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Seeing is believing

139681489I’ve been struggling with glasses for some time now. They work perfectly well, that’s not the problem. The problem is that I don’t see myself as a woman in glasses, and then I catch sight of my reflection in shop windows and get the horrors. It struck me the other day that if someone were to describe me or point me out to someone else they would have to include the phrase “wearing big square glasses.” For some reason that sent me into a spiral of depression, because – along with still being about three Ryvita lunches away from getting back into a bikini – inside, I am definitely not a woman in glasses.

I thought about laser eye surgery but because my glasses are fitted with varifocal lenses, ranging in strength from “ability to spot a wildebeest on the horizon” at the top to “reading the directions on a packet of Crosse & Blackwell casserole mix” at the bottom I thought that might make for a particularly delicate operation; a bit like creating one of those triple-layered jellies and carrying it to the fridge, only with slightly more serious consequences if anyone slipped up.

I was still fretting about it on Saturday morning so rang my optician and was offered an appointment for two hours later. An hour and a half after that I emerged blinking into what was left of the sunlight wearing brand new daily use contact lenses. For the first time in two years I could walk around with nothing on my face but a smile and not only see the number of the bus I was catching but determine the sex and rough age of the driver. I could see the prices in Oxfam, recognise my neighbours, even read the cover lines of my favourite magazines.

I hadn’t even considered contact lenses partly because the thought of the faff involved – I’m lucky if I can remember to take my mascara off at night. And it hadn’t been easy – my optician was duty bound not to allow me out of the shop until I had mastered taking them in and out by myself. It took a good 15 minutes to manage. The main problem was opening my eyes wide enough to fit the lenses in, which I found alarmingly big – about the size of a chocolate button. “Fortunately you’re not squeamish,” said my optician, kindly, as I plunged my finger into my left eye for the fourth time, refraining from adding “just inept”.

Eventually he judged that I was safe to be let out with a week’s supply and booked me in for a check up a week later, all for the princely sum of about £30 test and fitting and about £1.20 a day for my lenses “Each?” I asked. “Per pair,” he replied, patiently.

The rest of the day passed in a pin-sharp blur of activity as I discovered the joy of doing every little mundane task with fresh eyes. I could cook without steaming up my glasses, I could see my toes in the bath, I could use my phone without having to clear my glasses of smears and fog first.

I got up early on Sunday to give myself time to peel back my eyelids and slide in my new eyes and miraculously managed it by only wasting one left lens which dropped into a tray of spilt eyeshadow.

Monday morning however, was a disaster. I was running late and rushing. I ruined one as I struggled to get my pesky left eye to open wide enough to slide it in. I gave up and concentrated on my right eye – which went in on the first attempt. By now I was seriously late for work but couldn’t go out squinting like Popeye. I braced myself. Peeled open the packet, and immediately spilt the precious few drops of lens fluid on the desk, which gave me no second chances to lubricate it if I failed to get it in first time. Then I had a crisis of confidence about whether I was putting it in inside out or not. The rule of thumb (or forefinger) was that if it was shaped like a (very small) mixing bowl balanced on my finger if was the right way round. If it looked more like a straight-sided pie dish it was inside out. I tried it both ways and both times it looked like a pie dish. The acid test was to read the three teensy tiny numbers embossed on the upper edge of each lens. If they were the right way round, so was the lens, if they were backwards, so was the lens. All fine and dandy but, with one lens in and one lens out I couldn’t see anything particularly clearly. If you’re stuck the optician had said, try holding it up to the light – but that meant I was using the distance part of my varifocal lens to try to read. The logic, and nothing else, was clear – if I could read the bloody numbers I wouldn’t be needing the bloody lenses. Catch 20:20.

Eventually I called upon Katy for support and asked her to read the numbers for me, holding up a finger with the lens balanced precariously on it. “What lens?” she asked, reaching out a Nutella-smeared finger to try to get a closer look.

Great. I now had tinted contact lenses. If only I knew which way was up.

Posted by Amanda Blinkhorn

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