The last thing I wanted to do was make a spectacle of myself. I mean, how often does a mom get invited to go shopping with her grown daughter and two of her friends? Naturally I was trying my best to fit in and demonstrate that I was "with it”, and everything was going okay until we went into one of those trendy bath and body shops at the mall.
We were having a perfectly lovely time, perusing the shelves, sampling lotions and comparing fragrances, and that’s when I made my big mistake. I picked up a bottle of shower gel, took one look at the label and shrieked, "Ooh, gross! This one’s called ‘Essence of Meat Loaf!’”
Immediately every head in the store jerked my direction, and customers came running from two aisles over. I proudly handed the bottle to my daughter, so she could see my bizarre discovery for herself. As she read the label, suddenly her cheeks turned bright pink. "Mom”, she said, "This doesn’t say, ‘Essence of Meat Loaf’, it says, ‘Essence of Mint Leaf’”. Then she added evenly, "This sort of thing wouldn’t happen if you were wearing glasses.” And she was absolutely right. I’d made a spectacle of myself by not wearing spectacles.
Much as I hate to admit it, I guess I’m a bit too vain to wear glasses, even though clearly (or in this case, unclearly) I need them. It’s actually a pretty common thing among women. In the classic movie, "How to Marry a Millionaire” Marilyn Monroe is blind as a bat and goes around bumping into door frames and reading magazines upside down until she winds up on the wrong airline flight, seated next to a guy who convinces her she’s a knockout even with her glasses. (Gee. Ya think?)
The odd thing is, in my case there was a time when I actually wanted to wear glasses. It’s true! My dad was, of all things, an Optometrist, and when I was about six years old I begged him for a pair of those snazzy little cat-eye glasses that were all the rage, so he made me a pair, even though there wasn’t a prescription in the lenses. I wore them proudly in a newspaper photo of our family going into church one Sunday morning.
Not long after that, however, my infatuation with wearing glasses sort of tapered off and I lapsed into one of those universally feminine "I need you but I hate you” relationships with eyewear that lasted for almost twenty years. But then that whole ugly Essence of Meat Loaf incident occurred. It was a pivotal moment and I knew I had to do something, so with about the same level of joy I experienced when preparing for my last colonoscopy I made an appointment with an optometrist the very next week.
The first thing his receptionist did was to inquire how long it had been since my last examination. I didn’t have a clue. I told her that I vaguely remembered sitting in a waiting room reading a magazine article about Donald Trump and Marla Maples’ wedding, but beyond that my memory was a bit sketchy. She suggested that my current pair of glasses might give us a hint, so I fished around in the bottom of my purse until I found them. I scraped off an old breath mint that was stuck to the lens, and put the large plastic frames on my face. I looked like Ralphie from "A Christmas Story”, but not in a good way. The receptionist winced and wrote, "Early nineties” on my chart.
The next step was my vision test. I began by reading the letter "E” with astounding accuracy. Not only could I see this letter clearly, but it has been my experience that virtually every eye chart known to man begins with the letter "E”. The next few lines, however, presented more of a problem. A "Z” blurred into a "2”, and a "B” was a "3” one minute, and an "8” the next. The further down I read, the more my confidence was shattered. Just how bad did it get? Well, the bottom line is that for me there was no bottom line. Just some tiny dots dancing around like a bunch of gnats.
I had no idea my eyesight had weakened so much. I guess it just happened so gradually I really hadn’t noticed it. Not that it matters now anyway. The point is that I have a brand new pair of progressive bifocals, and I can’t believe what a difference they make!
No more sliding the church hymnal back and forth in front of my face like a trombone. No more missing exits on the freeway because I couldn’t read the sign until I was literally zipping past it. No more squinting at the computer screen. No more ordering at a restaurant by pointing blindly to an item on the menu and hoping for the best.
And I’m sporting some brand new frames, too. Now instead of looking like Ralphie, I look like an odd cross between Sally Jesse Rafael and Buddy Holly, but not in a good way. Oh well. The important thing is, the next time I make a spectacle of myself I’ll at least be able to see exactly what I’m doing!