For over a week, I waited for my new glasses to arrive, the ones with rose frames and…bifocals. I spent that time wondering how a young person like me could end up with bifocals so early. At 44, I was getting regular mammograms and had endured a colonoscopy. I worked on core strength at the gym so I wouldn’t fall and break a brittle bone; I chewed calcium tablets and listened to elevator music by choice.
I was already doing so many old-person things, and now bifocals too? It didn’t seem fair.
When my glasses came in, I drove to my optometrist’s office and sat down at a little table across from the office manager, Selena. She would instruct me on the use of my bifocals.
“Okay, you’re still gonna look straight ahead to see most everything,” she began, “but you’re gonna use the bifocals when you read or do things close up, like texting.”
I made a doubtful face. “I don’t need bifocals to read or text now,” I countered. I could win this one.
“Well, you and the doctor must have discussed bifocals during your last exam because here they are, and you should try them,” Selena said. She had apparently gone through this routine with a few other resistant bifocal wearers.
“Alright,” I said. I opened the hinged box to reveal my new glasses: there they were, neatly folded and gleaming, with a bright round faux diamond sparkling near both temples. They were nothing like the plain-Jane frames I usually got; these were a true accessory, with color and lights. I put them on. So far so good.
“Okay,” said Selena. “There are a few rules to wearing bifocals.”
There are rules for wearing my glasses? It’s not bad enough to just have bifocals, but I need to learn new rules to see? That’s bogus. Disgust and Self-righteousness came to join Doubt.
Selena continued: “You’re going to notice that your peripheral vision is now a little blurry. That’s because the bifocal is in the lens. You’ll have to actually turn your head to see things to the side. Try that.”
These instructions flew in the face of all the old deer hunting rules my father had etched into my brain: “SIT STILL! DON’T MOVE IF YOU DON’T HAVE TO! DON’T TURN YOUR HEAD—USE YOUR EYES TO SCAN.”
I decided not to share these hunting rules with Selena, as I was sure she would think I was just making excuses. I put the glasses on and stared straight ahead. That worked; I could see. I glanced sideways without moving my head and sure enough, there was blurriness. How would I be able to hunt deer in these glasses? It had been 23 years since I had gone hunting with my dad, or with anyone for that matter, and chances were slim that I would ever go again, but still—this was a blind spot, which was unacceptable.
“I hate these,” I said, and took them off. “I don’t want them.”
Selena became agitated. “You haven’t even tried them! Put them back on, and here, read this piece of paper.” She handed me what looked like a fortune cookie slip, and I placed it where I might read a student essay, or the newspaper. It read: “You are a stubborn woman, a difficult customer, and unrealistic in your expectations.” Wow, that was really on the mark. Maybe Selena knew better than I thought she did. I put the glasses back on and practiced turning my head left and right, up and down, so I could look at objects through the regular lenses. When it came to further attempts to utilize my bifocals, I began to bob and weave, like a chicken pecking at seed.
“There you go!” said Selena, clapping her hands. “Now you’re trying! You’ll get used to these in no time, and you’ll be surprised at how natural they become.”
I had to believe her because the evidence was already there. I looked at my fingernails through my bifocals: dirty and split. I held my leather purse up to my face and gave it the bifocal once-over: dull and smudged. Maybe these bifocals would work for me after all; they were already helping me to identify imperfections, one of my favorite hobbies in life. It would be like having a built-in microscope.
No wonder my mother loved hers so much. We are two peas in a pod.
I glanced in the mirror then, the round one sitting on a base on the desk. I tilted it so I could see my face full-on. To my surprise, there was my mother staring back at me.
“Hello Kathryn,” she said.
“Hi Mom!” I said back. “What are you doing in there?” I touched the mirror and she touched me back.
“I came to see you in your new glasses. They look grand! Those are keepers; you’ll get great use out of those.” I kind of agreed with her; the frames did brighten up my face, and there was every indication that the bifocals would serve me well.
“Ya think?” I said.
“Oh yes, definitely. And you have the new kind where the line doesn’t show, so nobody will know you have bifocals unless you tell them.”
“What about the color, Ma? They’re rose.” We usually get brown, my mom and I. I didn’t want to accidentally buy old-lady glasses. Not only were these pinkish, but the fake diamond set by the hinge would catch the light. I have a life-long habit of buying old-lady everything, from foam slippers ordered out of the backs of magazines to big white padded sneakers at Sears. All of my prescription sunglasses appear to have come from the Phyllis Diller collection.
My mom took a sip of coffee from her favorite plastic travel mug and looked at me with love in her eyes. “You’re too hard on yourself, Kathryn. You look beautiful in those glasses. I have to go wake your father now because we’re going to Fleet Farm. You give those a good try.”
My mom disappeared and I was once again looking at myself in the mirror. I guess my new glasses didn’t look too bad. I looked up and Selena sat there, expectant and hopeful.
“I’ll give these a trial run,” I said, and Selena brightened. “Good!” she said. “People who start off with a positive attitude usually succeed. If you go in negatively, you’ll never adjust.”
I knew this to be true for just about everything. I would also speak to my father about the use of bifocals in hunting situations. He would have good advice about that, and whittling too, and a lot more.