This is the story about how I came to have five pairs of eyeglasses, and how a person who isn’t Elton John can fall into this trap.
I started wearing glasses in the spring of 1963, which would have put me on the short end of nine years of age. That seems awfully early for body parts to start going south, but my football-shaped corneas decided on their own that they would not focus light properly. This is a highly unscientific way to describe astigmatism. Fine. Lots of people have this problem and it’s easily corrected with glasses or Toric contact lenses.
Flash forward about thirty-five years or so, where I found myself under my mother’s kitchen sink doing some plumbing. While crammed inside the cabinet, upside down and staring at the trap, I couldn’t focus on what I was doing. Just like that. I slid my glasses down my nose and two things became clear: the pipe, and the reality that I might need bifocals. Most people realize that this will happen at some point in their lives, but it never occurred to me that it would strike with such suddenness.
I spent the next few years in a state of denial, but when it became too much of a nuisance to remove my glasses to read or to focus on my watch or the dashboard, I got bifocals—the fancy “no-line” type because I didn’t want anyone to know, plus they were supposed to allow vision to feel more natural. I picked them up and tried them on and immediately felt as if the floor was tipping away from me and ramping down towards Hell itself. “You’ll get used to that,” the optician said, herself wearing a pair. Meanwhile, I was still trying to figure out how it was possible to read better without glasses than with, yet still need bifocals. The moment I got there, my brain started to do that thing it does when I try to figure out where the universe ends.
Over the course of about two weeks, I did get used to them by contorting my head to find my visual sweet spot before learning how to move my eyes instead. If I was doing something that involved different fields of vision, my eyes darted around like those of a chipmunk on an all-espresso diet. It was a process, but I eventually figured it out with a few exceptions.
When I was working on the computer, I found myself tipping my neck back so that I could see the screen through the bifocal part of my glasses. It turns out that the bifocal sweet spot of sixteen to twenty inches was in that perfect range to read the screen. I ended up taking off my glasses entirely but as time went by, I found I needed some assistance seeing the screen, so I asked the optometrist the next time I had my eyes checked what I should do. “Get a pair of computer glasses,” he said. I wasn’t sure what sort of ophthalmic sorcery they used to make these, but I bit the bullet and got a pair, so now I had two pairs of glasses—one for everyday tasks and one for computer tasks. I also used the computer glasses to read the newspaper because the size of the paper requires all sorts of swanky eye focusing.
Soon after I got my bifocals, I discovered that watching TV while lying in bed was impossible because the angle aimed my peepers through the lower “reader” part, which blurred the screen. I dug out an old pair of single vision glasses, which became my watching TV in bed glasses. Problem solved.
That’s three pairs, if you’re counting.
It didn’t take long to realize that my old single vision sunglasses were the same nuisance as my old single-vision regular glasses, but I didn’t want to choke down a mortgage for a pair of bifocal sunglasses, so my next pair of glasses had lenses that darkened in the sun. Perfect solution, right? These have been around for decades, but they still haven’t figured out how to make them perfectly clear indoors and really, they aren’t very good sunglasses. Plus I always felt like Jack Nicholson at the Oscars. I wore them for a while, but never liked them. Luckily the guarantee allowed me to replace those lenses with clear no-line bifocals and clip-on sunglasses. This seemed to be the perfect solution and worked well, but I was always losing the clip-ons or breaking the fragile frames. I put up with this for years, reasoning that new clip-ons were still cheaper than dedicated sunglasses.
Last year, both of my prescriptions changed slightly enough (distance vision improved somehow, while my close-up vision didn’t) to justify new sunglasses, and the place where I got them—it rhymes with Bostco—had a great price on one pair and an even better price on two, so I bought a pair of dedicated bifocal sunglasses and an extra pair of everyday glasses. I use my “close enough” glasses as an alternate pair. This is something that I have never had in over fifty years of wearing glasses. I can now wear different everyday glasses depending on my mood or whichever pair is closer.
This brings me up to five pairs of glasses—two for everyday, one for watching TV in bed, one for the computer and newspapers, and one pair of sunglasses. The reality of this struck me this past Sunday, when I spent about fifteen minutes cleaning five pairs of glasses, each pair looking as if I had worn them in a haboob. It’s become an actual chore to clean my various glasses. Life is funny. So is the word haboob.
Anyway, that’s how I, a normal person who is not Elton John, came to have five pairs of glasses. One final note:
Since I’m older and practicality is more important to me than appearance in nine out of ten circumstances, I’ve solved the problem of what to do with my sunglasses when I have to change back and forth into regular glasses. I have this magnetic thingamajig that I can stick to whatever I’m wearing, which allows me to hang whichever pair of glasses I’m not wearing safely and out of the way. It’s higher on the dork scale of dorkiness than even clip-on sunglasses, but I don’t care. Not anymore. I’ve crossed into bifocal territory, which means the gloves are off now.