I knew it was time to get my eyes checked when Simone was trying to show me something on her phone, and I could barely read the tiny type. It didn’t help that she keeps her screen brightness down at near-dark, in order to extend battery life.
“What’s it say?” I asked, shaking my head and handing the phone back to her.
Simone tilted her face slightly and gave me a searching look. Then she read it to me.
Everyone in my family wears glasses, and I’ve always prided myself on being the only one who didn’t need them. My eyesight has been near perfect all of my life. Even Simone wore glasses for a short time in elementary school.
So it was with a frisson of apprehension, but also a bit of excitement, when I finally made my way to the neighborhood optometrist to get the peepers checked. After some time with the tech, who had me staring into a slew of machines that (I think) looked all the way into the back of my eyeballs, I met with the doctor, a mother of two young daughters, who was warm and authoritative.
We chatted about my work (“How much time do you spend looking at a screen each day?” “Pretty much all of it.”), what it’s like having a 16-year-old daughter (“Is it scary?” “Only sometimes.”), and how much time I spend reading (“Wow, and you’re not getting headaches?” “Well, not from the reading, I don’t think.”), before she had me covering one eye and reading letters and numbers on the opposite wall. After she splashed pupil-dilating drops into my eyeballs, she sent me out of the examining room to talk to one of her stylists about glasses (“You’re going to need them.”).
I had brought a pair of vintage specs I’d found in my dad’s stuff, with his name on one of those punch-out labels still affixed to the frame, thinking maybe I could get the lenses changed out and wear them. But the technician and the stylists were apologetic — the glasses were too old and brittle to fit with expensive new lenses, and the risk of breaking them was too high. They recommended I find a pair of new, similar ones, so I spent the next quarter hour trying on frames and sending selfies to trusted parties for guidance.
Once my pupils were dime-sized, and the sun coming through the front office windows was too bright for me to handle, the doctor brought me back into the examining room for more tests. By the end, she had the diagnosis.
She told me my vision was 30/20 in one eye and 25/20 in the other, and that I should wear glasses for reading and working. And though I was also a bit far-sighted, she felt like I didn’t need glasses for driving just yet.
“But in a year or so, after you’ve been wearing your glasses for awhile, we’ll probably need to switch you to bifocals for your distance vision.”
She actually said “bifocals.”
The doctor must have read the look in my eyes (I guess all that time thinking about and looking into people’s eyes must make optometrists especially intuitive), because she laughed lightly and said, “Eric, you’re over 40. It was bound to happen eventually.”
What she caught me thinking was, “Holy fuck, I’m getting older.”
I’ve said before that I generally feel the same age all the time — sure my hair is thinning in places, and there’s some gray in my sideburns, but I don’t feel like I’m growing older most of the time. It’s watching Simone mature and change and TURN 16 THIS MONTH that reveals the passage of time to me. Being the father of a young adult means I, too, must have gotten older along the way.
But I also fight the good fight every day — from hitting the gym and yoga to stay in shape; to getting a ton of sleep and not letting work stress me out too much (most of the time); to staying active and making the most of each day and moderating my crazy rich meals and bourbon-soaked evenings with healthy foods and lots of water. I’m doing everything I can to not feel (or look) older.
My personal motto, “All things in moderation, even moderation,” serves me well most of the time, and it also keeps me mindful of living the best life possible.
The fact that I needed glasses because my eyes were getting older hit me harder than I’d expected. I’d been interested in the idea of glasses as a stylish accessory, something fun to spruce up my look. But I hadn’t really thought through the implications of wearing them regularly — how your eyes get used to the extra help, meaning once you start, you can never go back. And then, a short time later, you need freaking BIFOCALS. Like Benjamin Franklin, damn it.
That said, the new glasses are actually pretty awesome. They look a lot like my dad’s old ones, but have some fun modern touches, and though the difference in how I see letters between when I’m wearing them and not is very subtle (for now), my rational side understands that they are good for me, and are a necessary addition.
But every time I remember to put them on before I get in front of the computer, or open a book at bedtime, they serve as a reminder of my mortality. Of the fact that, yep, I am growing older, and this is probably just the first new physical challenge of mid-life.
And, yeah, I guess I’m middle-aged, whatever the fuck that really means. It’s all very humbling and unnerving. It’s really real.
But there is a silver lining.
Apparently, some women dig a man in glasses. Wearing them for the first time in public at one of my favorite coffee shops, I noticed second glances and shy smiles that made my face heat up (or maybe I was getting those reactions before, but couldn’t see them because I didn’t have glasses on…ha ha). Just like when I sport my trucker ‘stache in Movember, I’m getting looks from women who might not even notice me without them.
And the outpouring of kind words and support when I posted my first photo with the glasses was awesome. I’m still self-conscious when I wear them, but it’s fun to have a new look and have it be noticed.
After all…I may be getting older (no, I am getting older), but I’m still on the lookout for that one right woman who wants to fight (and travel and carouse and laugh) right along with me.