My Four-Eyed Summer

My relationship with lunettes goes back to 5th grade, when a boy in my class saw me squinting at the chalkboard and told me I might need glasses. I was utterly appalled, of course. The teacher had obviously written “HO CNEWIHG GUM,” and really, what business did a kid who wore “husky” jeans have calling anyone else near-sighted? The gall!

But I was nearsighted. And after years of increased glasses wearage, I got contacts, which I wore without incident until June. Then, a freak eye problem forced me to spend the long, hot summer in glasses.  I don’t want to brag or anything, but for a while “they” thought I might have the worst eye infection known to man. It was horrendous and the tale could fill another blog post, but for now I’ll just say that I consider a piece of protozoan trash called acanthamoeba to be my micro-archnemesis.

How I felt in glasses

Until then, I had never minded and actually enjoyed wearing glasses occasionally. I have two moderately funky pairs – one black and Ray-Ban, one tortoiseshell and Prada – that seemed socially acceptable to me. But after a few days of forced glasses-wear, I fell into a deep malaise. It was one thing to wear glasses when it was your own choice – when you yourself decided to give your eyes a break, when you yourself wanted to pose as a hipster while viewing an indie movie. It was entirely another when you had no say in the matter, when an amoeba might or might not be feasting on your cornea.

Glasses in winter are also different from glasses in summer.  Pair them with a chunky sweater and boots, and you’re instantly a stylie magazine editor, screenwriter or art gallery director. Pair them with a flowy sundress or halter top and jean shorts, and you’re just plain dorky. Walk down the street in February, no problem. Walk down the street in July and endure your glasses sliding down your nose on a trail of sweat. Or fogging up from the 200% humidity.

I wore glasses to the beach, barbecues, sceney restaurants, a black-tie wedding, and yoga (please do not try this at home). I was forced to blow-dry my hair when I might otherwise have gone wavy, because I couldn’t risk adding another layer of doofiness to my already handicapped appearance.

I knew things could be 1,000 times worse, but I couldn’t snap out of the malaise. I had no idea how long the eye infection would linger, and with no choice but glasses, I started to feel a way I hadn’t felt since high school: different from everyone else and separate from the rest of the world.  Surely everyone else was relaxed, at peace, and enjoying the summer. I was wearing glasses and sitting in the eye doctor’s office every other day. I had to cancel a trip to see my sister because of this thing. The glasses I had once been proud of selecting without two or three fashion consults no longer seemed funky but instead ginormous and cartoony. I expected to look in the mirror one day and see a plastic schnozz and Groucho moustache in the reflection.  The mere blurry sight of their cases when I got out of the shower was repulsive and depressing.

I’m not sure why the whole thing bothered me so much. Maybe it was pure vanity. Maybe it was the disruption of my normal routine. Or maybe it was because the glasses were a constant reminder that something wasn’t right. I don’t know, but I felt awful, and like the world was out of whack.

Four times a week, then once a week, then once a month, I returned to the corneal specialist praying that I’d get the go-ahead to ditch the glasses. Finally — FINALLY! — I did. My co-workers cheered when I walked in wearing eyeliner and contacts. I couldn’t have been happier. It didn’t matter that I quickly realized how much better my vision was in glasses. Or that I’d noticed a lot fewer tension headaches during the null-contact phase. I would endure the slightly fuzzy computer screen and sensation that an elephant was sitting on my forehead for a sense of normalcy and the ability to wear my non-prescription Wayfarer sunglasses again.

As is common after an ordeal, I learned a valuable lesson that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I know, I know – you’re reading with baited breath for the pearl of wisdom I’m about to reveal. What deep insight have I gained from my brush with dendritic corneal ulcers? What new perspective do I have now that I’ve stared into the eyes of the devil amoeba? I’ll tell you. Here it is. Are you ready?

I don’t care how itchy your eyes are. I don’t care how sausage-like your  upper lids are.  I don’t care that thick tears are pouring down your check and you’re not crying.  Word to the wise: never go to the eye doctor.


My Four-Eyed Summer