Health And Family

Have you seen my glasses?

MIDLIFERY - Twink Macaraeg -

I swear it happens overnight. You, with the 20//20 vision all your life, on the morning of your 40th birthday, will open the paper, and the fine print in some of the ads (which you’d always prided yourself on not overlooking) will be a tad blurry. You will rub your eyes repeatedly, wash your face until the last micro-speck of waterproof mascara is gone, apply teabags or cucumbers (even though you know that they’re just puffiness remedies) and still the letters don’t get any clearer. 

You may have a close friend or relative who’s an eye doctor or from a clan that owns an optical shop. From him/her you will receive  among sundry milestone-appropriate presents  your first pair of reading glasses, slim as a fountain pen, in a sweet floral case. A little sticker on the lens says .75. Then, as when you were in high school, you will try to console yourself that 75 is still a passing grade.

In the next three days you will make those glasses a conversation piece. “How cute, ’no?” you say as whip them out to appreciative ooohs and aaahs. But you promptly lose that cunning little thingie in the shuffle of notes at a conference, or in between the pages of the dozen books and magazines that you abandoned with the intent to pick up at a later date.

For around two months, you’ll make do without a replacement. You will notice, though, that  counter-intuitively  you are now bringing your face farther from, rather than nearer, the menu when you want to see what cheeses are in the pizza quattro formaggi.

Then, your friend’s precocious two-and-a-half-year-old is showing off his newly acquired reading skills and totally without guile, he will hold up a squash ball and ask, “Do you know what this says?”

The answer is an exaggerated, “Ohv coourse nohht, Nickeeh! Whyyy dohhn’t youu telll mee?” Then you realize that the reason you’re extending every vowel is less that you’re mimicking some character out of Batibot than giving yourself a couple of extra seconds to make the minuscule words out.“Super slow!” Nicky declares, proudly, and you think, for a moment he’s talking about you.

So you buy yourself reading glasses at a boutique. It will take you one hour to select a style that you think evokes Sexy Librarian and you won’t balk at the four-figure price tag because, after all, you’re making an investment in something that combines fashion and function in equal measure. But because you insist on keeping your specs in the case with the designer’s name emblazoned on the cover, you will find it too cumbersome to take them out whenever you need them. They will lie for the most part, unused, in your purse, until the bag itself is stolen from where you thought you had safely stowed it (under the table) while you dined al fresco at a weekend market. Subsequently, items that the thief deemed worthless are recovered from a trash can in a gasoline station and returned to you. These include your grubby wallet  stripped of cash, but IDs and credit cards (presumably cancelled anyway) intact, Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, and the keys to your gym locker. The purse itself and your branded reading glasses are gone.

Trauma from the incident will keep you from doing anything but paying utility bills for a while, so getting new ones will take several weeks before you go back to the eyewear boutique and purchase a slightly less expensive pair. You will ditch the designer case and instead take to carrying your eyeglasses latched onto your cleavage. With the robbery fresh in memory, you are more cautious about where you place your belongings so the glasses stay with you for some months until your birthday comes rolling around again. Whereupon you will find that .75 isn’t a good enough grade anymore.

You will then realize that spending money on designer eyeglasses is an exercise in diminishing returns. But you will also find that cheaper isn’t necessarily better. The wire rimmed ones have plastic reinforcements on the handles in which your hair will get caught, resulting in discomfort whenever you take your glasses off, not to mention a constant dishevelment of your coiffure.

So you experiment with novel designs of the type hawked in tiangges. The ones with the retractable handles. The ones that fold in half. The ones that twist and snap. They all will work better in theory than in practice. One resembles a hard squarish necklace. The two lenses are joined by a magnet meant to be pulled asunder, and then connected again around your head. Wearing it makes you feel like a character from Star Trek knock-off. The space it takes up doesn’t make it the handiest accessory, but at least its clunkiness diminishes its chances of getting mislaid. However, the thing’s inventor didn’t contemplate someone with a ponytail trying to wear it. As the ponytail is your defacto ’do, you will abandon this bizarre/bazaar discovery to clutter your dresser alongside every other piece of ridiculous faux jewelry you’ve ever received.

In sharp contrast to those are the tiny reading glasses your husband brings from Singapore. They’re composed entirely of two lenses, smaller than a scrabble tile, and a clip meant for your nose. They work wonderfully; you can be onstage reading index cards at a podium and people in the audience won’t even know you have them on (they will wonder, though, why you sound slightly ngongo). When they vanish, one day, when you could have sworn you’d laid them on the saucer beside you, the only possible explanation is that they were swallowed by either your toddler or your dog. When you’re unable to find a similar model in three subsequent visits to the city state, you will conclude that its makers were forced to halt production because the Mini-Me glasses were deemed a choking hazard.

Over the years and several repetitions of the Replace or Discard cycle, your grade hits 2.00. Your need for reading glasses will be such that they’re removed from your person only when asleep or engaged in some water sport  including taking a shower  but even then, they’re never more than an arms-length grope away. They are crucial now to fully enjoying your food, telling the time, helping your son do his homework, counting your wrinkles, and finding the Amoxicillin among the Ponstan, Strepsils, and Viagra.   Otherwise, when they’re not on your face, they’re atop your head  a look that you’ve convinced yourself is glamorously carefree. On sunny days, you sport both shades and eyeglasses; alternating them between face and head  a look that is glamour-free, but you couldn’t care less. 

You’ve since found the perfect reading glasses. Inexpensive and indestructible, they even have built-in lights to read in the dark or guide you through an underground cave. You got them at the nearby Watsons but discover that not all outlets of the drugstore chain carry them so you stock up. Six pairs in your current grade, another half dozen in 2.25, in 2.5 and so on. Whenever you go to the pharmacy to replenish your child’s vitamins, you also pick up several pairs of reading glasses, just in case. 

Eventually, you will amass a Balikbayan box-load of the things. You scatter them throughout your house, your cars, the office, the homes of your relatives and friends, the badminton court, along your jogging route, and every semi-regular haunt. You stow them in the first-aid kit, inside board games and jigsaw puzzles, all your pieces of luggage, your bank SDB, and even bury some in the garden (marked by a malunggay tree) for really serious emergencies. When your husband complains that the reading glasses are taking up too much space in the safe, you throw out your old passports and stock certificates from companies run by oligarchs to make room. When you husband suggests that you’ve developed a full-blown addiction, you offer to give up smoking and chocolate chip cookies  much as this will pain you greatly  just as long as he leaves you be to make a spectacle of yourself.

You look at it this way: You may be resigned to the relentless onslaught of degenerative presbyopia, but, by golly, after all you’ve been through, no way can you be accused of being short-sighted.

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