The Way We See It

Last week my eight-year-old daughter found out that she needs eyeglasses. My husband and I both wear contact lenses and also got our first eyeglasses about her age, so we were concerned how she might take the news. As we picked out a cute pair of frames, she seemed almost giddy with excitement. When I was her age I begrudgingly wore mine, hating every minute of it. I was amazed that she was taking it so well. “I just want to see better” she said.

Don’t we all? Well, not quite all, but a large number of us do. According to statistics, 225 million Americans wear some kind of corrective lens. Of that number, 64% wear glasses; 11% wear contact lenses.

Although I got my glasses at age nine, I didn’t really wear them until I was in high school. And even then only when necessary to see the blackboard, when watching movies, or when driving. I guess, like most teenagers, I was too self-consious to wear them all the time even though I needed them.

I remember one day on the bus on the way to school, I suddenly realized that I had forgotten my glasses at home. My dad (who lived in a different home at the time) was picking me up after school and taking me to the DMV so that I could get my driver’s license. Crap. I knew that I wouldn’t be allowed to take the test without my glasses since my paperwork specified I needed corrective lenses. So what did I do? I turned to my friend, Melissa, who was sitting behind me on the bus and asked to borrow her glasses. That’s right, I got behind the wheel of a car wearing glasses that weren’t mine. Well, needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway), I failed. Yep, I failed my driver’s test on my first attempt. It could have had something to do with the way I ran over the cones during my three-point turn. Or, maybe I failed because I couldn’t see where the hell I was going.

In college I developed a reputation for being somewhat aloof. Friends would routinely tell me how so-and-so told them I had snubbed them in the dining hall. Fact is, by that time my vision was so poor, you could be ten feet away and flailing your arms wildly to get my attention, and if I wasn’t wearing my glasses (which I never was), I would stare right through you. I didn’t mean to treat people as if they didn’t exist. It’s just that according to my eyes, they didn’t.

I remember vividly the first time I put in contact lenses. After spending almost two hours at Lens Crafters, trying to work up the nerve to poke myself in the eye, I finally got them in. And for the first time since I was nine years old, I could see everything. Trees had leaves, buildings had edges to them, people had features. It was truly amazing. It’s like I’d spent the last sixteen years living in a Monet painting to suddenly find myself in an Ansel Adams photograph.

I couldn’t believe what I had been missing all those years. If only I had been as open to wearing glasses as my daughter is at her age.

Now that I’ve come to rely on contact lenses to correct my vision, I worry that I’ve come to rely on them a bit too much. Being the kind of worst-case-scenario girl that I am, I worry what I would do if suddenly I didn’t have access to my daily-wear lenses. What if there were an earthquake (it’s possible where we live) and I needed to care for my kids in a crisis but I couldn’t see two feet in front of my face?

It’s thinking about scenarios like that that have me considering Lasik eye surgery. But if it took me two hours to put a contact lens in my eye, is there any way I could go through with the procedure? And being the worrier that I am, I can’t stop thinking about the potential what ifs. What if something were to go wrong and I could no longer see? I couldn’t bear the thought of never again seeing my children’s faces.

Besides preparing for the impending apocalypse, another reason I’ve considered getting Lasik is because I feel tremendous guilt over the waste involved in wearing contact lenses. For reasons that have to do with the health of my eyes, I wear daily disposable lenses. So I put in a new pair every single day. While the external packaging is recyclable, the lenses themselves—which are made from some type of plastic I haven’t yet figured out—are not recyclable, as far as I know. Thinking about those bits of plastic piling up in the landfill weighs on my conscience. That and worrying about the proximity of that plastic to my eyeball and whether endocrine disrupting chemicals are leaching from it and into my body.

I don’t know enough people who have undergone Lasik surgery to have a good sense of the before and after benefits in everyday life to make the leap right now. In the meantime, I’ll be keeping my options, and my eyes, open.

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