I’m over 40. I admit it. But I’m determined to enter middle age reluctantly, kicking and screaming, grabbing at table legs and dragging my fingernails across the hardwood floor. No no no!
I shall buy clothes at stores that market to 14-year-old girls: midriff-baring, spaghetti-strap tops and tight, bubblegum pink sweatpants with ANGEL written across the butt. I’ll get a tramp stamp and wear a red lace thong that, when I bend over, peeks over the top of the ANGEL on my ass.
I’ll dye my hair an unnatural shade of blonde — ash or platinum — and wear it in long curls. My hair-sprayed locks will hardly move as I speed down the highway in my Corvette convertible. Who cares if I get pulled over? My new breast implants will convince the hapless officer to let me go with nothing more than a warning.
I love the new me! I feel younger just thinking about her.
But one thing I can’t control is my vision. Two years ago, I discovered my eyes are aging faster than my psyche is prepared for. I now require reading glasses because some asshole decided to set the print on pill bottles, jars of sauce, and instruction manuals to two-point font.
I wonder if this is karma, punishment for my previous arrogance. Up until now, I enjoyed perfect 20/20 vision. Near and far, I could see it all with pristine clarity. And I’m slightly ashamed to admit that I boasted about it. I was proud of my perfect vision, as if I’d given birth to it and skillfully raised it to profitable adulthood.
Ironically, I once wanted glasses. In my early teens, with no actual personality I could identify, I was searching for ways to stand out, to give substance to a me that felt generic and unformed, a primordial being devoid of shape. Wearing a fashionable pair of specs would give me a “look.” Character would seep into me from these magic glasses through the acne-clogged pores of my face. I’d become suddenly outgoing, witty and interesting.
My father was an ophthalmologist so my family got all our eye-related stuff for free. OHIP covered eye exams but we got free goods and services, like frames and lenses, from the eye-glass shop where my dad referred patients. I suddenly wonder whether these freebies were on the right side of ethical.
Either way, I got the idea I wanted glasses. So I started squinting at my food at the dinner table, and bumping blindly into the living room furniture.
My dad took me to his office in the basement of the local clinic where I sat in the big exam chair. This was the first test I’d ever taken that I was supposed to fail; I had to convince my dad I needed glasses. When he pointed to letters on the Snellen chart, I knew I was allowed to see the big E and a few lines below that, but by what line could I convincingly pretend the letters were blurry and start guessing wrong? By what size should I mistake a B for D? I decided on the third line from the bottom. I squinted and hesitated and pretended I couldn’t see well enough to name the perfectly clear H.
This wasn’t the only test. He handed me printed cards to read and letters set in red and green stone patterns. Partway through, I must have forgotten the mandate. I’d never failed anything in my life; it wasn’t in my nature, and by the end my dad knew I’d been faking.
“There’s nothing the matter with your eyes,” he said.
I felt dejected for days but eventually got over it and with adulthood came a strong appreciation for being able to stand 20 feet away from the chart and see what a “normal” human being can see.
And then I hit 40, goddamn it.
At a routine appointment, my current optometrist asked about any changes in my vision. I admitted I sometimes had trouble reading in a poorly lit room. He shone laser-bright light at my retinas, puffed air at my eyeballs, tested for colour-blindness and depth-perception, and this time I tried my damnedest to pass.
“You have some age-related deterioration in your vision,” he said. Age-related? Screw you, you lab-coated doofus. “These changes occur when you’re over forty. It’s happened to me too.” He indicated his own eyeglasses. This didn’t comfort me.
He gleefully handed me a prescription as if it were a winning lottery ticket and I wandered out into the bright afternoon, blinking because my pupils were the size of satellite dishes from the drops he used to better illuminate my retinas.
- When I spend the night waiting for my teenager to return home safely from a party, the next day the glasses will hide the purple bags of sleeplessness.
- I can use them as a fashionable accessory, blinding others with the glint of the rhinestone-covered frames.
- Wearing glasses to see tiny print makes me look less geriatric than holding the object at arm’s length and squinting at it like Mr. Magoo.
- I’ll look smart and sophisticated.
- I’ll be able to see.
At the frame store, I was overwhelmed by the choice. While some frames looked ghastly on my face, so many others looked just fine. Like hundreds. How to choose? The store had a two-for-one, BOGO thing going on, so I ended up with a sturdy, practical pair that make me look bookish, and a flimsy frameless pair with bling along the sides.
I doubt I’ll actually wear clothes made for teenagers, or get a tramp stamp tattoo or a boob job. But I might save up for laser eye surgery and hope I’m a strong candidate for a successful outcome.
But if I ever need bifocals, just shoot me.