Monday, December 1, 2008
I have always, secretly, wanted glasses. Well, not always—but at least since middle school. I think the glasses-lust set in then because glasses were something that you could take off to make yourself look better. Since I had nothing to take off I had to live with myself at face value, which was difficult, since I sported an unholy trifecta of unibrow, braces, and acne. Glasses, in retrospect, would have made it worse initially, but then when I whipped ‘em off I would have looked that much better, right? Right??
I used to talk a lot of smack on the hopscotch course at recess, telling all of my friends that I had 20/10 vision, which I did. It meant that I could see from 20 feet what most people could see from ten feet, but none of my friends believed me. Despite a diet of almost no carrots and a lot of antisocial reading in dim light, my eyes were positively bionic, and I took a private, nerdy pride in the clarity of my vision. I still wanted glasses, though, the same way I secretly hoped to someday break a limb. Luckily I didn’t have the willpower to whack my shin with a hammer or to stare directly into the sun, so I continued on for many years with laser-like sight and healthy bones.
On a trip to Los Angeles when I was twenty-three, I finally broke down and bought a pair of eight dollar glasses in Venice Beach. The lenses were plain glass, so they didn’t fuck up my eyes, just made me look kind of scholarly and standoffish. I was in love. I took to wearing my glasses to work and making a big deal out of saying that I had forgotten my contacts at my boyfriend’s house, as if anyone actually gave a shit. To others, I may have looked dowdy and square, but I was thrilled. All day long I would feel like Clark Kent pre-phone booth, just waiting to transform. I wanted to admit to my coworkers that I didn’t really wear glasses, but understood that it would have been creepy for them, and confusing. So I kept my little secret.
It wasn’t until six months ago that I started to actually lose my sight, or, at least, to notice. I wasn’t going blind or anything, but suddenly I had to strain to read street signs (in the dark, on the highway, with my relatively unused license ... scared yet, Mom?), and my computer screen at work looked way too bright. I found myself constantly squinting, so I made an appointment with an eye doctor, perversely excited to finally fail an eye exam.
Today was the big day. I left work early to make my ocular pilgrimage to Brooklyn Heights to visit Dr. D, who came highly recommended by regular physician. Dr. D's office displayed a photo of him posing with Donatello from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, so I knew I was in the right hands. First, he made me put my chin on a little shlef and my forehead against a bar. I looked into a telescope-like thingie that showed a little pastoral scene with a red barn going in and out of focus, but it made a suspicious beeping sound, so I'm pretty sure it was just distracting me with the barn while it took some sort of scan. Then I had to hold up those budget-looking eye sticks and read letters off of a screen. I did OK until the letters got flea-sized, and when I gave up the technician sighed and said, "You need glasses."
The elation I had expected never came. Instead, I was filled with dread. First, and most basically, it sucks to not be able to see things. It makes me feel old. And I have enough white hairs on my head, in my eyebrows, and in places that should never grow old to need another reminder that I am aging. Also, I can't have nice things, especially when I pay for them myself. I stepped on my retainer once in eighth grade, and the bottom part bent out of shape so that when I stuck it in my mouth it jutted out like a cruel nightguard. I have also lost almost every umbrella, pair of sunglasses, and glove that I have ever owned. And now I will have to pay upwards of $300 for a delicate pair of glasses that I cannot just toss in my purse to jangle against my keys and discarded bobby pins and mismatched earrings. I will have to take care of them. And wear them when I drive and when I go to the movies. The way my parents have to find their glasses before reading anything. I will have to squint and rustle in my purse, saying "Ace Ventura who? I can't read the screen!"
So lesson learned, kids: be careful what you wish for. And if you ever find yourself with a hammer raised above your own leg, with visions of pudding and cast signatures dancing in your head, for God's sake, put that thing down.