The last time I managed to pass an eye test free of corrective lenses, I was a seventh grader in a Catholic grammar school in a smallish North Jersey suburb of New York City. Having taken the test soooo many times over the years, the E’s, the N’s and the T’s, et al, were somewhat engrained in my sub-conscious. I never had any problem whatsoever.
This year was different, though. I had recently been comparing my far-sightedness with one of my older brothers, who could hit a baseball a country mile in Little League, and then had trouble in Babe Ruth and high school. Come to find out, he needed glasses.
So I compared what he could see with what I was now having trouble seeing. I also had had a bout with conjunctivitis in sixth grade, which kept me home from school for the first time ever. Didn’t even feel sick. I always blamed the red eye for my eyesight degradation, and was not too happy about losing my perfect attendance record.
In those days, there was still a bit of stigma attached to those who wore glasses – “four eyes” people were called, and the weakling defensive cry, “you wouldn’t hit a guy with glasses would you?” was invoked when a playground left-jab lurked.
So I was relatively shy at the prospect of having to wear glasses. But I took the test, and passed. Seems that the school nurse used the same pattern with every student tested before me in line. I memorized the stupid chart. And passed. (Blurry as it really was.)
By eighth grade, the eye-scam had run its course. Wearing that first pair was quite depressing. I was even dizzy coming out of the optometrist’s office with my new brown, horn-rimmed specs. I was embarrassed. After all, I was lucky enough to be one of the smarter, and, dare I say, cooler guys in the class. How could I wear glasses and maintain?
Didn’t wear them all that much that year. Things had been blurry for some time so I was kind of used to it. Freshman year brought me to a private Catholic (still all-boys to this day), prep school. And it WAS preppy! And the glasses I needed to see now kind of fit with the blazer (sans any school emblem), white shirt and tie that were standard fare in those days.
Wearing those horn-rimmed suckers became an accessory, and since I was just another freshman face in the crowd, my cool was safe, despite being amidst a host of geeks and nerds. (Called them something different in those days but those terms seem to escape me at the moment.)
Later on in life, I began to wear contacts. I’ll never forget the first time I paddled out into the ocean to surf a bit, turned around and actually saw the beach! I saw the waves better as well. Were they always this big? Thought the lenses would bring a little relief from taking my glasses off to read, and then putting them back on to look at television, or whatever, but of course, I then fell prey to the macular degeneration so many of us are doomed to endure.
Working on a computer surely hasn’t helped the situation. Now I have umpteen readers – one on every level of my home, in my workshop, a pair or two in the car, one for work. All to wear while the contacts are in! I am rarely without some sort of specs – readers on the tip of my nose, regular glasses resting on top of my head or just on to see things when I’m not wearing contacts.
And strangely enough, I often also find myself walking around and about without contacts, readers, or eyeglasses whatsoever. After all, I’m not all that blind. I do still enjoy wearing eyeglasses as an accessory (helps rationalize NOT getting Lasik surgery as well).
I have my dress-up pair, my good pair, and my back-up pair, which I allow myself, at times, to fall asleep in. Not sure life is ALL that clearer as a result, but I have been seeing things pretty good these last 50 years or so. Maybe I’ll see some of you sometime.