too, but these – it’s the first time I’ve felt, dare I say a bit cute in glasses. I think – when the time comes, I would even consider wearing these on a date
–– or as a friend noted to me earlier, a blind date. Ba dum bum! Please remember to tip your waitresses folks, and don’t forget to try the veal.