...Eye, yie yie: A journey in vision impairment
I remember it as though it were yesterday. The day one of my favorite teachers - Mrs. whats-her-name - at Transfiguration informed my parents and subsequently me that I may have a vision problem due to my tendency to squint at the chalkboard. It is day that is permanently etched in my mind.
Life was simple growing up. I was a normal, functioning kid and then everything changed.
Learning I needed glasses as a child was like learning the truth about a certain jolly fat man whose name I won't mention to protect the innocents in the 5 to 6-year-old demographic who are likely huge fans of this column. Devastating.
I knew I couldn't see very well at a certain distance. Rumor had it, at the time, it had something to do with sitting only a nose-length away from the TV while I watched "Jem and the Holograms" or not eating carrots, but I later, through my own research, uncovered genetics was likely to blame.
Like any situation in life, though, after the initial shock of it all, I decided I needed to embrace it and make the most of it.
So, off to the eye doctor we went. I barely made it past the giant "E" on the chart which was no big shock to me because I had been struggling to see pretty much anything at an arm's length. I felt defeated, but my sunshine side focused on the opportunity at hand.
It was entirely possible to turn this impairment into a stylish accessory.
Mind you, this was quite a few years ago so what was in vogue then was so ridiculous, it's cool again now.
The choices at the time were a little scarce, but I found what I believed were certain to be the glasses that were going to rocket me into grade school stardom.
In hindsight, they were definitely awful. They were clear red and big. Boy were they big. Had I had three sets of eyes, they would have all been covered. Ah, but that was the style back then.
I believe I was the first girl in my class to wear glasses; even at that age, there was an indication I would grow up to be a trailblazer. However, I'm fairly certain no one was fazed one way or another by my newest accessory.
Different milestones, as I recall, constituted an exciting new set of specs: transferring schools from Transfig to Queen of Peace warranted an absolutely gigantic pair of speckled blue frames which totally clashed with our burgundy and black uniforms, but brought out the sparkle in my blue eyes - not that anyone was looking past the fact that I had glasses so big the bottom of the frame reached my jaw line.
Eighth-grade called for my very first pair of wire-rimmed glasses. They were to look as though I "wasn't even wearing glasses!" So undetectable. Or not at all. Perhaps the frames were thinner, but as a result, the lenses - which could have likely been used as portholes for a large ship - stuck out like a man in a three-piece suit at the Coal Township Walmart.
Glasses were fun, but eventually a source of aggravation. Inconveniences like not being able to see had I chosen to wear sunglasses or waking up in the middle of the night with them out of an arm's reach were unnerving. Not to mention how much fun I had trying to play CYO basketball without being subjected to wearing dreaded rec specs. I would have gladly pushed my frames up 5,000 times a game than gone that route.
Lucky for me, I eventually had options.
3, 2, 1, contacts
Being fitted for and taught how to load contacts properly seemed as complicated as dismantling a bomb.
Learning to work with a flimsy piece of plastic takes time, a steady hand and a patient eye socket. If I had a dollar for every contact I lost or flipped out of my eye while trying to put in place, you wouldn't be reading this column, because I would have long since been a millionaire.
The most fun I recall in wearing contacts were colored contacts. Despite the fact I was blessed with eyes as blue as the sky on the clearest of days, I could not help but experiment with my options. Among them were a gray pair with a dark outline I had seen an ad for in my YM magazine which made me look as though I had developed an early case of cataracts.
Contacts came with an array of problems as well.
In addition to losing them on the regular, there were tears. Not "tears" as in, these contacts are causing me so much anguish I shall lie here and sob in this corner, but "tears" as in, dear Lord, I've torn another one. Handling contacts was such a delicate process, I'd sooner cradle a newborn on a moving platform while wearing rollerskates than ever have to deal with the process again.
Then there was the occasion when one would get lost in your eye (go ahead, if you want to sing Debbie Gibson and you get that reference, I won't judge you).
Many a time, my contacts would be in place, being all behaved on my eyeball, then I'd blink or look too far to the right or left and, "see ya!" The thing would just mysterious vanish. I'd then lift my eyelid while looking in a mirror and praying it was still there. You see, when a contact would go missing, my young naive self imagined it would find its way up into my brain, thus triggering some kind of neurological malfunction.
And don't even get me started on the issue of infections. I imagine it can be attributed to touching my eyeball so much, but I feel like I had pink eye just about every third Tuesday of the month. I'd also constantly fall asleep with them in, which was highly unpleasant come morning. It felt as though they had been adhered with super glue.
As an adult, I tried Acuvue Oasis. They were super-thin and easy to put in, which didn't matter because after 12 years, I was an old pro. The best part was, you were able to sleep with them in for up to a week - which I kindly took full advantage of and subsequently abused, leaving them in for months at a time.
I sometimes wonder how I still actually have eyeballs.
I sanctimoniously put to rest a simple, lightweight pair of black-rimmed glasses and all my contact cases in 2008 after LASIK surgery, which, is a story in itself, but I'll keep it short.
My consensus is LASIK surgery is expensive, but well worth it. Drawbacks during the procedure include total loss of vision into utter blackness for about 14 seconds after they cut your cornea open and flip it over as though it were a page in a book.
This immediately triggers a state of panic and a "what if my vision doesn't come back?!" moment. Then there's the horror movie worthy metal device they use to pry and keep your eye open, as well as the smell of what can only be described as burning eyeball. The good news is, that whole nightmare only lasts about seven minutes from start to finish.
Next thing you know, you're on your way home with a piece of god-awful dark plastic they refer to as disposable sunglasses you'd rather die than be seen in and a whole mess of drops and pamphlets.
Like I said, I believe LASIK is worth it with the exception of one drawback: my night vision. I see starbursts when I drive at night, which is something I've adapted to, but I see it as a pretty significant negative, although, not significant enough that I regret my decision.
I want you back
My nearsightedness has been corrected for about six years and now I find myself already needing reading glasses because I read so much on a daily basis.
Can't win for losing, right? Nah. I actually have fun finding unique reading glasses; there are so many fun styles out there it makes me actually long for the days I required full-time specs.
Some people look so good in glasses, seeing them without them is like seeing a hairless animal or a turtle without its shell.
It's also gotten so trendy, many gals and guys sport glasses with clear frames just for the look. We've all seen the pictures on Facebook, mostly from girls with the caption, "I look like such a dork! LOL!" when they know darn well they are giving it their all to channel their inner naughty librarian for likes. Don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about ladies, I've done it myself under the guise of "being forced to wear old lady cheaters" rather than proclaiming my nerd status.
Whether you are required to wear them or not, glasses can be fun and looking back, so can adventures in vision impairment. So if you don't like carrots, don't sweat it. Sit as close to the TV as you'd like and ride out the gamble.
Just don't get the kind of glasses that make you look like you should be driving around in a blue van with heart-shaped windows donning a sign that says "Free puppies and candy" on the side. No one, and I mean, no one looks good in them.
(Jenna Wasakoski is an assistant editor at The News-Item)