Around the Bend: Signs of aging are hard to see
A few months ago, I found this tidbit on the Internet:
“As people age, the lens of the eye becomes less elastic, losing its ability to focuson objects up close. This process, called presbyopia, is a natural part of aging, and affects nearly everyone over the age of 40.”
“Yeah,” I said when I read it, “maybe everyone over the age of 40 who isn’t awesome. But not me.”
Unlike my friends, who long ago started exhibiting the telltale signs of presbyopia — most notably accenting their home decor by placing reading glasses in every room — at 44 I could still thread a needle on the first try. Having gone my whole life without requiring corrective lenses, I saw no reason to start. Let everyone else give in to this inevitable condition, I thought. I’ll pass.
Recently, however, I’ve reconsidered.
I don’t sew often, but last weekend I tried to stick the frayed end of a nearly invisible black thread through a millimeter-size hole in a tiny needle, under the light of a 40-watt bulb. I could have done it, easily. But instead I chose to move a bit closer to the lamp and do my work with the aid of my husband’s reading glasses.
Mind you, it’s not because all I could see was a blur, or because in the weak light I couldn’t tell whether I even had the thread pinched between my thumb and forefinger. It’s not like my close-up vision had measurably deteriorated in the six months since I had last mended clothes.
At least, those weren’t the only reasons.
In part, I just started feeling like it was time to grow up. At some point, you have to stop wearing tube tops, start eating more broccoli than Pop Tarts, and put on a pair of reading glasses. That’s life.
It’s not like I consider losing my close-up vision a cruel sign of aging (even though — ouch — the word presbyopia comes from the Greek words presbus, old man, and ops, eye). I already know I’m aging, thanks to, among other things, my Bride of Frankenstein hair color, the saggy flesh above my kneecaps and my general impatience with an entire generation that can’t believe our society once flourished with only landlines.
I’m just frustrated about not being able to tell at a glance whether that dot on my upper arm is a beauty mark or a tick. I’m used to getting an instant read on my immediate surroundings, and I resent the inconvenience of my “old man eyes” not being up to the job.
There’s also the impact on my free time. It doesn’t take any longer to wear glasses than to go without. But looking for lost glasses can suck up a lot of time. I misplace everything I touch, and given that I already log 40 to 70 minutes a week looking for my car keys, my schedule is going to be packed.
I suppose I could wear my glasses on a chain around my neck, but that’s so embarrassing. Not because they look old-ladyish, but because I remember my mother, more than once, leaning over in the front seat of the car to grab her pocketbook and inadvertently hooking her glasses chain on the emergency brake lever, thus nearly garroting herself when she tried to get out. (I’m not saying it wasn’t good for a laugh. I just don’t want to be the one getting laughed at.)
Don’t get me wrong; wearing glasses has its advantages. For instance, I like being able to respond to something ridiculous my husband, Mark, has said by pausing, looking over the top of my glasses and saying, “Excuse me?” in a tone that indicates I heard him clearly the first time.
Also, Mark and I have found it fortuitous that our eyes are fading at about the same rate as our looks. I don’t notice the rogue hairs growing from his ears, and he can’t make out my crow’s feet or my mysteriously disappearing eyebrows. In fact, thanks to this involuntary age-imposed soft focus, we each feel like the other is getting better looking with age.
Sure, I’m balking at the prospect of being dependent on reading glasses from this point forward. But it’s not the only adjustment I’ve had to make. Our 13-year-old daughter recently made me promise not to wear tube tops in public anymore.
It really is hell to get old.
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