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?