Monday, May 3, 2010

A Farewell to Four-Eyes

I'm doing it.  I'm finally getting Lasik.  By the time you read this, I'll be laying on a table with my eyelids taped open, being forced to stare at a light on the ceiling while a laser slices off my cornea.  While this sounds like a scene from a James Bond film, or possibly the latest torture cooked up by the guys at Gitmo, in fact, I am paying big bucks for this kind of treatment.  We'll find out in a day or so if it's worth it.

I've had a love/hate relationship with my glasses.  Okay, it's more like hate/hate with a dash of well, at least I'm not blind thrown in.  I got my first pair of glasses in third grade.  I was eight, and that same year I also got braces, the kind of double-whammy of ugliness whose sole purpose is to "build character."  I don't remember having that "Look!  I can see the leaves on the trees!" kind of experience when I first got glasses.  In fact, I remember quite clearly leaving them on the windowsill many mornings, causing my teacher to scold me and move me to the front of the classroom.  Apparently I didn't think I was missing much without my glasses.

My glasses didn't have a huge emotional impact on me at the time.  Their effects grew as I got older and kids got meaner.  In elementary school, I was bursting with self-confidence:  to illustrate, in fifth grade I determined (through what evidence I have no idea) that I was the third most popular girl in my class, after Alicia and Nicole.  Alicia moved, though, and I got bumped to the number two spot.  If we hadn't moved to Eldersburg at the end of the year, who knows how popular I would have been?  I was on the fast track to popularity.  I could have been somebody!  I could have been a contender!

But we did move, and my glasses were a prominent part of the instant judgment passed by my new classmates on my first day of school.  As stereotypes go, glasses=smart is not a horribly painful one, but since smart=nerd=dork=victim, you can imagine it wasn't the ideal stereotype heading into middle school.  Oh, and middle school was brutal.  Not all of it, but the bus rides, oh the bus rides.  Why on earth would any adult think its a good idea to cram sixty kids into a bus with no supervision other than the driver who could never possibly see what's going on in the way back where the scary kids sat?  To this day, I prefer to sit up front, near the driver, out of sheer self-preservation.

The glasses-as-target trend faded in high school, for the most part, with a few rather painful exceptions that I thought about disclosing here but won't because, really, they still hurt.  Glasses-as-smart was something I have (rather obviously) internalized.  Being considered "smart" is such a key part of my identity - would that be true if it hadn't been for the 4.0 assumptions made about me in school?  (Which, for the record, I never had, nor did I ever provide my father with his oft-dreamed about "My child is on the honor roll at Liberty High School" bumper sticker.)

They say that the eyes are the window to the soul.  If that's true, then glasses are the sheer curtains people put up for privacy.  Honestly, there is something about glasses that shrank me, made me withdraw behind the protective plexiglass shield in front of my eyes.  I was always aware of them, always self-conscious and, to be blunt, convinced I was unattractive because I wore glasses.  Well, maybe less attractive is a better way to state it.  I know exactly how much my glasses held me back in high school because after I graduated and moved to California, I bought contact lenses and my world changed.  Not only did I see the world differently (three cheers for peripheral vision!) but I found this well of confidence that I didn't know had been dry all these years.  I changed the way I looked on the outside, but the real change happened inside.

Fast forward nine years to 2003.  We had moved to Utah, I had two kids and a horrible case of dry eyes from the desert air.  I abandoned the contacts for glasses again, and at the time it didn't seem like too big a deal.  I was tired of the routine and the work involved in contacts, and since I had already used my feminine wiles to secure a husband, contacts no longer seemed as vital to my self-esteem.  I've been back in glasses for seven years and can barely remember what it was like to be glasses-less anymore.  Ryan has been suggesting Lasik for years now, ever since he got bait-and-switched, but I've been reluctant.  First, I had to wait until I was done having kids, because what's the point of fixing my vision only to have pregnancy screw it up again?  Then, it was fear, because nothing says "bad idea" like "slicing open your cornea."  The thought of whatever they're going to do to keep my eyelids open is enough to get my stomach churning.  (I'm picturing tape, Ryan's picturing toothpicks thanks to a Tom and Jerry cartoon.)  I've reached the point where the perceived benefits outweigh the fear, and that is why I am going under the knife, er, laser today.

I don't know what my reaction is going to be when I'm done with the surgery.  Will I cry with joy?  Will I undergo another reinvention of my self-image?  Will it even work?  (I have very thin corneas, the only part of me that is too thin, of course.)  I don't know.  I know this, though - I won't miss my glasses, not even for one single second.


Michaelbrent said...

Em, you and Ryan compose the most talented couple I know. Your growth as a writer over the years (which I've been able to witness first hand over the interweb thing that I think is really starting to catch on) has been wonderful. Not that you were ever bad, but you are now what I think of as "darnright good" with maybe even a "goshdarnit!" thrown in to boot. Seriously, this was a great piece. Just goes to show that a good writer can evoke emotion in his or her audience, no matter the subject matter. Please keep it up and enjoy your new vision!

Emily said...

Well, since "goshdarnit" was really all I was aiming for, it looks like I've succeeded! :)

Dad said...

How about some details? I'll accept:
1. Snarky comments about how loud the laser was.
2. Or, now being able to tell your children apart.
3. Or, doing the blind thing taping around to find something.
4. Or, maybe a medical report like House.
5. Or, things that your kids did to mock your immobility.
6. Or, things that you'd like to have said to the medical people if they didn't have your vision in their hands.
That should do for now.


Shaun Roundy said...

Ah, Lasik. The best money I ever spent. It has probably saved my life several times by now. I hope it turns out the same for you, and that you don't go blind and have to type your hilarious denunciation of Lasik on your new braille keypad.

Emily said...

And you know it would be scathing too. I wonder if Apple makes a braille keyboard?