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It’s Official: Eye’m Old

I’ve been forty for barely a month now.  I’ve always devoted considerable energy to keeping myself fit and healthy.

I Jazzercise.  I don’t smoke.  I eat fish.  I learned that you should take fish oil capsules at night unless you want to taste tuna fish burps all day.  When sexy television doctor Sanjay Gupta warned me to consume plenty of antioxidants to fight off free radicals, I listened and began adding a generous splash of POM Wonderful to my gin and tonics.
sanjay products_juice


All my ministrations have been in vain.  I now have proof that my body, which wasn’t so healthy at thirty-nine, has begun a steep descent into old age and decay.
When Bill and I were in New York, he noticed that I kept yanking my reading glasses on and off whenever I had to read something small– a menu, a price tag, a paper.

“Why don’t you buy a chain to keep those around your neck like other women do?” he asked.

“Because those other ladies are a lot older than I am.”

By the time I’d constantly pulled my glasses on and off for another day and almost left them at a Turkish restaurant, I gave in and purchased the tiniest, most inconspicuous “eyeglass necklace” possible.

Things went further down hill last week when I had a chin hair I needed to pluck.  I could feel it, but I damn sure couldn’t see it.  I tried looking in the mirror with my contacts on, and saw nothing but a blur.  I put on my reading glasses but still couldn’t spot the hair well enough to grip it with my tweezers.  Sighing, I removed my contacts and tried again.  No luck.  I resigned myself to the fact I’d have to wait until it grew to the length of a whisker before I’d be able to distinguish it from my skin.

I told my hairdresser, Teppie, about the incident, and she told me I needed a magnifying mirror.  I told her that distressingly, I was using one at the time and I left out that detail only so I wouldn’t sound blind.

“I think you should see a doctor,” she advised.

So I did.

The most irritating aspect of the eye doctor’s exam is that they have not changed the letter and number combinations since the Bicentennial, when I first started wearing glasses.  I have an astonishing aptitude for remembering strings of meaningless letters and numbers, which is invaluable for remembering everyone’s home, cell and social security numbers, but poses a problem when I’m asked to read the next line on the chart.  Am I reading it, or merely remembering it?  Trying to erase the patterns from my memory takes a great deal of concentration.

Perhaps that’s why I was caught off guard when Dr. C finished his exam, slid back his chair, and asked, “You know what I’m going to tell you, right?”

“I need stronger glasses?” I inquired.  “Did I tell you about last week when I wasn’t able to see my chin whisker?”

“No, but I believe it.  You need bifocals,” he said calmly, as if were recommending a new book and not an accessory that screams ‘OLD LADY! OLD LADY!’  He might as well have prescribed a walker and a case of Depends.

I snickered. “You know I’m not getting bifocals, don’t you?”

“Don’t laugh,” he said seriously.  “They’ve come a long way. They make progressive lenses now that don’t have the line in the center of the lens.  They take some getting used to and they don’t work for everyone, but no one can tell you’re wearing bifocals.”

On the drive home I convinced myself that getting bifocals wouldn’t be a complete catastrophe.  I’m already used to wearing glasses a good deal of the time.  If no one knew they were bifocals, I would still be as pert and sexy as ever.

I got home and googled the newer models.  What I learned wasn’t reassuring.  It was downright devastating.

The “progressive” lenses are crafted so that they correct for distance at the top of the lens, for intermediate vision in the middle of the lens, and for reading at the bottom of the lens, like so:


As you can see, the area corrected for intermediate, or “walking around” vision is quite small.  Thus, you can’t move your eyeballs back and forth to gaze at things that are not directly in front of you, as you’d be looking through the area that is not corrected for anything.  Wearers report that the non-corrective part of the lens is generally fuzzy and one woman reported seeing an upside-down image of a cow there while standing in a room in which no cows were present.

Users who enjoy the glasses noted that the solution is simply to turn your neck to follow moving objects.  People who have little neck movement, due to previous spine surgeries, perhaps, would have to move their entire bodies to watch an object in motion.  Remember Joan Cusack in Sixteen Candles?  That’s how I’d move every time I put those bifocals on.


What I found more alarming were the frequent warnings not to look down at your feet as you walked while wearing the progressive lenses, for the ground would appear closer than it actually is, resulting in falls.

Last time I fell I broke my wrist which led to good home training for the boys but also to fashion felonies on my part.  It was a painful and expensive way for the guys to learn to load the dishwasher.

