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Hypothetical Blindness

Hypothetical Blindness

out of focus glasses

Mr. Right-Click has been on my case about getting LASIK to remedy my legally batshit blindness for several years now.

Up until very recently, I had been ignoring him.

This is mostly because the thought of “lasers” cutting a microscopic “flap” on my eyeballs — at least initially — doesn’t strike me so much as alike an “advancement of technology” so much as it sounds like something hatched by the mind of Dr. Mengele in the effort to determine who gets sent directly to the showers and who is saved for the labor camps.

I got my first pair of glasses in tenth grade. They were red-rimmed and not totally different from the signature pair worn by Sally Jessy Raphael.

I didn’t need them.

But there were times when I couldn’t see the chalkboard completely clearly in class, and that was the standard my parents had set for when I would need vision correction. “Can you see the board in class?” they would ask.

I told you YES.

Until sometime in Sophomore year, when I still could mostly see it but the answer was no longer an indignant YES! and therefore, the time had come for me to visit Dr. Hatcher and his dark room full of letters projected onto the wall, with the mechanized robotic lenses that switched out and a disengaged voice that asked — A or B? (B) B or C? (B) B or D? (D) D or C? (C) Really? Yes. Look again. C? Yes, C. OK. I would answer the questions but worry that I had gotten them wrong, worry that there was no way for anybody to double check them, think that it was strange that there was no way for somebody to double check this.


I rarely wore the glasses, or the gas permeable contact lenses I couldn’t put in by myself. I learned to drive a car on a stick shift Volvo with a learner’s permit and a pair of Sally Jessy Raphael glasses. Once I got my license, I never wore those glasses again, except in order to see the numbers on my bathroom scale each morning went I went to college a few years later. But by that time, the Sally Jessys had broken in half, and I would hold one lens up to my eye like a monocle, the correction was enough to allow me to read the tiny dial, and the rest of the time I made do without any correction. As college progressed my vision worsened to the point of making people think I did not like them enough to say hello to them on campus, but really it was because I couldn’t see them, my vision having moved beyond “cannot really see the board” and into “cannot really see anything more than ten feet in further away from me” in just a few short years. On a vacation home, I got lenses I could put in and leave in until they fell out.

I had lenses that I put in and left in. I put them in, with much difficulty, or had somebody else do it, and left them in for as long as I could swing it. I would wake up in the morning and grab eyedrops to keep the lenses from sticking to my eyeballs. If I went swimming, I would pray that nothing would dislodge the lens, not because I was worried about losing it, but because then I might have to find somebody to put another lens in, and that would be uncomfortable. When I graduated from college, it occurred to me that perhaps it was time for me to learn how to put in my own lenses, but I still didn’t take them out or clean them, and this didn’t seem to bother me.

In graduate school, I started to worry about losing my vision. My eyes started to bother me. I scratched my cornea a few times in my sleep. I started taking my lenses out at night. I started making sure I had enough light to read with, I started wearing my glasses after about 12 hours because I had to. I started thinking about what would happen if someday I couldn’t see anymore, not because I was really and truly worried about it, but because I just thought wow, so much is tied up in this for me, what would I do? How would I change? Could I cope?

It’s kind of hard not to run away with the metaphors when you talk about vision and correction and hypothetical blindness. I’m getting LASIK on Thursday, because even though I’m afraid of the lasers and the flap (the flap?!) and all that, I hate the hassle, and I’ve always hated the hassle. Before you get LASIK, they make you wear your glasses for a week, no contacts at all, because the extended wear tends to reshape your cornea, and this affects how good of a correction the surgeon can give you.

So this week, I’ve been wearing my glasses everywhere. Before this week, I’d wear my glasses at night, before going to bed only, and in the mornings only. Admittedly, the periods had been getting longer in recent years as my eyes have become less and less tolerant of time with contacts on. But now I have to wear the glasses to the store, to drop Mini off at school (“Mommy?! Why you wear dose, dose GLASSES?!”), and to the gym (by the way, there is a reason you don’t often see people wearing glasses at the gym, and it’s not vanity).

When this week is over, I’m going to stomp on these fucking ugly glasses. Reshape your cornea my ass. They make you wear these glasses so that even if your correction isn’t that great you’re just so damn happy to be out of the stupid glasses you’re jumping for joy. Admittedly, I hate the way I look in glasses, but I also just hate the experience of wearing them. I hate the feeling of them on my face, I hate the lack of peripheral vision, and they make my eyes water. To top it all off, the prescription isn’t 100% up to date and they are kind of scratched up. At one point I actually went out and bough a cooler pair of glasses, but I quickly broke them, as if the Universe could not allow me to have an attractive alternative means of vision correction. And what’s the point of replacing them, if next week I get to get rid of all this crap, ostensibly forever?

broken glasses

But let’s face facts: what I really hate about these glasses is that they don’t let me do what I’ve been doing all my life with my vision issues: deny them. The truth is, without these glasses, I can’t fucking see anything. I’ve met people who are worse off than I am. I once knew a girl who, without her glasses, could no longer discern colors. I’m not that bad. I can still see you. I can still make out your features. But don’t expect me to be able to read anything beyond a few inches from my face. Don’t expect me to know if you’re smiling or frowning.

Without help, your face is just a blur of color against a backdrop of grey.

I’m hoping that, after Thursday, that will change forever. And that I won’t be left with empty “flaps” (?!) or total blackness. And I won’t need any of this shit anymore. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed.

