I haven't needed glasses for three months now, but it clearly takes some unknown time longer than that to break a habit of nearly eighteen years: this morning, as the dawn light reached through the windows that border my ceiling, I reached for my glasses on the bedside table, nearly dashing a glass of water to the concrete floor of my downtown loft before the usual morning realization that I can, in fact, see.
It is these little ways in which my life has shifted since I undertook vision-correction surgery on this day three months ago. Four score and eleven days ago. The initial shifts were in my vision as my eyes improved — at first in one, and then more slowly in the other, as I had a different procedure for each eye thanks to an infection some years earlier leaving its mark on the surface of my left eye: a scar visible only to eye doctors and which nobody would ever describe as dashing.
When the vision improvements slowed — though they improve yet, in increments too small for me to discern — the shifts in my life were neither as drastic nor as shocking as I had expected, given that
after I had given up on contacts, which I suspected were complicit in, if not directly to blame, for issues such as the aforementioned scar, glasses had become part of my face.
Worse yet, they were becoming cool: geek chic became a style. I had spent years — practically all of grade school and a large part of my collegiate life — attempting to select frames that were the least visible, kept the lenses closest to my face, looked the least intimidating or nerdy or smart or, heck, insert your favorite glasses adjective here. But today, if you walk into a store selling glasses frames, you'll see bold, chunky frames that scream I am glasses and pictures of sexy, pouting people in various I am glamorous poses. Glasses were a thing that everybody wanted. The assistant at my optometrist's office informed me that people bought designer frames with prescriptionless lenses, simply to have as a fashion accessory.
Finally, something that was so me that a designer friend who used my website as a sample client incorporated chunky frames into her final designs was In, was popular, was cool — and I was going to take it away. I might as well consider a nose job.
I knew that oftentimes what people saw when they looked at me wasn't me; they saw glasses, and they saw whatever they associated with glasses. Who would I be without my frames? Who is Gretchen Grundler without her oversized frames? Who is Harry Potter without his coke-bottle glasses? And what use is magic, anyway, if you can't right vision troubles with something more elegant than bits of metal or plastic suspending corrective lenses between your eyes and what you cannot see?
What use is science — what use is technology? — if I were to reject these fantastic advancements in favor of clinging to some strange attachment to glasses as a significant part of my identity?
I realize the enormity of the mere fact that I had the chance to leave my glasses behind — to walk into that surgery room with the machines and the blinking lights and the whirring noises — I had the opportunity, the means, the support, the everything. And I don't want to say that people who for whatever reason stay with the frames are any less; merely that, for me, it was a crisis of identity, a step away from my childhood and the security blanket that my glasses had become. I had that opportunity, and I took it.
And for every moment my glasses are not skittering across the dance floor, every moment my glasses are not losing a screw, every moment that my glasses aren't slipping down my nose, every moment that I actively benefit from my peripheral vision, every night I lie abed and watch the moon through the window and watch the lights on airplane wingtips blink their way toward the airport to the south — every morning I reach for my glasses and experience that little joyful rush of realization that I can see — I am glad I did it.