‘It’s just like potty training, you’ll be fine,’ my friend tells me. I’m disturbed. I’m getting varifocals for the very first time and she gives me advice like that. ‘It just takes lots of practice before you get used to them.’
Two years ago Mr Optician warned, ‘next time, we might be talking varifocals, I’m afraid’, and clicked his teeth in pity. I waited for ‘like a grandma’. It didn’t come, but we both heard it, because varifocals are a sign of grandma. My own nan had them, two milk bottle thick half-moons perched on the end of her nose. Varifocals are for old people, it’s the law.
It turns out my eyes listened keenly to Mr Optician. “Might be” morphed into “100% definite” over the two years and I’ve lived in a quiet blur for months now. It’s not always the worst way to be, avoiding sharp lines of reality, but when I found myself holding my book at a ridiculous arm’s length, I got measured up.
‘You long sightedness should level out in about ten years,’ Mr Optician smiles at me like I’m in for a treat, and I need something to look forward to.
A part of me dies.
I try on my varifocals when they are ready.
‘I can see!’ I blurt out, in front of Mr Optician. It’s a bit sad really, admitting that. Mr Optician smiles thinly, he’s heard this sort of thing before. He’s already got my money, there is no need for him to patronise me now, clicking tongues no longer necessary.
You’re not allowed to drive, he says, with the look of someone who will take my new glasses off me if I try.
But I can’t drive and haven’t got the money to run a car anyway – I’ve just handed a wad of cash over for new specs. I walk home.
I’m walking and everything is clear and bright like just after rain, the sky washed blue, the edges of everything is hard, too clean and weirdly sharp. Perspective is all wrong; the ground looms large and wide, it feels like it’s going to smack me in the face. I have sore eyes, because any sudden movement and I have a dizzy turn; stairs are a nightmare and turn into giant steps.
The next day, my eyes like boiled eggs, I have to have a lie down in a darkened room like a Victorian heroine suffering an attack of the vapours, by mid-afternoon. I can’t do much writing, the black letters on white are hard and nasty and they hate me. Reading hurts. The arm of the glasses rubs the top of my right ear red, so I wear them at an angle, my vision turns wonky. I sulk.
Day three, and it’s better. I still have a moan and a whinge, because it seems the thing to do. By Monday I don’t remember until mid-morning that I’m wearing varifocals.
My friend was right. It is like potty training, after all, this varifocal business. Kind of. (But for slightly older people.)