19 and a half years ago I was a first grader who passed the vision test at school with a perfect score. A few months after that I was a second grader who repeatedly moved closer to the projector at the front of the room until I was so close I was sitting on the floor. My mom booked an appointment with the ophthalmologist.
I was 20/350 which means exactly nothing to you people who can see, but to me it means legally blind. Those numbers have changed drastically since. I’m something like 20/1000 now. I’ve been legally blind since I was 7 and I still can’t tell you what the 20 and 1000 stand for — but roughly translated it’s “I can’t tell if you have a face when I’m not wearing corrected lenses.”
I picked out my first pair of glasses on my own. They were circles. Not Harry Potter thick-rimmed circles, but circles nonetheless. A cute choice for my tiny head. I remember staring at the walls of frames, not really seeing any of them too clearly. I remember picking the circles because the metal frames had a plaid print on them that I thought was cool.
A few years later in 5th grade I got contacts. Learning to put them in was a ridiculous challenge for a 11 year old, but once I figured it out I never looked back. I mean that. There was a day in 5th grade when I was suddenly able to put my contacts in my eyes by myself and ever since that day I’ve not worn glasses. I can’t remember any time from middle school on when I went a full day without putting contacts in my eyes.
A couple of weeks ago I was talking with co-workers about my glasses situation. How I have a pair that I got in 10th grade, that is never seen outside of my bedroom. I explained how a person this blind doesn’t necessarily want the general public to know just how thick her glasses are. I told them even the pair I had was 10 years behind my prescription changes. The conversation that followed had hints of shock, and hints of why not get a new pair since our insurance covers them anyway?
So on Saturday I went for it. I stood in front of the rows of frames as bewildered by the options as second grade me. I called my mom as if she could give me over the phone advice on which frames actually looked good on my face. Then I called Russ and asked him to drop what he was doing to come help me pick out a pair. He did, because he’s the best. So I spent a few minutes trying on frames and he spent a few minutes telling me they all looked good, but he liked these best. I ordered. I paid the deductible. We both left.
I’m not going to lie to you, I was hoping for miracles in thin lens technology. I was hoping the ability to make lenses less coke-bottlesque had made leaps and bounds since 2004. It hasn’t. My glasses came in and those suckers are still pretty thick, but so is my skin. So today I wore a pair of glasses in public for the first time in well over a decade. The first time I ever put on glasses as a kid I remember noticing the outlines of leaves and grass. I remember how clear everything suddenly was. This time around was different. There was no new sharpness to my world. Contacts already show me everything I’m ever going to see. The only thing sharper this time around was my sense of “man so many of these people who see me every single day are too darn polite to point out such a significant change in my look, even though I see them noticing it, even though I know the change is jarring.”
Adulthood is funny.