The Humiliation of the Eye Exam

I have been wearing some form of vision corrective since I was two, when my mother noticed that I was cross-eyed and whisked me off to the doctor for an eye patch and some glasses.  My pirate phase was thankfully short-lived and the lazy eye was corrected, but I wore glasses until the sixth grade and have been wearing contacts ever since.

Maybe all my posts should have pirate pictures in them.

Now I have never really had an issue with the whole glasses and contacts thing.*  Although a few mean girls made fun of me in kindergarten and wouldn’t let me play with them on the playground due to my four-eyes, it wasn’t ever really a thing for much of my school days.  When I was little I always had crazy and colorful plastic pairs of glasses.  I usually broke a pair a year, due to my tendency to play rough on the playground, and I would have a few weeks of wandering around with taped up eyeglasses before I finally got a new pair.  Same thing with contacts–I got used to them quickly and have no issue poking my fingers into my eyes.

My vision problems are far-sightedness, with a residual focusing issue from my lazy eye which only really effects reading and can be fixed with reading glasses.  I can see pretty decently without my glasses or contacts–only the details are blurry.  I tend to wear my contacts most of the time although I do own a suitably hipster, black-framed pair that I wear around bedtime.  Sometimes I ponder wearing my glasses outside the house, but you know what is even more awesome than looking like a poser in your stylish black-framed eyeglasses?  Peripheral vision.  Yeah, I like that.  So I am typically a contacts girl through and through.

Also dumb: glasses without lenses. Dumb.

Since I have worn corrective eye ware for years and because I want to look at things for a living I am fairly vigilant about attending my yearly eye exam.  I get paranoid about things like corneal scratches and glaucoma and oh, also MACULAR DEGENERATION which is terrifying.  So today I went to my annual eye exam and thank goodness, things are fine.  No macular degeneration.  In fact the nice eye doctor folks even took a giant blow-up image of my retina and were able to point out the macula and, well, it looks pretty good.

A retina, but not my retina.

I’ll say this, however: If the eyes are the window to the soul then the eye exam is truly a soul-dampening experience.

If you’ve never had an eye exam before it goes a bit like this.  You go into a room and the assistant asks you questions, like if you have headaches, and you’re not sure whether to answer truthfully or not because sure, everyone gets headaches, but yours aren’t eye related, so you say no.  And then you’re asked three or four times if you had redness or irritation in your eyes and you just started part-time working in a house with four long-haired cats so of course your eyes are a little itchy but it isn’t a big deal because you aren’t really allergic to cats at all, because you have one single short-haired cat and he doesn’t bother you, so you say no.  And then you take out your contacts and you look at a screen and try to read some tiny letters and then some tinier letters and you feel pretty silly because you probably got most of the letters wrong–but they are halfway across the room and who can actually read that anyways?

One Persian is adorable, four Persians are an (adorable!) allergy.

Then they do the invasive stuff: take a really bright picture of your retina (but at least they do not dilate your eyes, oh, the horrors) and then blow a puff of air into both eyes to test for glaucoma.

Then you rub your eyes a lot because they are teary and go into another room and the actual eye doctor comes in, asks you the same questions about redness and if your contacts are still awesome and how much do you wear your glasses and you don’t sleep in your contacts right (heavens no)?  You are then confronted with the dangling facemask of doom and the doctor does the contact prescription test, which consists of rotating a number of lenses in front of each eye while you look at a row of letters and asking which is better, 1 or 2?  And sometimes 1 is really way better than 2, and the letters are much sharper, and vision is great!  And sometimes 1 and 2 are basically the same.  So this happens for a bit, until you think that your existence will be nothing more than people asking you 1 or 2 or 2 or 3 and then it is over and you can put your contacts back in.

Oh but wait it isn’t over, because the whole experience is repeated while you are wearing your contacts.

So this is all very bewildering and the end result (for me) is basically this: your eyes are getting a little better every year, but we aren’t going to switch your prescription because from what you’ve told me you spend a lot of time reading or staring at a computer screen networking and applying for jobs because you are unemployed.  So your eyes are healthy and make sure to change your contacts every two weeks and thanks for coming in!

Now what is soul-dampening (crushing is too strong of a word really, we’ll reserve soul-crushing for OBGYN check ups) about all this, besides not being able to tell 1 from 2 or not being able to differentiate between a P and an F on the sight board, is that one day my eyes aren’t going to get any better.  One day they will plateau, and one day they will get worse, and one day I might (gasp) cross into near-sightedness which would really be an affront to my +1.50 (left eye) and +1.75 (right eye) powered contact lenses.  The horror.

So that was my experience at the eye doctor’s.  Not terrible, but still sort of weird and uncomfortable and awkward.  Soul-dampening.  But at least it wasn’t as awkward as the skinny hipster man with a mullet I saw out in the lobby, trying on his black-framed lenses while wearing a too-small Purple Rain vintage t-shirt.  Trying so hard, buddy. Trying so hard.

*My vision impairment only bothers me when it comes to finding suitable and affordable colored or FX contacts for costuming, because it is near-impossible to find far-sighted FX lenses and near-impossible to find them for under $200 a pair.  Disaster.

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