“How long do you wear your contact lenses?”
I took a deep breath and braced myself for the optometrist’s reaction to my answer: “About 16-17 hours a day.”
She gave me a disapproving glance, scribbled something in my chart, and launched into a mini-lecture on the importance of giving my eyes a break from my contacts. I revealed the shocking news that I don’t have a pair of glasses at all, not even as a backup, and her face clouded over. And then she asked if I knew my prescription.
I have been wearing contact lenses for 20 years. I certainly know my prescription: about -1.75 in my left eye, and +1.5 in my right eye.
“Ohhhh, I see why you don’t have glasses.”
And suddenly the tension dissapated.
You see, I am both near-sighted and far-sighted. When I was a small child, I had a lazy eye (my right eye) and I had to wear a patch on my left eye to keep it from getting overworked and to encourage the lazy eye to work harder. At that point I was entirely far-sighted, but my left eye got better and better until it flipped and got worse in the other direction.
When I wear glasses, I get dizzy. I had a wonderful optometrist in the States who explained it all to me when I was a graduate student, confirming what I already knew from experience. Basically, the two lenses in my glasses distorted my vision in opposite ways (one making the world bigger and one making the world smaller) and that confused my brain, giving me a slight sense of vertigo any time I put them on. Contacts are easier to handle because the lens sits right on my eye and doesn’t cause as much distortion.
I threw out my (completely unused) backup pair of glasses that day and never looked back. If a contact lens rips or comes out, it’s easier for me to just navigate the world with not-quite-perfect vision instead. If you ever see me scrunching up my left eye or covering it with my left hand while I look at a sign or peer at a presenter’s slides across the room, you know I left one of my contacts out that day.
And so I chuckled to myself when the optometrist encouraged me to take a break from my contacts now and then, taking them out early when I “watch telly in the evening.” I close my left eye to watch TV. I close my right eye to read a book. If I don’t have my contacts, and I don’t want to strain my eyes, the world is always just a bit fuzzy around the edges. But I guess I can deal with that from time to time — or at least I can agree to it when, after five visits to the optician, I was finally able to walk out with a prescription.
First British contact lens prescription and a year’s supply of contacts? Check.