Seeing eye-to-eye on glasses

My family members assured me no one would notice. Sure, they said, you’re wearing glasses now, but people will still treat you the same. Don’t worry about it. It will be fine.

I was about 10 years old when I first donned glasses, and was nervous about unveiling this new look. But my parents and siblings had me almost convinced I wouldn’t notice any changes. So I got ready for school and got on the bus when it stopped at our farm that morning.

“Hey, four-eyes,” a voice in the back greeted me as I took my first few steps aboard the bus. I hadn’t even gotten to my seat yet, much yet entered school as a hopeful young pupil.

Such was the life of a kid with glasses in the 1960s, when wearing glasses meant a world of black frames and shame. Now, most of us have some form of eye assistance. According to the Vision Council of America — sounds like superheroes with goggles and color-coded uniforms — 75% of American adults use some form of vision correction. Most, 64 percent, wear glasses while 11 percent hide their need for eye aid by wearing contacts.

While most women wear glasses, over 50%, only 42% of men do, according to the VCA. More women also use contacts, 18% to 14%.

I tried contacts once, in the 1980s. Because of my astigmatism, I had to wear hard contacts, and that word was apt, since I found them hard on the eyes. I chose not to get them, and never pursued the idea since.

I can see why people wear contacts. No matter how good people say you look in glasses, it’s a large piece of glass or plastic and metal on your face. However, for some people, maybe that’s an improvement.

Some people, amazingly enough, wear glasses for the look. Comedian Drew Carey rose to fame wearing thick black glasses, with along with his crew cut and chunky figure, helped form a distinct look for him. Now, Carey has had corrective laser surgery and no longer needs glasses, but he wears them anyway.

If I had my choice, I wouldn’t wear them, although I am sure it would take a while to get used to this face without glasses. Grace, my family and friends might not recognize me, either.

Plus, there is the risk of being just too dang handsome. I don’t need to create traffic hazards or cause women to walk into walls when they catch a glance at my glasses-free face. So, I will maintain my glasses habit.

I got new ones last week, which brought this idea to the fore. It was my first new pair since 1983 and the improvement was slight but the world did seem a tad brighter. Of course, it was a sunny spring morning, so who knows how much the glasses helped.

The optometrist told me my eyes actually needed less correction this time. That was the second straight time an eye exam revealed that. He said as you age, the lenses in your eyes harden and stop shifting, which can slightly improve your vision.

Does this mean by the time I’m 80 I can put the glasses aside? Likely not. It’s just a quirk of age, one of many I have discovered as I got on the plus side of, gulp, 60.

Laser surgery is an option, if I stumble over a few thousand dollars. But I recall Montana Congressman Rick Hill telling me he wasn’t going to run for re-election in 2000 because his eyesight had been damaged by a corrective procedure. Rep. Hill was a millionaire and a member of Congress, so I knew he got the best possible treatment — and things went south on him.

Happily, Hill’s eyesight recovered, and he tried to make a political comeback, although he was defeated in the 2012 gubernatorial race. But he looked good, in every sense, without glasses.

I am used to myself with them, and have no plans to run for political office. I’m just glad to have new glasses as the softball season, since I convinced myself the reason some line drives either skidded last me or slammed me in the chest was because I needed new glasses.

That excuse can’t be used this season. I guess when the ball rockets past me, some loudmouth in the bleachers can let me have it.

“Nice play, four-eyes,” he will yell.

Some things don’t change. I can see that now.

South Dakota native Tom Lawrence, a former Pioneer executive editor, has written about the state, its politics and people since 1978. Read his blog Prairie Perspective at and follow him on Twitter at @TLCF26.

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