I’ve been looking forward to turning forty. I planned to reach my birthday and proclaim my age in defiance of cultural custom where women either dread their fortieth birthday or lie about their ages, or both. But lately my eyes have been harder to focus. What used to happen in an unnoticeable instant now takes an extra minute. It is like the lag on a slow internet connection. I have also been getting some headaches. So I trundled myself off to an eye doctor thinking that perhaps my glasses needed updating. I’ve had them for eight years. They’re due. I got there and described my troubles.
“How old are you?” asked the doctor
“Forty in two weeks.”
“Ah. The forties are not good to eyes.” He then described how I could expect things to get worse, advised that maybe I could look under my glasses when trying to focus close, and said that when it gets to the point that I’m holding books at arms length it’ll be time for bifocals. He also told me that once a person starts noticing vision differences, things deteriorate pretty quickly.
Why was I looking forward to forty again?
It is silly to be upset by a predictable body shift. I knew that eyes change as they get older. I knew that people have to get reading glasses and bifocals. Yet I am upset and I’m trying to untangle why. Perhaps it is the dissonance. Bifocals, having to hold books at a distance, and large print editions are all things I associate with being old. But I don’t feel old. Forty isn’t old. Yet forty is when these vision changes tend to begin.
The doctor ushered me out to the showroom area saying “If you’re interested in frames, these lovely ladies will be happy to help you.” The lovely ladies in question were completely absorbed by their computers, except for the one who was leaning against the wall and chatting with one of the computer ladies. I shuffled my way down the rows of frames, not really seeing them. Picking out something to wear on my face every day for the next several years felt too daunting. I dutifully looked at each frame in each row while the lovely ladies continued to ignore me. When I reached the last row I knew I was too occupied with the thoughts in my head to be able to decide on glasses, so I walked off into the larger store. Yes, I went to an optometrist inside a big box store. Eight years ago they were fine. This time the service was underwhelming. The only problem was that I’d walked off without paying for the exam, a fact I remembered later when I got home. Which meant I had to go back out into the cold and drive back to the store to pay. It was a forgetful/distracted act of the sort which usually causes me to spout profuse apologies. I couldn’t find the energy to apologize when they’d neglected to provide any sort of customer service at all. I do take a strange satisfaction in the fact that I arrived to pay just after they’d clocked out. So I did cause them some inconvenience, though I’m not sure if that is matched by me having to spend an additional 15 minutes driving in a sub-freezing vehicle.
While I was at the big box store I returned an item and went to go pick up one other thing that Howard asked me to get. I was also supposed to pick up a treat for the kids. Except I couldn’t remember what Howard asked me to get. I called him for help remembering. Then I paid and left only to remember that I was supposed to get a treat too. So I went back into the store and purchased the treats in a separate transaction. Yesterday was not a good day for focused attention to detail.
The next day things look brighter. They usually do. Which is why one of the optical purchases I’ll be making will be a pair of non-metaphorical sunglasses. I’m tired of having to squint will driving in the snow which continues to cover every available outdoor surface. As for growing older, I suspect I’m having the forty year old version of the upset Gleek had a couple of weeks ago when she curled into my lap and cried because she doesn’t want to grow up. All of my kids have had a similar cry right around the time that they turn twelve. I’m having my moment of “getting old” angst. This means it is time for me to get on with living my life so that forty is a good place to be.