I have just about managed to pick myself up off the floor. Dizzy with the shock of the bill, I wheeled past the Krispy Kreme donut stall in Bromley and sought immediate comfort in a strawberry glazed. Of course, I felt no better afterwards, and the sheer pain of it all had become overlaid with a miasma of guilt at yet again turning to eating carbs for comfort.
What caused this horror of horrors? I’d just been presented with the bill for my new glasses: an ordinary pair and a pair of prescription sunglasses. I have now reached the point where it is illegal for me to drive without glasses. Again.
I first found out about my short-sightedness at the age of 7 when my parents received a letter to say that the authorities had found a DEFECT in my vision. Even at that age, my shame in my imperfection knew no bounds. I cried and cried and felt awfully ashamed at being so defective but didn’t talk to anyone about my feelings because I don’t think there was anyone around who would listen.
My parents eventually took me to the optician’s to measure me up for those pink NHS framed glasses – do you remember them? There were utterly dreadful and didn’t suit me at all but this was not a concern to take seriously. So great was my embarrassment and shame that I never wore them and I can probably blame the non-development of my hand/eye coordination on the fact that I simply couldn’t see properly.
A succession of cheapest and ugliest possible frames that I’d never wear later, including being forced to change and wear glasses in order to learn to drive, and finally I had an income and a credit card and contact lenses. Which suited me well until I realised that they had become uncomfortable and unsustainable. I don’t like the concept of daily wear disposable lenses. I don’t like the concept of disposable anything, really.
To cut a long story short I had LASIK surgery on my eyes in 2001 and never looked back. Honestly, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done and improved my confidence no end. Suddenly I was having debates and argument with all sorts of people! This was great until I realised a few years ago that I was squinting at the signs on the motorway. I mentioned this at my annual checkup and was told I was borderline shortsighted but came away with some glasses I saw as optional.
Today, however, I was presented the bad news that I have to wear glasses when driving otherwise I don’t meet the legal requirement for visual acuity. I’ve had to pay hundreds of pounds for a new pair of varifocals and a pair of corresponding prescription sunglasses and, with my half century looming next week, it feels like another nail in the coffin, another reminder of mortality. And an expensive one, at that.
I’m told that my eyes are currently changing so there’s no point in me having further surgery at the moment which would have probably to be repeated a couple of years down the line. When I enquired about lens replacement surgery, the sort that they do to correct cataracts, I was told that I’m probably too young for that to achieve a satisfactory result at present, since the replacement lenses are still quite rudimentary. How we take our eyes and brains for granted!
So it’s back to glasses for me. I chose a statement black Dolce and Gabbana pair, which is why it has set me back so much money. Frivolous and first-worldy I know, but this time I don’t want to cower behind my glasses, rather celebrate them as a style choice. I’m never hiding behind horrible glasses again.
On the bright side, wearing glasses will help hide my eyebags and wrinkles. It’s an ill wind.