My glasses are different shades of brown, often described as tortoise shelled. They rest quite comfortably upon the bridge of my nose. They curl downwards to fit the curve of my ears. This pair of glasses is unique to me. I could describe to you the feeling of reading. I could describe to you the feeling of swimming. I could describe to you the feeling of waking up. I cannot describe to you the feeling of wearing my glasses. Round, oval, oversized, diminutive, glasses define more than your eye sight. Glasses represent one’s style and outward personality. Intellectual or chic, mysterious or bold, people often select their glasses to help them embody a certain characteristic. Looking at my pair of glasses I remember the day that I lost them buried in the sand. I remember the day in school when the lenses popped out because I was hit with a dodgeball by a girl twice my height. I remember the countless times that I would wake up and, too tired to open my eyes, would extend my arm blindly trying to feel for my glasses on my bed side table. I like to think that glasses have miniature eyes of their own. Because I wore them every day of my childhood, they have seen every small detail from when I guessed the answer of the riddle in Ms. Kim’s kindergarten class to when I won my first sailing race.
I am sure there are a variety of eye doctor’s offices, but mine I can assure you is the most chaotic. On any given afternoon, every child with glasses in New York City seems to be in Dr. Joe Fink’s waiting room. Every seat is taken. The floor is crowded with kids pushing cars, assembling blocks, and building Legos. Extra patients spill out into the hallway. We have often debated, is Dr. Fink really worth the wait? One plus to the visit: the hot pink and green (your choice) plastic giveaway sunglasses with the inscription “Dr. Fink says Wink!” printed on the arm. Unlike cars, glasses do not have windshield wipers handy. One minute, it is a beautiful sunny day and the next minute, well, you don’t know what the day looks like. The raindrops resting on the glass blur your vision, making yourself more blind than you were before! Shampoo and conditioner bottles look remarkably similar. In fact, without glasses, I cannot tell one from another. In the morning shower, the race soon begins. Can I read the labels on the bottles before my glasses fog up completely with the hot steam? Note to self: why don’t I think to locate the shampoo before I turn the shower on?
The only thing worse than foggy glasses is not finding your glasses at all. On a biking trip in Holland last summer, I left my glasses on a park bench after stopping for ice cream. Unfortunately, I didn’t make this discovery until we had reached our hostel in the next town. Hopping on my bike to backtrack to our previous destination with tired legs and a peevish counselor keeping me company wasn’t ideal. Finally reaching the bench, I found it now occupied by an old and portly gentleman. I stammered in English, dropping in my one Dutch word and gesturing wildly. The man slowly rose revealing the glasses from under his generous pant bottom. Pointing to a streak on the lens, he looked at me inquiringly. “Mint Chocolate Chip,” I answered. He smiled and I smiled.
Wearing glasses has significantly changed my life. When I was two years old I was diagnosed with ocular albinism, a genetic disorder where the eyes are missing pigmentation and do not process light correctly. Some consequences of ocular albinism are high sensitivity to light, poor vision and depth perception, disorientation, and weak tracking. People with severe ocular albinism have described their vision as seeing with plastic wrap permanently covering their eyes. Fortunately, my case is a mild one and can largely be corrected with eye glasses. I also have to be vigilant in wearing sunglasses and staying away from bright sunlight. Recently I came across an organization which collects used eye glasses and distributes them to communities who cannot afford them. Glasses have affected my life in such amazing ways, but I recognize the significant financial cost. When I outgrow my prescription, I plan on passing along my tortoise-shelled frames – hopefully without the ice cream streaks.