“There is nothing more we can do,” she said. “The condition will just worsen over time. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you.”
I bit my lip and stared out the window. I’d always known this day would come. For months, I’d been suffering silently, too afraid to mention the symptoms, frightened of what it would mean.
But it got to the point where I could be silent no more, people were starting to notice. The writing was on the wall – it was just a shame I couldn’t read it.
So here I was and there they were, and the only thing left for me to do was say, “Do these frames come in tortoiseshell and do I need bifocals?”
The optometrist said I was lucky, I’d held it off for quite a while. “It happens to most of us eventually,” she said.
But I didn’t feel lucky, I felt like I was standing at the beginning of a long dark tunnel and waiting for me at the end was a plate of mashed vegetables, a beige cardigan and a bulk packet of Depend.
I was uncomfortable and nervous, but then the optometrist dropped the “s” word and suddenly I could see a world of opportunity before me: shopping. This was the upside to my vision-slide. My health cover did what my husband never has, encouraging me to buy, buy, buy at least one pair of frames every year of my life.
I headed confidently to the well-lit vertical racking and started trying on, initially drawn to the round frames to record my own John Lennon Double Fantasy. When I looked in the mirror, I started singing Imagine alright. I imagined a world where people were laughing heartily at me because I looked like a mature-age student at Hogwarts School for gifted wizards.
They were immediately placed back and I went for something sexier, dark and cat’s eye-ish. Something that could have me filling in for Lee Lin Chin and reading the SBS news should she call in sick.
My choice of the word “sick” was apt because that is exactly how I looked – sick – but not in a “wow, you look so fabulous, your outfit is sick!” way. I looked sick, like I needed medication.
I tried something more sedate, something pastel, but when I looked in the mirror, my grandmother stared back at me.
I jumped in fright as she’s been on the other side for nearly 12 years now.
I tried on almost every pair in the shop, trying to get framed. I caused something of a spectacle when I picked up an expensive pair, the sort I imagine are worn by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
They had a weird Freaky Friday kind of magic to them and inexplicably I adopted his mannerisms, imperiously waving my glasses about whilst speaking in a posh voice about Australia’s financial capacity and what Lucy and I got up to in Double Baaaaay on the weekend.
Then I went for a brown, nondescript pair that made me feel like Woody Allen so I got jittery and started apologising to everybody just for being alive.
A bejewelled pair had me reaching for a bunch of pink gladioli to throw out to my adoring possums.
Big sigh. I was defeated by this exercise.
I needed to stop trying to look like somebody else; I needed to find my own fit. Something less like them, something more like me. Something practical, easy, reliable, cheap, but good.
Eventually, I settled on a pair that fitted that criteria and a week later I returned to pick them up. I paraded them in front of my husband, who took them off me to cut off the price tag.
Even without my new glasses on, I could see the colour drain from his face. He’d seen the price and it well exceeded my health fund rebate by several hundred dollars.
Hey, it’s not my fault. How could I possibly read the teeny print on the price tag? I’m vision-impaired, you know, have some sympathy …
This column originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of The Australian Women’s Weekly.
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