Memory Lane: Getting Glasses

I raised my hand.

“Yes, Dawn?”

“I can’t see the board, Sister.”

“Okay. Why don’t you move up a couple of seats?”

And so it began.


I was always tall, and as a tall child, I was placed in the back of the classroom.

In first grade, this didn’t seem to be a problem.

In second grade, it was.


By the second month of school, I was sitting all the way in the front row, leaning over my desk. And still the letters on the chalkboard were blurred or simply not there.

Sister Rita Marie (God rest her soul) touched my shoulder one day.

“Dawn, you have to tell your parents you can’t see the chalkboard.”

This hadn’t occurred to me.


My parents did not wear glasses when I was a child. They had 20/20 (or so) vision until they reached their 40s.

So when I went home and said, “I can’t see the blackboard,” they responded the way Sister had the first time I had told her.

“Just ask your teacher to move you up a couple of seats.”

I remember a pause here, a kind of confusion in my mind. Maybe related to the fact that I thought my parents, much like God, were all-knowing and all-seeing.

“I’m already sitting all the way in the front,” I finally informed them.

They took me to the eye doctor.


I couldn’t tell you if I am near-sighted or far-sighted. I know, starting in second grade, I started wearing glasses. By the time I was in eighth grade, I couldn’t see without them. Still can’t. Everything beyond the end of my nose is beyond blurry. Without corrective lenses, the world is big blobs of color without detail, without feature.

It’s been this way since elementary school. If I could wave a magic wand and change one aspect of my physical being, I would give myself 20/20 vision. I would like to wake up in the morning and be able to see my bedside clock without squinting at it.


In eighth grade, I asked my parents, and then my eye doctor, for contact lenses.

My eye doctor told me that soft contact lenses wouldn’t correct my vision enough.

“However…,” he trailed off. “I don’t want to put you in hard lenses. You’re too young — they really aren’t healthy for the eye. But there are these new contact lenses out now. They’re still hard, but they let oxygen get to the eye.”

Rigid gas permeable contact lenses in 1985 — the year I was in eighth grade — were still fairly new.

He was still hesitant. When my mother pressed him about his concerns, he was honest. “These lenses require a lot of care, and take some time getting used to. I’m not sure she (meaning me) is mature enough.”

My mother reassured him. “Dawn is very responsible for her age,” she said. “If she wants to try them, I think we should do it.”

I’m kind of proud that my mom was confident enough in me to let me make the decision to get RGP lenses.


I wore RGP lenses until I was 36 weeks pregnant with Michael. They had taken some getting used to — the first week or so it felt like I had a piece of glass in my eye. For all intents and purposes, I DID have a piece of glass in my eye (actually a disk made up of gas-permable polymers). Through the years, my prescription has changed very little, and I’ve had about four or five pairs of the lenses — they are remarkably durable, much moreso than soft contacts.

Then something changed, and my eyes haven’t recovered. Some combination of pregnancy and allergies (and possibly age) have made RGP lenses untenable. I went to soft lenses, but even those, lately, aren’t working.

I miss wearing contacts. They afford a certain amount of freedom, especially when it comes to outdoor activities and swimming. I miss sunglasses — a lot! I miss peripheral vision. It’s really not about appearance for me, not as much as convenience. I look pretty cute in glasses. And I could really do without perpetual itchy eyes; I forget to put in my eyedrops about as often as I remember.

I’ll take a pair of lenses to North Carolina, along with saline solution. Maybe my allergies will subside enough for me to wear them. If not, I guess I’ll be the woman in the orange dress wearing purple glasses in the wedding pictures.

If you could change something about your body unrelated to appearance, what would it be?

4 thoughts on “Memory Lane: Getting Glasses

  1. I have a similar vision story, but it didn’t hit me until 8th grade. I couldn’t see the board either and was too shy to ask about what was on it. I had a teacher that would write the homework assignment on the board, so I’d try to walk up by there on the way out of class. If I couldn’t catch it during my walkby, I didn’t do the assignment.

    The thing is, I had no idea that I couldn’t see as well as everyone else… not until they vision tested everyone that year. Once I got glassed, I was astounded that other people could see this well. And it certainly explained why I suddenly sucked in Little League. I went from being a very good contact hitter to a regular strikeout. Mystery solved… I couldn’t see the flippin’ ball.

    Got my glassed busted up pretty regularly, usually playing ball. My frames were always bent. It wasn’t until I was a sophomore in college (circa 1980) that I got contact lenses. My little brother got them first, so I had in-house help. They were soft lenses, but it still took a while to get used to sticking things in my eyes. Luckily, the technology has advanced greatly, but then, the soft lenses required a great deal of upkeep.

    Now, I don’t know how I would live without them, although the time is coming when I’m going to have to. My eyes are getting bad enough that I would need bifocals for glasses now. The multi-focal contacts don’t really help me much. I’m just trying to make do for as long as I can, until I just can’t do it any more. I love the peripheral vision and not having the pressure on my nose and ears. And not losing or bending the glasses, or having them knocked off my face.

    So if I could change something, non-appearance related, it would be to have good vision.

  2. I remember getting glasses in 4th or 5th grade “for reading”…which was odd because even now I can read without glasses (see nothing else…but at crooked arm distance I can read). I hardly wore them…after a couple months I told my mom that they hurt my eyes. In typical parent fashion-she thought I was just self conscious. Fast forward to 6th grade. I, like you, had to sit in the front of the room…and STILL had to walk up to the board to take notes. My glasses gave me instant headaches. I learned to make out my friends by the way they moved down the hall…their faces just a blur. Finally, a teacher called my Mom-she took me to the eye doc who confirmed a huge difference between my glasses and my need. and boom-the world became clear again-I still remember the difference. From a blur to High Def.

    I didn’t wear contacts until my 20’s-because the thought of something in my eye made me squishy…but now, I wish I had them in high school-they are freedom to me. Can’t explain why it’s that feeling…but I hate hate hate glasses-constantly having something on my face..constantly having to clean them,etc.

    What would I change:
    Now, I would change the aging signs on my face. I think my face should match how old I feel.
    When I was younger it would have been my hair. Thick (as in omg you have SO much hair), straight, fine hair (resulting in refusal to hold a curl, a tease, a perm, etc) in the 80’s equaled disaster.

    • Damn Just re-read that last sentence of your post….non-appearance. That’s what i get for rushing to type. Non appearance-probably my eyes….but lately, I might change it to brain function. My memory (?) as in searching for the correct word, specific memory, name (of street, product, person..any name) on command in a conversation seems to be bad lately. Frustratingly so.

  3. Our eyes are twins (quadruplets?). Except mine went bad in fourth grade. I tried RGP lenses in high school and wore them until I got married. I hated every moment of it but wasn’t ready to go back to glasses full time. Now? I love my glasses and the fashion statement I can make with them. And the best thing I ever did was order a second pair that had tinted lenses to use as sunglasses. I held out for a long time because they were expensive, but, man they are wonderful.

    PS: Squinting to see the alarm clock in the middle of the night? Hate that!

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