When I was little, it seemed everyone had glasses.
My mother. My grandparents. My relatives. My friends.
I thought they made people look cool or more grownup. So if I wanted to become one or the other or both, I had to get my own glasses.
When I was fourteen, I told my mother I was getting headaches and thought I needed glasses. She took me to the doctor. As he looked into my eyes with a gizmo, I crossed them slightly.
Amblyopia,” the doctor told my  mum. “Strabismus. Heterotropia. Something like that. His eyes are slightly crossed. He needs glasses.”
I spent a long time picking out frames. When my glasses finally arrived, I put them on excitedly.
A week later, my mum asked me where they were. “Why aren’t you wearing your glasses? They were expensive.”
I didn’t want to tell her they gave me a headache and so, conveniently, I’d lost them.
A decade later, I married a girl with glasses. I got in-laws with glasses. Then I had a son. He got glasses too.
In my mid-forties, I started getting headaches again. I could only read in bed with the lamp on. I had a tough time with restaurant menus. My friends called it “short arm syndrome.” Someone lent me a pair of drugstore glasses. I was amazed at how much better I could see. It had been so gradual but it was beyond denying. Presbyopia.  A gradual thickening and loss of flexibility of the lens inside my eyes that makes it tough to focus on things that are near.
I like my glasses for what they do for me. I am less thrilled about what they say about me. Welcome to middle age.
So far, I don’t wear my glasses when I draw. I can see what I’m drawing without them, and not being able to see the page clearly is fine. I know what I’m making. And there’s the added pleasure of putting on my glasses when I’m done, to examine the lines on the page as they really look.
My eyes have brought me a lot of pleasure. I count on them to make a living, to make art, to watch my wife brush her teeth. And I’ll need them for a while to come. I hope.  But nonetheless, they are changing. A reminder that every day, so am I.  And so is everything I see.

9 thoughts on “Glasses”

  1. Fantabulous! Such a collection of visions! And visionaries! Thanks for making it- I can see U enjoyed exploring the road of glasses.


  2. Loved your post on glasses.For years I worked for a company that made glasses and in all that time I did,nt need them I could have had as many as I wanted free!! I,m now a bit older and now I need them and now have to pay ….a lot. Life,s a bitch.I,ve just joined EDM and find it inspiring having just started drawing and painting.


  3. Love this! I never tried glasses to look grown-up although I did try smoking. Thank goodness that didn't last long either. I also need "readers" now. I laugh when I have to put my glasses on to read the magnification level of the new ones I'm thinking of purchasing! Oh well!


  4. Maybe amblyopia is a gift. Margaret Livingstone and Bevin Conway, of Harvard's neurobiology department, found that a number of highly acclaimed artists appear to have had strabismus, judging from photos or self portraits. Livingstone and Conway suggest that poor depth perception may have given them an edge in depicting the 3-D world on a 2-D surface.

    I'm a middle aged amateur who came to your site for inspiration and a bit of community. I've worn glasses for anisometropic amblyopia since the age of 9. I've always enjoyed drawing, but a few years ago, after reading a news item about Livingstone's study, decided to work more seriously at developing my skills. It's encouraging to think one shares a trait that benefited Rembrandt.


  5. funny! what a great collection of clips!!

    when I was eight my best friend got glasses and so I HAD to have them too — but I just wore sunglasses with the lenses punched out and, in one rather inspired moment, I tied little strings across the openings to make them into bifocals…


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