Eye health: The joy of specs

Posted by Diane Priestley

The eyes are the windows of the soul. Unfortunately as we get older they tend to need double-glazing. Diane Priestley tells of her tempestuous relationship with her glasses.

eye healthWhen I first went to the optician, I was in denial and tried to defend my vanity. “Maybe it’s because I spend a lot of time on the computer and reading big important reports,” I pleaded.

He was blunt and merciless: “It’s because of your age,”

“Maybe it’s because I read books in bed in poor light,” I tried again, full of hope.

“It’s your age,” he stated flatly.

“Well, maybe it’s because...” I continued in a whiny voice, thinking: ‘Can’t he see how young I am?’

Sadly, his explanation for my failing eyesight came back to one harsh statement.

At 39 I had reached the age, right on cue, when your eyesight weakens and you need your first pair of reading glasses.

I got a set of big gold-rimmed specs in a shiny new case. I turned this blow to my pride into an advantage, thinking just how intellectual they made me look. They could actually enhance my image, be a whole new fashion accessory to team with my big gold ear rings, big gold chunky bangle and my big gold belt buckle.

Sitting in council meetings I would place the glasses on my nose to read reports, then strategically remove them to eyeball the Mayor. I had practised this impressive movement like Clark Kent changing from street clothes to tights and cape.

He watched me with amusement. “You’ve got new glasses, haven’t you? Are they your first pair?”

“Yes,” I demurred, like a blushing virgin.

My glasses and I went from strength to strength. Literally. Each year the prescription gets stronger. I worked my way through a succession of funky frames in red, blue, green (that was when I joined the Greens Party) more red, purple, then back to red.

I used my intellectual glasses for close-up reading, sitting at the computer for hours each day and reading magazines and books. My middle and long distance vision was just fine. I could chat to friends, decipher traffic signs, watch a movie and gaze at the horizon across the ocean spec-less.  

I got really tired of the glasses sliding off my sweaty nose in the humid climate of the Sunshine Coast in Australia where we lived. About this time I started noticing ads for laser eye surgery. I asked my GP about it.

The Doc was a down-to-earth, sensible Scot, not fooled by clever marketing. He pointed out that messing with your delicate eyes is quite a drastic move. Also, the correction isn’t permanent because your eyes continue to deteriorate with age (that word again!) How, he asked, would I cope with ‘monovision’?

Excuse me? Monovision?

He explained that it meant having one eye corrected for reading whilst leaving the other eye to handle distance vision. Yikes! Now that put the moggy amongst the pigeons. I am easily disorientated and would go quite mad with monovision.

I dismissed the whole idea of laser surgery and went back to my cosy relationship with my good ol’ reliable specs, even with their annoying habits of sliding off my nose and fogging up.

When I got to the ripe old age of 51, my eyesight took a sudden plunge. Tests showed that my vision had deteriorated rapidly. I now needed help with three ‘zones’; close-up reading, medium and long distance.

I invested in powerful, new glasses but I didn’t like this new dependence on them. I hated having to wear glasses all the time. I had to wear them out to lunch with a girlfriend, to focus on her face in an animated conversation. I couldn’t make unencumbered eye contact. I couldn’t talk to my husband with a naked face. I couldn’t interview people unadorned. Faces became a blur without specs. This was tough for me as I am a real ‘bonder’ and need to make direct eye contact.

I felt self-conscious and embarrassed about my permanent ‘face furniture’.

My glasses started to really weigh me down. No longer a fashion statement enhancing my intellectual image, they simply said “old” in the cruel tone of that optometrist 12 years ago.

I suffered my specs for two more years, a permanent fixture through foggy conversations, headaches and constant irritation. I had fallen out of love.

Now living in London, I visited the Laser Eye Surgery Clinic and explored that drastic option again. Yet again the prospect of mono vision sent me into a spin. It also turned out that my eyesight, with its three zones, was not suitable for the simple Lasik procedure. I would need the more complex Refractive Lens Exchange, implants of artificial multi-focal lenses.

I considered the cost prohibitive. I could do a world trip or install a new kitchen with that money. I’ll be honest: the idea of eye surgery still scared me.

Now I have my funky red frames with close and medium range for computer work and reading, my fancy purple frames with close, medium and long distance for reading a menu then going to a West End show, my cool multi-focal, transition lenses that magically turn into sunglasses for walks in the park.

I was still frustrated with wearing glasses for up close and personal conversations and longed to go bare faced. So I looked into the option of contact lenses. However I was to be disappointed because contacts are good for correcting long distance but not intermediate vision.  

I am, it seems, destined to wear my specs even as we speak. Such is my vanity and desire to look youthful, though, that they always come off for the camera.

I’m ready for my close-up now, Mr De Mille

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