Wednesday, June 15, 2005


I've been wearing glasses since 11th grade, when I noticed I couldn't see the blackboard in trigonometry class. I thought the improved vision would help improve my grades in math, but apparently there was no correlation. My first glasses were ultra-nerdy looking and I hated wearing them. They did help me see better, though. They probably would have made a difference on the softball field in tenth grade gym class, where I was never a very confident player since I could never tell where the hell the ball was. But I wasn't playing softball anymore and never really did again. I was running track and cross country by this time and I didn't need my glasses for that. Glasses were a necessary evil, used for school, driving and watching movies. They always had to be removed before kissing a girl and they were one more thing to keep track of.

By the time I got to college, I was pretty well used to wearing glasses. I had graduated to a pair of horn-rimmed preppie-style frames that were almost cool. I wore them most of the time, I especially needed them in the larger classrooms where I would sit way in the back. It wasn't as much of a stigma to wear glasses in college since being studious-looking wasn't such a social handicap. There were plenty of smart girls who liked guys with glasses. I still had to take off my glasses to make out with them, though.

Towards the end of college I found a pair of gold Ray-Ban Aviator frames someone had left behind and got them fitted with my prescription and a new feature: "transition" lenses that automatically turn dark in the sunlight. Now I actually had glasses that made me feel cool. They were fairly stylish looking and they became righteous sunglasses when I went outside. I hung on to those babies for years, way past the time when they were still fashionable. (In fact I'm sure I still have them somewhere.) Finally, glasses were something to be proud of.

That is until I moved to Washington D.C. and met my girlfriend Sue Kennedy. By this time the Aviators were pretty much relics of the previous decade and mine were particularly crappy looking. Having been sat on and mangled various times they were crooked and had a broken bridge. Also the "transition" feature caused them to have a constant dullish tint even indoors which made me look fogged-in most of the time. Sue complained that she couldn't see my blue eyes when I wore them, and convinced me to try contact lenses for the first time. I dutifully went along -- anything to make her happy. But I found contacts to be a continuing irritation. My eyes would dry up so bad I had to carry a bottle of saline solution with me everywhere to keep re-wetting my eyes. Also, at the time, they hadn't come up with a way to correct my astigmatism in my left eye using contacts, so I was always a little out of focus. I wore them for about a year, but eventually Sue and I broke up and I went back to the Aviators.

When I moved to New York and was working pretty steadily as a temp paralegal, I decided it was time to up date my eyewear. I went to a Wall Street Optometrist and picked out a pair of classic "Malcolm X" style glasses that I have been wearing ever since and are still my all-time favorites. They are clear glass and I usually only wear them at night or indoors, since I also picked up a pair of new improved "transition" lenses that turned even darker than the old ones and stayed lighter indoors. Those became my everyday glasses and I have grown so accustomed to them that they seem like part of my face.

Or at least they did until a few weeks ago when I got some new contact lenses. I tend to go way more than year between eye exams and lately I've been noticing that I can't see certain things like road markers, walk signals, grocery aisle signs. I also noticed that, apparently due to the improvements in printing technology, they are starting to print things smaller and smaller so that they are impossible to read. I decided to go visit the local eye doc and sure enough, he recommended new specs. And not just for distance. He wanted to give me some "progressive" lenses to help me see street signs, computer screens and instruction labels. They call them "progressive" because they are a symbol of your progression into old age.

Sorry, doc -- I'm way too young for tri-focals, how about some of them fancy new contact lenses?

You see, contact lens technology has made vast improvements in the past 20 years. The lenses are thinner, more breathable and able to accommodate my astigmatism. The only problem is that if I get lenses to correct my long-distance vision, I won't be able to read anything. Ah, but they have a solution for that as well, it's called monovision. What they do is give me one lens (the right) corrected for distance and one (the left) corrected for closer-up. It took a few days for my brain to figure out what the hell was going on, but once I got used to it, it was like I could see for the first time since eight grade.

But here's the best part: now I get to wear really cool sunglasses! I bought myself a pair of Ray Ban "Predator" wrap-arounds and they are mega-badass. I never want to take them off. In fact when I don't need them I just slide them up on top of my head like one of those hip European dudes. And they are so dark I can look right into the sun without blinking, which is useful since I drive home facing west with the sun right in my eyes. It's been a long love-hate relationship with my eyewear, but I think that now I've finally achieved a balance. I can't wait to go outside again so I can slip on my shades and look slick. I even wear them when it's cloudy.

I think I'll put them on right now.

Ciao, baby...