Sunday, June 15, 2008

Progressive (Not Liberal) Lenses

Ah, the joy of optical insurance, which allows me new glasses each year. I have astigmatism, myopia, presbyopia and a few other opias I can't think of at the moment. Every year my eyes rudely show my pitifully advancing old age, squinting inexorably up the eye chart to a line they can actually make out. I think I'm up to the inch-high letters. Do they get any bigger?

So this year, in the flush of my ophthamological modifications, I decided to buy my first pair of "reading" glasses, though for me they are for the most part "computer" glasses (websites call them PC glasses) since that is when I need them most.

With all my opias, combined with my boundless vanity, I've insisted every year on getting "progressive lenses" so as not to look like my mom in glasses. Hers had those big lines across the middle and caused her (as I thought of it then) aged and vaguely embarrassing habit of raising her chin when she had to look at something up close -- like my own face, which she examined with unnerving curiosity, scanning for evidence of failure and dissolute living. (As an optical scan, my mother's gaze was like a laser, leaving little scratches like paper cuts on my emotions. She saw things there I could hide from everybody else. It was infuriating. The powerful bifocals of her later years exaggerated the torment).

Whoa! I didn't know this was going to be about my mother! Damn. I thought I was going to make a few cute comparisons between "progressive lenses" and the current political scene, in which people suddenly are using the "P" word, as in my stylish glasses, much more than the "L" word. I must say the moniker "liberal lenses," while certainly appealing as alliteration, doesn't have the same across-the-board appeal.

Here's the thing: on progressive lenses, especially for those of us who require trifocals, the "sweet spots" for each kind of vision, as my nice eye doctor puts it, are by necessity of design quite small, and require considerable training of the brain. It takes fine discrimination and practice to see the world through progressive lenses. Sometimes, though, my eyes tire of the effort and I just want to see things one way -- up close -- the distant view consigned to fuzzy indistinction. It's arduous to keep track of the near and far view simultaneously. See? There IS a metaphor here. Focus, I tell myself, focus!

In conclusion, look! Everybody wants to be progressive, right? Isn't that All-American, as All-American as flag lapel pins and putting your hand over your heart during the pledge? (The HEART, Barack -- not the upper colon -- you gotta pay attention when you're running for office in a cliche-ridden society!) And everybody wants to think that he or she can see equally well up close and at a distance -- it's all in how you tilt your head, right? Left?

I think even my mother would agree. As long as I'm eating enough (locally grown) roughage, that is, and taking a daily constitutional. Now there's something progressive to get exercised about.


Mitch said...

I also have progressive lenses. They used to be moderately conservative lenses, but then I saw the light.

Macy Swain said...

Ha ha!