Up until the age of sixteen, I wore bifocals. Let that sink in a minute. Sixteen . . . with bifocals. Oh yeah, and they were black, horn-rimmed. I am not making this up. How I have any self-esteem today is a testament to my sense of humor and thick skin. I actually thought people were laughing with me.
During childhood, I don’t remember being bullied about my bifocals. I took a proactive approach to make my eye wear appear cool to my friends.
(1) I let my friends borrow my glasses to burn fire ants at recess.
(2) The canteen lady couldn’t read the date on a really brown penny? Pass the bifocals, Kerry!
(3) A real crowd favorite was passing them around during class. If you held the bifocals just right, with the line between the lenses dividing the teacher in half, her top half was tall and skinny and her bottom half was short and fat. It was like looking at one of those funny mirrors at the carnival.
Math was never so entertaining!
By adolescence, though, my friends knew all my material. And worse, my middle-aged parents asked for my glasses so they could read the menu in restaurants. It made them look cheap and, well, to be honest, pathetic.
By this point, I had decided. I was not going to look like Roy Orbison in my driver’s license photo.
The plan was to get contacts for my sixteenth birthday, so I pestered my mom relentlessly in the months leading up to the big day. She resisted until I played hardball on the menu reading. She set up the appointment with my ophthalmologist the next day.
The day of the appointment I was anxious. I rehearsed the speech outlining my case to get contacts relentlessly. Finally, the nurse took me back and dilated my eyes. About ten minutes later, the doctor entered the exam room. Showtime.
I slowly lowered the flimsy sunglasses as maturely as I could. It was time to discuss, man to man, a simple business transaction. So he would understand my conviction on the matter, I planned to look at him straight in the eyes. However, the examination light behind him seared my dilated retinas like fresh tuna. My sensitive eyes teared up. The doctor was moved by my emotional plea – he agreed that I could try contacts before I even finished my speech!
I was so happy I blew right past his conditions…
In order to prepare for contacts, I had to wean myself off bifocals first. I had to train my eyes from looking through two lenses down to one. My doctor said I needed to do this for 12 weeks. No big deal I thought – 12 weeks to freedom!
He presented two options.
Option #1 was costly. My parents would have to fork over $250 for a new pair of glasses that I would only wear for 12 weeks. I knew this would never work. My dad was an accountant. Other accountants called him thrifty behind his back.
He routinely required us kids to look for stray coins on the ground every time we went to the mall. Growing up with bifocals, I was used to looking down because I didn’t want to be noticed. However, there were benefits to wearing bifocals. Loose change was magnified on the ground. Compared to my siblings, my productivity was through the roof. There was no way he was going to lose me as a revenue stream.
Option #1 was off the table before we left the office.
Option #2 was costly, as well, but not in a monetary sense. Realizing my dad’s desire for the cheap route, my doctor thought a moment. Suddenly, he looked at my bifocals and back at me. I could tell he had an idea. I didn’t know what he was thinking, but my spidey senses tingled all over with impending doom.
He quickly whipped out a roll of scotch tape and an Exact-o-knife. He covered the bottom half of my glasses with the scotch tape and with his skilled surgical hands, he trimmed the edges. In sixty seconds, he occluded the bottom lens so I couldn’t see out of them, and VOILA! I had my single lens glasses.
He stood back and grinned. My father grinned. My siblings laughed. My mother looked away. One roll of $1.29 scotch tape would last the necessary 12 weeks.
Shoot, I could find $1.29 with one pass in the food court on the way home. Sold!
An hour earlier, I walked into the doctor’s office with my self-dignity and pride hanging on by a thread. When I walked out, I had neither. Option #2 took care of that.
I would be forced to wear the taped up glasses at school for 12 weeks. Please don’t forget that I was 16. It really wasn’t when I was going to get beat up, it was how often. Looking back, my doctor should have thrown in a free “Kick Me” sign for me to wear too—it could not have humiliated me any more.
I prepared for the worst. I drew up a will. I left my eyes to science so that somehow, some way, some smart researcher in a lab (probably wearing bifocals) could prevent this from happening to another kid.
Over the weekend I perfected my tape application technique so that the edges of the tape blended into the frames beautifully. I actually thought they looked pretty good.
At school, I summoned all my creative powers to spin this thing to my liking. I asked everyone what they thought of my new “smoky-lens” glasses. I bragged that it was in vogue in the larger cities. I noted that Robin Leach sported a pair himself on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. And you know what? They bought it.
Twelve weeks later, I went to school touting my new Bausch & Lomb breathable contact lens.
Whatever you are facing right now, stay hopeful.
Hope changes us.
Hope makes terrible people and terrible situations tolerable.
Hope makes wonderful people and wonderful situations worth the wait.
Hope makes us more grateful, which is the foundation to happiness.
Hope is magnetic. It draws other hopefuls to us. Doesn’t that sound like the crowd you want to hang with?
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