Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Girls who wear glasses

I've worn glasses most of my life. I remember being in the third grade, at J.B. Nelson Elementary School, and standing in the hallway looking down at a bulletin board on the wall at the end. I couldn't make out what was on it, but I rationalized to myself - human eyes just weren't meant to be able to see something that far away.

Shortly after that, I had my first eye examination and discovered I was nearsighted - or myopic. I was fitted with glasses. I was amazed at how well I could see.

Me with the real Aunt Snow

I was the only kid in my class with glasses. They were beige-colored plastic, and the lenses were shaped like teardrops on their sides. A couple years later, I had to get stronger ones. This time, I chose a pair of blue frames shaped like cats eyes.

My greatest fear was losing my glasses or breaking my glasses. Sometimes one of the temple pieces would snap off or break. Once I broke the frames in half, at the nose piece and had to tape it together. Every couple of years, I had to get stronger glasses.

No girls on TV or in movies wore glasses. Kids sometimes made fun of me. I was a skinny girl with limp, thin hair who wore glasses.

When I was twelve years old, we moved to a new town and I went to a new school and - best of all - I was fitted for contact lenses. No more glasses.

It wasn't until I was about 50 that - like most people my age - I started having problems seeing things up close. It was hard to thread a needle. I couldn't read fine print.

This is caused because as humans age, our eyes become less agile at making the changes in focus to switch from viewing things at varying distances. The word for age-related farsightedness is presbyopia.

People with perfect vision who become farsighted usually start wearing reading glasses. But if you already have to correct your vistion for myopia, it gets more complicated to treat presbyopia. One method used is to correct one eye for distance vision and the other for near vision. The patient will learn to switch the focus from one eye to the other depending on the task. This is called monovision. My doctor tried this with me, and I was totally unable to deal with it.

So I started wearing glasses again. I'd buy reading glasses - or "cheaters", as some people call them. It was kind of fun. They were an accessory, not a necessity. They came in different colors. You could dangle them off chains around your neck. They were cheap, so you could buy a lot of them. You could wear quirky glasses, modest glasses, conservative glasses, or wild and crazy glasses. You could wear rhinestones, tortoise-shell, or neon red.

Two pairs of glasses in my purse - there's a third one in there somewhere

This solved the problem, and was fun, besides. I carried a pair in my purse, and whipped them out when I needed them.

After a while I started noticing that I needed them not only for fine print, but pretty much for all print. If I didn't have my glasses, it wasn't just that I had trouble reading something - I actually couldn't read it at all. I needed them with me all the time. I had glasses all over the house. I carried glasses in my car, in my purse and in my desk at work. I had spare glasses, and then back-up glasses for those.

It was ridiculous. I would wake up every morning, put two little shells of plastic in my eyes to correct my vision, and then put on a pair of glasses to read the morning newspaper. I'd push my glasses up on the top of my head, or hook them down the front of my shirt, and sometimes I still wondered where the heck were my glasses?

I could no longer put on eye make-up - not that I ever really did much. But if you need cheaters to see details, you certainly can't draw a precise line of eyeliner at your lash line! Now I know why certain elderly ladies have such oddly applied eye make-up. It's because they can't see what they're doing!!

I needed glasses in the car, to read maps. But I had to take them off to see the road!!! I needed glasses to read menus in restaurants. I needed glasses to see the food I was going to eat!

So the other day at my annual eye exam, my doctor suggested I try multi-focal contact lenses.

How do they work, I wondered? Are they like bifocal glasses, with one prescription at the top and the other at the bottom? Not anymore - now multiple prescription lenses come in two designs, one concentric, where the different prescriptions are in concentric rings on the lens, and aspheric, where the lens shape doesn't conform to a spherical shape, but has surface angles and planes that create different refractive areas throughout the lens.

Did you understand that? I don't think I really do myself. My doctor explained it by telling me to think about how you can look through a dirty window - if you are focusing on the things outside the window, your eye simply looks past the smudges. If you're looking at the smudges, your eye focuses there and ignores what's going on in the distance.

I got my new multifocal contact lenses Tuesday, and they are shiny and clean, not a bit smudged. I can't tell you how thrilling it was when the doctor handed me a little card to read after he put them in my eyes. The card had eight or ten short paragraphs of written text, each one in smaller font than the next.

I could read all but the smallest one. Without my "cheaters!"

I went back to work and found that it was much better to look at the computer monitor without glasses, but that I still sometimes needed glasses for reading tiny written print.

And I'm still getting used to it. Sometimes far-away things look blurry until I focus on them, then they pop into sharpness.

But this morning while I was getting ready for work, I was thrilled to realize that now I can read most things without glasses. A few months ago, [The Man I Love] bought me a couple different bottles of cologne by Jo Malone. I love it, but her darn packages are clearly designed for younger people without presbyopia - they have the tiniest fonts you can imagine.

This morning I could easily tell whether I was going to spritz on Wild Fig & Cassis or French Lime Blossom.

Or even read the print on this teensy sample vial.

Not so bad! Next thing I'm going to do is try to put on eyeliner!

What are the challenges you're overcoming as you age gracefully?


smalltownme said...

This is good news for me -- I'm just on the verge of needing multifocal contacts so I'm glad to hear they work well!

I have a pair of glasses for back-up and I just got progressive lenses for them.

Anonymous said...

Wow, those contact lenses sound fantastic!
In the past 2 years, I have become increasingly depended upon my reading glasses. I have 5 pair bouncing around, but I think I might need a few more. At first, I just needed them for focusing on threading needles, beadwork, and small print in books. Lately, I've needed them to read the words and music of the hymns in church.
And if they keep printing instructions in such tiny writing on medication bottles, I'm going to have to get a stronger set of "cheaters!"

Vallen said...

My tales of glasses, contacts, sunglasses, bifocals, transition and progressive lenses all make me wish I'd eaten more carrots as a youth.

Unknown said...

I love this post! I've always WANTED glasses because I think they're cute :-) haha -- and your glasses as a kid look identical to the ones my mom had :-) love it!

Unknown said...

Oh and thanks for your sweet comment on my interview at Life with Kaishon - it totally made my day!

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Now, the "hot librarian" look is in... glasses and hair buns are considered alluring. Things go full circle.

I've been nearsighted since I was eight as well.

Nej said...

I had my eyes checked when I was 10 or 11. My parents thought I must have a lazy eye, because of the way I would look at things almost from my peripheral, instead of straight on.

I learned I had one farsighted and one nearsighted eye...and I adjusted my focus by turning my head to the left or right (similar to how people with bifocals adjust theirs by raising or lowering their head).

My doctor told me when I got older, I'd be glad my eyes were the way they were. I had nature made monovision.

Ellen Bloom said...

You haven't changed a bit, Glennis. Time to get another pair of those fab cat-eye frames!!!

Unknown said...

You are so beautiful.
Very, very beautiful.

JCK said...

Vision. Absolutely. I use reading glasses now, and my eyesight is getting steadily worse, I think. Or, maybe I'm just getting dependent on my glasses.

Either way, I should get to the eye doctor.

I loved your pictures! Your hair was so white blond. And the shape of your glasses was so fun!