When I was a kid, wearing glasses wasn’t cool. It was yet another trigger for teasing, especially if you were smart or shy or the teacher’s pet type. Now, it seems glasses are a fashion statement. As a parent, I was so grateful that my daughter was asking for fun frames with nonprescription lenses before she learned she needed a prescription, so her first day at school with glasses was a celebration, not an embarrassment. She looks great, but me? I’m still stuck in my childhood.
Unfortunately, the bad vision genes come from my side. I’ve had glasses since third grade, the same year both of my children got theirs. I started wearing contact lenses in fifth grade, back in the day when they were small, hard plastic discs that you had to work up to wearing daily, one hour at a time, which I diligently did. My contacts were tinted light brown, which I think was to help find them when they were dropped or moved into the whites of your eyes. (They actually came with a mini “plunger” to help take them out when they got stuck.) What a luxury when I finally got soft contacts in college, which seemed to float on the eye by comparison. But hard or soft, once I got contacts, I was hooked. Nobody would see me in my glasses again.
I have many memories that involve wearing, losing, or planning how to manage my contact lenses. Trying to hide my glasses at sleepovers, camping, school trips, and eventually even business trips. Long airline flights, especially overnight, had me overthinking: Do I take my contacts out and risk being blind if we have an emergency landing, or allow myself to fall asleep with my contacts in to be safe? (Can anyone else relate to this or is it just me?). The worst were the weeks when eye infections meant my contact lenses were banned and I had to go to school or work wearing glasses. How did I ever make it through that?! (Please note that this was all before I had children and my vanity basically went out the window.)
One of these infections came as a result of trying the early extended-wear contacts in college. At this point, you can probably guess how excited I was to have these, which allowed me perfect vision at all times, even upon awakening. Then I got an infection and I had to go 2 weeks without contacts. I also was desperately in need of new glasses but my ability to select a good pair was quite hindered without my contact-assisted vision. I ended up with a comically bad pair of glasses that I haven’t quite gotten over yet. (Again, please note, this was the 80’s and a recent college photo fest has shown me what a waste of energy it was to worry about my appearance in the 80’s.)
I finally found a style that allowed for my high prescription while minimizing lens thickness. They have thin, light-colored frames that still offer a fake sense of invisibility, and I’ve been afraid to change them for 20 years. But they need an update.
When I took my daughter to get her glasses last year, I started trying on new frames for myself, ready to enter the mature world of wearing glasses without complaint. The dark frames that are now in style take getting used to, and I never made the leap.
But now I have no choice. This year I had a milestone birthday and like clockwork, my vision shifted. After years of watching my peers holding menus at arm’s length, enlarging their phone type, and lifting their glasses to read or view something up close, I finally understood. I started having trouble reading and taking care of the type of the crafts and small repairs I am often called on to make, like sewing or gluing, that require close-up focus. In these moments, I would instinctively want to remove my contact lenses, just like my husband would lift his glasses, but I couldn’t just pop them out and back in. I saw the glasses my friends placed on the table, atop their head, around their neck, but I couldn’t imagine wearing glasses over my contacts, even for just a moment. Finally, I attended an important meeting with spreadsheets of results that I needed to discuss, and I couldn’t read them. I gave in.
I got reading glasses. I have to tell you, I’m kind of attached to them now. Didn’t you know, glasses are cool?
Rebecca Martorella, LMFT welcomes ideas and comments and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.