Monday, September 19, 2011

Look at me

You'd think that after two decades of wearing glasses, an eye exam would no longer freak me out. I have sat in that cool black chair too many times to count, alternately fumbling my way through that teensy tiny bottom line of text that I can barely see (sometimes, I'm ashamed to say, actually CHEATING: I mean really what's the point there exactly?) and judging the respective sharpness of two images that look, half the time, very very similar to me. I have gone through half a dozen pairs of glasses: the Harry Potteresque look in my early years, tragically long before Harry Potter existed; the giant blue monstrosities in late primary school for which I will never forgive my mother (she claims they were my choice - I demand proof); more recently a neat pair of black ones that I still like, even though I may well look back on them with abject horror in another decade or so. The point is, I've been wearing glasses and having dudes look at my eyes for a very long time.

And yet, both the prospect and the reality of said eye exam still freak me the fuck out. Given the choice I'd rather have a freaking pap smear and pay a licensed professional to get up close and personal with my good China (sorry for the visual, squeamish boys) than subject myself to another eye exam in the immediate future. Nevertheless, that's exactly what I did today and did facing up to my fear help cure me of it? No. No it did not.

It started badly enough when the optometrist (or was she an opthamologist? I don't know, let's just call her Ms O) asked me a simple yes-no question and I responded with a nervous 5 minute unasked for ramble of response beginning with the day I was fitted with my first pair of specs to the moment where I had walked in the door two minutes earlier. Naturally, being the kind of person who blushes when nervous/uncomfortable/embarrassed/self-conscious/running late/embarrassingly early/addressing someone on whom I have a crush/addressing someone on whom I don't have a crush/addressing shop assistants/I could go on, I was already by this stage an unappealing shade of dusky pink. And as anyone else who blushes as much as I do will know, just knowing that you're blushing makes you blush ten times worse.

Then the tests began and LORD do I hate the tests. The thing is... I never think that I can read the letters properly - I always assume that while I'm confidently reading "E... C.... H..." off the eye chart, the person monitoring my responses is snickering to him or herself and mocking my crappy vision. As a result I have developed a bad and really really pointless/actually quite destructive habit of remembering the letters when I see them with my good eye and sort of... recalling them when asked to read the same string of letters with my bad eye. I know, I know: I'm only screwing myself but my fear of having slightly-too-weak lenses is weaker than my fear of getting the answers wrong. This explains many things, including why I am a nerd and have always been a teacher's pet.

Those of you who have had an eye test before knows what comes next: a series of tests in which you're asked to distinguish between two images and say which is clearer. The nature of the image changes but this test goes on for approximately 300 years so that by the time it's finished you're desperately shouting "uh 2... no I mean 1... can I see 2 again?" If you've ever seen the episode of Arrested Development where Michael Cera's character George Michael (not the singer/songwriter) gets glasses then it's basically exactly like that.

It ended eventually, of course, and I celebrated by getting the hell out of there. I felt pretty good and having done the thing I'd been putting off for years, happily ignoring the reality that I could, in fact, see better without my glasses and the implication that CLEARLY my eyes had changed in recent years. But I was also disappointed in myself for being so lame and nervous, for blushing and sweating and stumbling over my words - most of all for pathetically trying to impress Ms O just like I did as a kid and I was more focused on getting the right answers than getting glasses that might actually help me to see the whiteboard.

Either way, I thought I deserved a little something something for my efforts so I went out with the intention of buying myself a book and returned with a celebratory (if highly unnecessary) Alannah Hill cardigan. Yes it is adorable, yes it was sort of an indulgent purchase I can't really afford right now and yes I did blush when the sales girl made a cute comment about my cute earrings. Sometimes I worry about myself.

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