Kage Baker wore reading glasses.
That is, she wore them to read notes and scripts at convention events; to watch television (but not at the movies); and to actually read books least of all. That was because she found it difficult to get the time to read. She didn’t wear them to write, unless it was rising midnight and her eyes were tired. She had pretty good eyesight – if not quite binocular – and so she always treated her glasses as unnecessary and indulgent jewelry.
She had to wear an eyepatch in her childhood, following surgery at age 2 to correct the inward strabismus of one eye. The surgery was not a clear success; Kage was left with one eye turning outward, instead. She’d actually enjoyed the eyepatch – Pirate, don’tchye know, matey, aaar! – although the classic pink rhinestone kitty-eye glasses she needed to wear for a few years after that were, in her opinion, an abomination. She ran spectacle-free through most of her life, until her 40’s, when the reading glasses became necessary. And then she chose scarlet frames, no more damned sparkly cat eyes.
In fact, Kage was talking thoughtfully of taking eyepatches up again in her last year. We were doing some pirate events just before she got ill, and she amused herself by designing various decorative and/or ladylike patches to wear over the wandering eye. I thought it was a great idea. I was looking forward to Mrs. Drumm, my redoubtable cook from Dickens Fair, adding a nice Christmassy eyepatch to her ensemble. Kage said she could change to a nice black one with white lace trim for the evening hours, so as to look respectable …
I. on the other hand, have worn glasses continuously since I was 10. That’s when the nurse who did the annual eye exams at school realized I had memorized the eye chart, and was actually half-blind. Everyone else had just assumed I was appallingly clumsy, as I went through life falling over furniture and siblings and caroming off door jambs. I embraced spectacles with a fervent glee, even though I too was burdened with the damned cat eyes. Mine were blue.
Most of my glasses over the years have been horn rims or plain steel, as close to perfectly round as I could fine. National Health specs, as Kage observed. When we got into historical re-creation, those were also pretty much acceptable for eras from the 17th to the 20th century; I had a special, primitive pair for the 16th century gigs. I was too blind to go without specs in costume … and as the years went on, Kage didn’t want me to try. For one thing, I fell down altogether too much. For another, I did all the driving and it’s considered optimum for the driver to be sighted.
Most of all, though, Kage disliked change: I wore glasses, I had worn glasses for years, so I should always wear glasses. I didn’t mind – I predate soft contact lenses considerably, and the hard ones hurt.
Bearing in mind Kage’s oft-repeated instructions – because her taste was always better than mine – I went hunting for good old National Health frames recently. They are harder to find these days, and are usually pompously advertized as “John Lennon Frames”: which would have caused that gentleman to say something rude, I have no doubt. Anyway, I found them and took them to my optometrist today.
My astigmatism she described, rather awed, as “massive.” Whoo hoo! Personal Best! I need more magnification, but not much else … except, she told me quite casually, for the cataracts growing in both eyes. WTF? I had just assumed that my glasses were getting old and scratched – which they were, but evidently my natural-born eyeball lenses were, too.
A lot of things can cause cataracts, but mine are due to exposure to UV light. Well, I do live in sunny California. And I have spent several months each year out in the sun all day. And I just can’t stand the way it burns when I rub sunscreen in my eyes, so I stopped doing that … I am now advised to cultivate hats with brims and consider sunglasses. And since sunglasses are not cool on me (I look like a pug in a sad MIB costume), hats it is.
The sun is not my friend. But I already knew that.
But technology has a nice surprise waiting for me. When my cataracts can no longer be corrected for by glasses, I get implants. That’s the drill these modern days: hollowing all the cloudy crap out of the lens, then inserting a nifty little artificial lens inside my aging eye. And, best of all? After that, I won’t need glasses anymore! They can fix my near-sightedness, my astigmatism, everything! So right now, I’m 60 years old with cataracts – but by the time I’m 65 or so, I’ll probably be able to walk around spectacle free for the rest of my life.
Amazing. Just … amazing. Now I can hardly wait for my eyes to go south.
I wonder if I can get IR bifocals?
and the surgery is the easiest, most painless activity ever.
Kate, I got cataract surgery on both eyes, several years ago, and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. I’m scarcely exaggerating when I say that it was like Dorothy, opening the door onto Oz. I had no idea how muted and sepia’d my world had become, since everything was being filtered through dirty yellow lenses. For weeks, it was a delight, just to look at things. The vividness of the colors amazed me. As you’ve been told, your overall vision will improve, as well. I still need glasses to read, but I can drive at night again (no blinding flare from oncoming cars) and my prescription is so slight that I can easily go without, much of the time, and I do. When comes the time, I think you’ll be very pleased with the result.
I am looking forward to it! My doctor was at pains to tell me that it couldn’t be done before the cataracts reached a certain point – I get the impression that lots of people react with excited eagerness and have to be advised to be patient. But I must say, it completely cured me of any self-pity about my aging eyes. I have something to look forward to – actual sight!
I have three astigmatisms in one eye and two in the other. For me, the worst of it is that without sunglasses, even the weakest, whispiest of evening sunbeams that shine my way feel like icepicks in my eyeballs. It doesn’t help that I have practically no melanin in my eyes. Light eyes never do. but hooray for better living through technology!
Athene – does astigmatism make one light sensitive? Having had both all my life, I never thought about it. But I have noticed a growing difficulty with glare and light levels, much more than “normal”; which is, apparently, due to the burgeoning cataracts. Ha! I can now serenely wait for the solution.
As for melanin – my friend, you are seriously melanin-deficient. Not as bad as Kage, who I think actually had negative values for melanin, but you are super-fair. Luckily, though, you look elegant and sophisticated in dark glasses.
This topic has been much on my mind lately, since my eye doc told me I have a small cataract sneakily growing in my left eye — the one with outward-turning strabismus when I’m tired BTW.
The inter-ocular lens sounds wonderful but I’m a chicken when it comes to having a needle stuck in my eye when I’m awake. Major surgery doesn’t bother me. Knock me out and have at me is my philosophy (I have a spine that is magnificently butressed with titanium wedges and screws to prove it) but the eye thing? Lawks! And ugh.
Mary Lynn and John’s comments made me feel better, as did your post. Maybe cataract surgery won’t be so bad after all. It would be nice to have binocular vision and depth perception. I’ve heard depth perception is a pretty good thing to have.
By all accounts, this is a safe and not painful surgery. Be brave! Think of the advantages! I am very excited at the idea I might be able to get away with just reading glasses. And yeah, depth perception is cool – the lack of it was one of the things that kept Kage from ever driving.
You can’t see anything and you can’t feel anything; what’s more, with good drugs you don’t care.
Freud’s original claim to fame was discovering the optical anesthetic properties of Opium.
Miz Kizzle, I was technically awake for my cataract surgery (right eye only, caused by detached-retina surgery, what fun!), but they give you LOTS of really good drugs. I was frankly terrified to the point where I greatly amused my surgeon by saying, when I was on the table being prepped, that I could not do this and would be leaving now. He said really? and I said no, just whining, and we proceeded to proceed. I truly didn’t feel a thing. Totally painless, both the surgery and the recovery,