I first got glasses in the seventh grade and lost them within a few weeks. My eyes are better! I told my mother, and she claimed to believe me, though really I think she was relieved to have one less thing to think about. The funny thing is that when I first found out I needed glasses I was beside myself with excitement. Glasses seemed cool, the way that braces or getting a cast seem cool when you’re a kid until you actually get them (I luckily never got braces and when I finally got a cast I was nearly 30 and quite miserable). But actually wearing glasses (even if it was just to see the board or watch TV or whatever) was a total drag. I hated the way they sat on my face, weighing about 100 pounds. And those indents you got on the sides of your nose! Forget it!
I went on squintingly for another 10 years or so until I decided that maybe it was time to really get glasses. What a revelation! I remember the first time I stepped outside of the Eyecrafters (or whatever those places were called) with my new glasses on. I could read the street sign at the end of the block! For the next few years, despite my vanity, I did wear my glasses for seeing things far away. Because I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 26, and didn’t start actually driving until I was 30, it was easy enough to squint through life, and then, when I thought about it, to stop squinting and wear glasses.
But then, at the age of 27, I finally got contact lenses and that was that. I was wearing them all the time, day and night. I could see!
There are plenty thrilling tales of contacts that I could tell (and I’m a bit sad to leave them out), but I’m going to speed things up to 2015, earlier this morning, in fact, where I found myself at the optometrist’s office for a regular eye exam. My old optometrist had recently retired and a new extremely cheerful one had replaced him.
This cheerful new optometrist basically informed me that I had been doing everything completely wrong. So much so that my corneas had swelled and I could not wear contacts for some time. Later, when I was about to leave her office, the cheerful new optometrist casually mentioned that legally she could not even let me drive home with the contacts I had on, but when I explained I lived only about a half mile away, she chuckled and gave me the okay. What on earth had gone wrong?
For one thing, I was wearing special contact lenses, lenses that were designed to be thrown out after two weeks. Even though in the past I could wear my previous lenses for an entire month, the very special kind I was wearing could not handle anything after two weeks. They were pretty much breaking down and doing terrible things to my eyes. Or so it seemed. Why did my old doctor even prescribe these very special contact lenses for me?
The new doctor was delighted by the question and compared contact lenses to cars and went on with a surprisingly long comparison of how different people would need different types of cars (“let’s say I only need a car just to get to and from work, so I’ll get the $1500 beater that has 120,000 miles on it that needs tons of repairs but really is fine for now, but let’s say my husband gets a nice new Prius because he needs something that gets good gas mileage and looks really nice and is easy to repair and never breaks down”), and so people would need different types of contact lenses. Now I am quite happy to discuss cars (I am, in actual fact, writing a book about brakes at this very moment. For money!), but it struck me as a fairly unlikely conversation between two women who had been previously discussing contact lenses. I wondered if this was a bit she had perfected a long time ago and thus simply performed it for anyone who asked the right question. I wondered also if perhaps she was a tiny bit resentful of her husband for having a good-looking, fuel-efficient car.
She then explained to me that I need a specific type of multipurpose cleanser for the types of contacts I had and compared it to how you wouldn’t put old oil in a car with a new engine (somehow back to cars again). Who even knew there were different types of multipurpose cleansers? I don’t want to harp on the word “multipurpose” but I do think it’s a little misleading.
So basically I was wearing the contacts for two weeks too long and I was using not-multipurpose-enough cleanser to clean them. All of this was a total surprise to me. I hadn’t been told anything about these special contacts except that they were more porous and allowed more oxygen to enter the eye. These things did not come without a price, however, something I had been completely (come on, just one pun!) in the dark about.
And so, here’s where I’m left: permanently addicted to good vision and with only glasses to do the job. And just like the seventh grader I was, I feel terribly vain and unhappy about the whole thing. Glasses until July! That’s what she told me! And if, and only if, my eyes have healed, I can wear contacts again, but probably not the special kind. I guess I lost that privilege.
I can’t wait to have you seeing well again! the new cheerful eye doctor said to me as I was getting up to leave. I walked out of her office with the illegal contacts still in my eyes and headed toward my four-eyed future.