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Comments (21)

  1. Jun 9, 2010

    I had LASIK about nine years ago because I’d been wearing glasses since fifth grade and contacts since I was sixteen and could afford my own and, GAH!!, I HATED glasses with a passion and contacts were only slightly better. Since I’m nearsighted, my presciption made my eyes look tiny, and contacts were just a pain.
    I had LASIK at a now-defunct clinic in Beverly Hills that promised lifetime touch-ups fopr free, and it was a rather surreal experience. Now, my eyes are degrading a bit. I’m hoping to afford a touch-up before I have to resort to the dreaded glasses again. Sigh.

  2. Good luck with the surgery! I worked as an optician for a while, we had patients who had the surgery. Some still needed a minor RX for driving (usually related to glare issues) or reading but overall they were much happier. My husband has talked about getting it done, he is really over his glasses. But for now we are wearing glasses & while he has been vision-challenged forever I never had to wear mine all the time until after kids. I guess my tired eyes couldn’t take it anymore.

  3. Jun 9, 2010

    I fall into the “almost can’t see colors sans glasses” category and I am tempted daily by getting surgery. My fear is that they wont be able to totally correct my vision…sometimes there is not enough cornea to shave off as much as you need! Ack! Anyway, DH had PRK (which I don’t think they do anymore) as part of some kind of Navy thing and he loves it.

    Good luck! No glasses/contacts will be awesome.

  4. Jun 9, 2010

    Good luck Anna!

  5. Jun 9, 2010

    I couldn’t read the post because I don’t do eyeball things. NO EYEBALL THINGS. I can’t type that L-word but I gather from the comments that you’re having it, so good luck and don’t tell me about it because NO EYEBALL THINGS.

    I actually went to the eye doctor last night. I put it off for years (literally, years) because NO EYEBALL THINGS. I was so nervous that I didn’t eat all day because I was afraid that I would throw up (and in spite of that I almost DID throw up twice during the exam). They had a model of an eyeball in the exam room and I had to cover it with a Kleenex so I couldn’t see it. Some people are like that with dentist…for me it’s the eye doctor.

    Afterwards they started talking to me about contacts and I nearly assaulted them, all of them, with their eyeball talk. NO EYEBALLS.

    Wait. We weren’t talking about me? What?

  6. Jun 9, 2010

    Good luck with the surgery Anna. Everyone I know who had it said it was amazing–my father in law had it before he passed away, and he said it was the most surreal moment of his life when they were done, and it took him about 2 weeks to get used to “hey! I can see!”

    Oh, and Kerry? That comment pretty much is still making me giggle. Thanks for that!

  7. Jun 9, 2010

    I had PRK almost exactly 4 years ago and it was life changing. No exaggeration. Best thing ever.

    Let us know how it went!

  8. Dave Theobald
    Jun 9, 2010

    Hey Anna,
    I assume the LASIK procedure is being funded by Halls and Acuvue and Bed Bath and Beyond for the product placement in the lower photo, right?!

  9. Jun 9, 2010

    You won’t regret it (as long as you aren’t going to one of those $500 an eye guys).

    I had 20/600 vision, which meant I couldn’t see my alarm clock when it was 3 inches from my face. I was skeeved out by the idea of the eyeball slice, but my husband had it done a year before I did and had zero problems.

    When I woke up the next morning it was like a miracle had occurred. I could see. It was amazing. Like Jenny said, it really is life changing.

    Good luck!

  10. Jun 9, 2010

    Lifetime touchups! See, just the concept of touchups is a little disconcerting. That sucks.

    My doctor gave me the option of having the old person correction (like with one for distance and one for close-up) this time, but since I don’t really have that problem yet I said no I’ll wait. So I’m either going to have to wear reading glasses or have another surgery at some point. But still, this should still make a big improvement.

  11. Jun 9, 2010

    They said that the nightime halo problem has virtually disappeared now with the latest surgical techniques, particularly for people like me who have no complications like astigmatism or anything. Apparently you still might have the halos at first, though, that they sometimes take a while to go away, but I honestly think they make you wear the damn glasses constantly for a week beforehand just so that you’re so ecstatic to get out of them that you don’t care about shit like that.

  12. Jun 9, 2010

    Alexis, my husband thought he was in that category because when he first went in for a consult they told him that he wouldn’t be able to do it. But then he went back and they said that things had changed. Now, his surgery was more complicated than mine is going to be, mine is the like two seconds under the laser kind, whereas his was way more intensive and it involved . . . I don’t even want to tell you because Kerry might read it and I don’t want her to pass out. Suffice to say, he can see perfectly now and he’s like a LASIK evangelist.

  13. Jun 9, 2010

    Thanks Jenni

  14. Jun 9, 2010

    Eyeballs are pretty gross, it’s true. I’m not going to even tell you about Mr. Right-Click’s version of the surgery. OOGA BOOGA.

  15. Jun 9, 2010

    I think it’s one of those things you just cannot imagine until you have done, and then you wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. I’m hoping, at least.

  16. Jun 9, 2010

    I will, assuming I can see after tomorrow.

  17. Jun 9, 2010

    Don’t strain yourself, Dave.

  18. Jun 9, 2010

    No, I’m going to a guy that people go to already blind and they have cornea transplants and can see. It’s probably overkill to go to that guy but, fuck man, these are my eyes, I’m not messing around. I don’t want to go to some eye center place!

  19. Kate
    Jun 9, 2010

    I went to the guy that did the surgery for the other eye doctors. I wasn’t fuckin around either.

    They give you valium and you are on the table for like three minutes total. It’s not a biggie at all.

  20. julia
    Jun 10, 2010

    Hi, just reading now, hope everything went well. Julie

  21. Lisa
    Jun 10, 2010

    I’ve heard it’s wonderful. I’m holding off until after kids because I’ve heard several women say their vision changed permanently after their pregnancy.

    Hopefully they’ll give you Versed before surgery, that stuff is AMAZING.

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