For almost thirty years I was a woman who wore glasses.
For the five hundred dollars they cost, the lenses corrected my vision to handle both distance and reading, before miraculously morphing into sunglasses. They sat comfortably on my face from tooth brushing to tooth brushing seven days a week.
Now, after cataract surgery I can see perfectly. What I’ve unexpectedly realized is that my glasses changed not only the way people see me…but also how I see me. And the change makes me ponder why I’m having such a hard time adjusting to this alternate version of my face.
About a year ago I started feeling like I had a piece of waxed paper in front of everything I saw. My doctor suggested cataract surgery, the safest, most commonly performed operation in the world. In 2015 not only does this procedure remove the cloudy lenses, it replaces them with artificial lenses (called intraocular lenses) that restore eyesight so well that it looks, as one of my friends put it “like someone polished the universe.” All done in a fifteen minute operation. Without one ounce of discomfort.
What I hadn’t counted on was feeling as if I lost part of my identity as a cool glasses person. While glasses are always the first thing to go in a typical movie makeover, without mine I feel as if something is missing…and it’s not an improvement. I understand that if I think I look better in glasses… better when plastic is partially covering my face…better when ‘the window into my soul” is obstructed… I’ve got some self esteem issues to address.
Never in all the decades I wore glasses did I ever feel the need to remove them to take a photo. Maybe because I started wearing them in my 30s, past the “boys don’t make passes” time of my life, I never related to the ugly ducking who’d ditch them to feel pretty. Having decided early on that contacts were not for me, I looked to Diane Keaton and Tina Fey and saw intelligent, sensitive, industrious, role models. I never felt my blue eyes were masked behind my frames. And now my face feels incomplete without them.
Most of my world has never seen my face without glasses. When I gaze with super spectacular sight at me catapulted back to my naked 1980s visage, my wrinkles and blemishes spring into prominence. My glasses covered not just my eyes, but the surrounding crow’s feet and puffy bags, the cheekbones, the frown lines. Without the built-in photo shop effect the gauzy film of blurry vision supplied, I feel vulnerable, exposed, unadorned.
This is a me I’ve never seen…literally never…and it’s going to take some getting used to.
It takes a few minutes longer in the morning to get ready now, the extra time devoted to more carefully putting on my makeup. The lights of oncoming cars no longer make me squint when I drive at night. I’m going to a black tie wedding next week and if I’m honest, the people attending who never saw me before will not see an inferior version because I am sans spectacles. At an age where I’ve never been wiser…or more grateful…I will attempt to use my excellent eyes to more compassionately behold the beauty in the mirror.