Last week my optician informed me confidently that there had been many advances in contact lens technology since my last traumatic experiment with taking my glasses off, about fifteen years ago.
Yesterday he stuck a plastic lens on each of my eyeballs and sent me out into the street to cling on to Pete’s arm and blink a lot. I spent a lot of time staring up at the security mirror in a hardware store, thinking, so that’s what I look like without my glasses.
Then I went back for my lesson in taking them out and putting them in again. The right lens came out at the second attempt.
My lesson was supervised, not by the dishy Irish optician, but by a lady in the scary-nurse style, who obviously knew I was going to give her trouble. After explaining the technique to me once, she spent most of the rest of the time sighing, while I struggled to put my fingers in my eye and remove a lens which remained mysteriously invisible, despite feeling like it was roughly the size of a dustbin lid.
Every so often, scary nurse pointed out that I wasn’t pulling my lower eyelid down far enough. I would fail to move the lens again. She would sigh again. She mentioned that we only had an hour, and that I needed to take them out and put them in again twice more before I would be allowed to take the trial pack of lenses home.
The left lens didn’t emerge until Pete was called upon to coach me. I managed to put them back in with no difficulty, but my eyes were so bloody sore, and my fingers so shaky, that dishy Irish optician took them out and sent me home, with another appointment to go through the fun and games again in three weeks’ time.
If I really want the lenses, apparently, I’ll find a way.
Do I, though? I have been safely tucked behind various different sizes of spectacle since I was 13. At 20 I had a month’s contact lens trial and an allergic reaction. I don’t yearn to be free of my specs; they’re part of my identity. Spending an hour without them and being able to see is mildly mind-blowing, and accounts a little bit for my inability to concentrate on taking the lenses out.
I know scary nurse does contact lens lessons every working day of her life, but she didn’t seem to have much idea about how psychologically weird it was for me to be able to see myself clearly in the mirror, right up until the bit where I had to poke myself in the eye. Having to process all that, while being sighed at by that bloody woman, was not relaxing. Gratifyingly, she was slightly miffed that I was able to do it as soon as she went away and Pete sat down with me; unfortunately she didn’t take the hint and fuck off entirely, as I heartily wished that she would.
My eyes hurt a lot today. I’m not at all certain that I want to go back and go through that again. The advantages are what? To walk into a pub in winter and still be able to see. To wear cool sunglasses. And for that I have to put my fingers in my eye. I don’t think so.