By the time I read reviews from wearers who complained of “whirlies,” nausea and headaches and the comments from the visually-impaired who’d never learned to safely walk in them, I’d had enough.  My bones felt brittle, my eyes were fatigued and I actually heard gray hairs springing from my scalp.

Then I felt a bit sorry for myself.  I’ve had a decent attitude about the scoliosis, the bum liver, the crowns and root canals and the frequent checks for ovarian cancer.   I’m ready for some anatomy to work correctly without major effort on my part.
So when Bill got home and I told him about my appointment, I’d narrowed down my objections to even trying the glasses to one succinct statement.

“I can’t make love to you with a pair of bifocals on the nightstand,” I decreed.

I’m making an appointment to see a surgeon for Lasik next week.


  • MetroDad

    Look at the bright side! Better to have a pair of bifocals on the nightstand than a glass of water with your teeth in it, right? Man, THAT would be a turn off.

  • LN

    I don’t know if this will be encouraging to you but I’ve heard that misery loves company. I also suffer from blindness at the age of 24 and got my first pair of bifocals at the ripe old age of 9. They made me feel like and old lady at the time too.

  • anon.

    Good call on the lasik. My Mom has the progressive lenses and still, after a few years with them, she is not used to them! She has to do the whole neck-turn thing and it’s still not a good scene for her.

  • Amy

    Delurking because I just had to comment on this. My eyesight is so horrible I had to have bifocals when I was 3. They didn’t have cute lenses then, either. Thank God my vision has improved enough that I’m able to wear contacts now. No bifocals on the nightstand for us!

  • Kelly

    I have worn contacts since 16 and when I was told my eye doc with great consternation that I could read perfectly without them in, he said “welcome to being 40”. I have progressive lenses for those times I don’t feel like having contacts in, and have adapted. Its cool to watch TV while working the crossword without pulling my glasses on and off. The kicker, though, was when he gave me one contact with a “up close” strength and one with a “far away” strength. Once my eyes adjusted to it its ok,an I had to do it because I am a bookkeeper, but it was touch and go for awhile. Keep us posted on the lasix; I’ve always been mortally afraid of that

  • Karin B

    Good luck! You brought this subject up once before and it was argued back and forth. Obviously you have thought about it long and hard, so hopefully the surgery will be very successful.


    I am also embarking on 40 this year and at my last appointment I too had to have bifocals plus prisms which means no contacts! AAGGHH! After a substantial pity party I got the progressive lenses and while they did take a while to get used to they are not so bad. The worst part is walking on stairs for me. The stairs are not where they appear to be. Good luck with Lasik. I wanted to do that too but would not solve my problems(Prisms)

  • Leeny

    Yay! I’m happy you’re getting the lasik done! I commented before about my experience with it when I had the surgery in 1999 and I have not ever regretted it. My brother and sister have also had their eyes done. Keep us posted!

  • jenny uk

    I’m very longsighted, 4.75 in one eye and 5.00 in the other, cant see a damn thing with out contacts or glasses! But at least with them, I can see normally and dont have any distance issues! I’ve love to have my eyes lazered but it took me 29 years to stop being so squeamish and wear contacts, I’d doit if you could be asleep but you need to be awake and aware to look in the right place! I also cant bear those little things they use to stop you blinking, making me shiver just thinking about it!

    By the way, was reading through some of the archives and the link to the newspaper article doesnt work anymore!

  • Melissa

    Lasik is a great option, though not for everyone so good luck and let us know how it goes!!

    I know people around the office that wear contacts and have reading glasses too… I also know of people with the progressives that work just fine (My mom has them, along with mobility issues from spine surgery and she doesn’t seem to have any of the trouble you read about).

    And I would imgaine the seeing a cow part has nothing to do with her progressives, the only glasses that could cause that are full of gin and tonic w/ a splash of pom.

  • Shawn

    Welcome to my world, although I am 44. For the past year, I have had to take off my glasses to read up close.

    I had spoken to my eye doctor about Lasik surgery. She asked me if I liked to read with my glasses off, which is the only way I like to read. She said that would mean that I would need to WEAR glasses to read if I had the surgery. That turned me off, so it’s bifocals for me the next time I buy glasses.

  • Clearlykels

    The last time I went to the eye doctor he said something about needing glasses for distance. I already have glasses for reading. Then he talked about the nausea that I could get. I think my vision has improved greatly because I do not need anything else to make me nauseous.

  • Amy

    I thought every good southern woman knew that it’s not hair on your chin- it’s just a stray eyebrow! You make me laugh every week- Thanks,
    Amy (NY)