The other week I wrote about the various tropes and stereotypes that connect being a geek with wearing glasses. In that post I asserted that I like the way I look in my specs, and that – since there are so many shallow Hollywood clichés which tell us glasses are ugly – it has become a source of geek pride for me to continue wearing mine. But I also concluded with the admission that I was tempted, for the first time, to give contact lenses a go, mostly for the added freedom they would give me while cosplaying. The thought of being able to go without my glasses (a necessity while in costume) and still see properly at conventions was certainly an appealing one. So I went ahead and booked a contact lens trial at my local Specsavers.
Having now had the appointment I thought I should update you all on how it went. You can read the full story below but the tl;dr version is this: disappointingly,
it was basically a disaster I am not going to be giving up my glasses any time soon.
I’d been fairly confident that the trial would go well. How wrong can you be?
Now, I know some people react badly to contacts and find the lenses irritate their eyes too much, but from what I’d heard, the majority of thosewho experienced problems at their initial lens trial just struggled due to nerves or squeamishness about having their eyes touched. As a
big old goth religious eyeliner-wearer and someone who’s never been particularly bothered by stray eyelashes etc, I figured this aspect of the trial probably shouldn’t distress me too much. I was right on that score at least. The initial eye examination went well. The optician did the test gesture and then inserted the left lens with me hardly feeling a thing. The right lens was a little more awkward to fit but still, for a first go, the optician said the process went very smoothly.
Sadly it was all downhill from there, pretty much literally. Though I was aware of their presence, the lenses didn’t feel especially scratchy or uncomfortable on my eye; I think I could have coped with wearing them just fine on a conscious level, but subconsciously my brain had clearly decided otherwise. It was both wonderful and kind of strange to be able to see so well and read all the text in the office without wearing my frames. But almost as soon as the right-hand lens went in I started feeling what I can only describe as motion sickness. The optician suggested I remain seated and take a few moments to adjust and steady myself and I don’t really remember what happened next.
Have you ever fainted before? The dizziness, the weakness, the shock, the black blotches that gradually multiply and spread before your eyes, none of these are pleasant things. But by far the worst sensation is the aftermath, that gradual journey back to consciousness which begins with the creeping realisation that something is very wrong indeed. For me this process always begins with the belief that, seeing as I’m horizontal and it’s dark, I must be safely asleep in my bed. Then the doubts begin to prickle, hidden needles in the duvet folds: if I’m at home in bed what day is it? Should I be getting up for work? Have I missed my alarm? Why can’t I remember going to bed? Why is this mattress so uncomfortable tonight? Why does my cheek feel so squashed? I’ve fainted haven’t I? Oh shit no. Boom: consciousness, discombobulation, cold sweat, hammering heart, nausea, embarrassment.
All the Specsavers staff were extremely kindly and sympathetic and assured me they had seen this reaction before, but it was still hugely embarrassing. I kept the lenses in for another 15 minutes or so, hoping I would adjust to them. Every now and then I’d manage to look up and think “wow, this is incredible, I can see so well and no glasses,” but those moments of excitement and clarity were soon drowned amidst the tidal surges of dizziness – and I spent too much of that time with my head on a table fearing that I was about to lose consciousness again.
Finally we took out the lenses with the optician concluding that “it wasn’t the best result” which is clearly optician-speak for ”you, madam, are an unmitigated disaster.” He urged me not to give up, promising that lots of people do better on their second attempt. I’m really glad I tried, because you don’t know until you try these things do you? But I have to admit after the hellish experience that was my taxi ride back from town (because I couldn’t stay vertical enough to walk it) during which time it took all my willpower not to be sick, before actually being sick pretty much as soon as I got home and then spending the rest of the day in bed feeling like I was lying on the deck of a storm-ridden ship… well let’s just say I don’t feel particularly inclined for a rematch any time too soon. Disappointing.
So glasses are here to stay for the foreseeable future. Good thing I am genuinely happy wearing them (most of the time) and that I like the way I look in them. But here to stay too, less pleasingly, is convention haziness, good job but I like the fun I have in costume so much that it still feels worth it.