I’ve been wearing glasses since I was 6. I’d needed them for a long time before then, it’s just that I was never tested until I went to school. Looking back, we probably didn’t need the test to figure out that I was as blind as a bat: Until I got specs, I fell over or slipped and fell head-first into the furniture about 20 times per week. For some reason, my mam was convinced the best treatment for a blow to the head was to spread butter on the bump. Consequently, I was very hard to catch for the first five years of my life—you just couldn’t get purchase. It must’ve cost my family a fortune: As they were always reminding me, best butter is not cheap. The first week that I got my glasses I dutifully provided a “children say the darnedest things” moment: As I read my comics, I announced to my mam, “Hey, they’ve made the print bigger this week!”
Not a waking moment goes by that I don’t wear my glasses. Officially, I’m far-sighted, but I can’t see close-up without correction, either, so I guess it’s neither here nor there. A bunch of my friends have had the Lasik surgery, and they’re all happy, but my vision is too crappy to qualify—I’d still have to wear glasses afterward, so why bother. The only time I wish I could see unaided is when I’m getting a haircut or having some dental procedure where they ask, “What do you think?” and I have to remind them that even though I’m looking at a mirror, I can’t see a thing unless they hand me my specs.
Since I wear them full-time, I change my glasses every couple of years. I’ve never been one for choosing glasses to go with each day’s outfit—you get used to the peripheral vision or the prescription in one pair, and it always goofs me up to chop and change too much. So usually when I get new glasses, the old ones go into retirement.
I have made some bad choices over the years—I brought back a couple of horrors from my first trip to the States: some giant frames that made Deirdre Barlow’s now-discarded monsters
seem small, and a cool Diane Keaton in Annie Hall
pair that I wore for a couple of years despite the fact that they were way too big for me and had to undergo such extensive melting and crunching in order to stay on my head that it’s a miracle they stayed in one piece.
Sometimes the prescription just doesn’t feel right—I went to great lengths to select my last-but-three pair, but I just couldn’t wear them. Since I spend at least eight hours a day staring at a computer screen and another three or four gazing at newspapers, magazines, or books, if I don’t feel comfortable reading in them, chances are they’re not going to last. That ill-fated pair-but-three got about three months of use before I switched full-time to the much cheaper reading glasses I was intending to wear only in the office. Fortunately, they were cute.
These glasses just never felt right
The "reading glasses" that took their place
The pair that I’ve worn for the last couple of years are fabulous. I like the style (they’re by a Japanese designer and definitely qualify for what Mr. Diva would describe as “classics with a twist
”) and I adjusted to the prescription immediately. They’ve started to slip down my face a bit in the last few months, but it’s nothing a little adjustment couldn’t fix. Still, at the end of last year I went back into glasses shopping mode because I had about $1,200 left in my flexible savings account.* So, judging from the number of people sporting new glasses at this time of year, I did what a lot of people with imperfect vision do and went to pick out some new frames.
My current classics-with-a-twist
My current "film star" sunglasses
The woman who helped me was phenomenal. As R put it, her affect was a bit inauthentic, but her advice about frame shapes and colors was spot-on. I didn’t rush into anything—I made a couple of visits, taking digital photos of me in various frames so that I could ponder them at home. In the end I settled on a serious-looking pair of FreudenHaus frames that boast the big new thing: skullwraps, which grip your head rather than curving over your ears in the traditional fashion. (Unfortunately, this can make your hair stick up if it gets trapped in the wrap.) I had a bit left over (because my vision is so dreadful, my lenses alone cost several hundred dollars because I have to have the ultrathin high-index lenses made by Zeiss to avoid the Coke-bottle-bottom look of my youth), so I also picked out some frames for sunglasses, this time from Beausoleil.
I’ve had the FreudenHaus glasses for about three weeks now and I’ve worn them for a total of about 40 minutes. (I haven’t picked up the sunglasses yet—they’re not really necessary in Seattle at this time of year.) The problem is that the prescription feels off. I feel like I’m straining to read. I'll see if the opticians have any ideas when I go to pick up the sunglasses, but for the moment I feel like a dumb-ass for spending so much time pondering frames and no time at all wondering if having my eyes tested at an HMO was the best option. It may have been a classic false economy.
(*Note to non-U.S. readers: Some companies allow employees to deposit up to $5,000 per year into an account that can be used to pay for non-reimbursed medical/dental/optical expenses. The cool thing is that the contributions are pre-tax and you can draw on the whole amount right at the beginning of the year, even though you’ve only paid in 1/24th or whatever of your contributions. The catch is that you have to spend all the money you’ve put aside by Dec. 31 or you lose it; there’s no rollover. Since I’ve usually exhausted my dental benefits by the end of January, I put aside $5,000 each year for dental expenses, but last year because of the timing of appointments and having to wait for things to settle, I wasn’t able to put all my FSA money in my mouth.)