philthecow: (hitchcock)
[personal profile] philthecow
Well, today was a monumental day for my personal reading history.

My mother is extremely nearsighted, and with my family history on top of my obsessive reading habits, people have always been surprised that I don't have glasses, and for me it's been a source of pride. Being surrounded by a bunch of geeks at Swarthmore and beforehand, there have been times when I've been in the minority in not having glasses. But it looks like my reading has finally caught up with me.

I've been having trouble reading the blackboard and menus on the wall and other things for a while now, but I didn't think it could be a problem, so I didn't mention it to my family until this weekend, when we were at an off-Broadway musical (Gutenberg: The Musical, as a matter of fact) and I couldn't read the names on these hats that were on a table on the stage. I think my dad said "Do you see the hat on the edge? That's a good name!" and I said "You can see those?" and simultaneously everybody looked at me and said "You can't?"

So we made an appointment with the eye doctor, who explained that I had developed some near-sightedness.
Doctor: This happens to a lot of students because they have to do a lot of close work. Do you have to do a lot of reading?
Lauren: You have no idea.
Doctor: Your eyes are probably going to continue to deteriorate. One of the things you can do to arrest that deterioration is after every ten minutes of reading, to take a ten-second break where you focus your eyes on something far away. Somebody who did this religiously even had his eyesight improve! I don't expect that to happen to you, though.
Lauren: Uhhhh... OK.

So now I have to carry around glasses to use when I'm driving, looking at a blackboard, or trying to see anything else far away. Not too bad, I guess. When they gave me the glasses (cute brown-and-blue frames!) and I put them on, I was shocked to be able to start to read a diploma six feet away that had just looked like a gray blur before. Driving home with my mom, I put on my glasses, and blurry trees by the side of the road suddenly had branches. I didn't realize how poorly I could see until somebody told me.

I'm glad we figured this out now, before I crashed the car or something, but I feel like this is my fault for reading too much, and that's upsetting. How can I possibly avoid reading? There's not many other things I know how to do.

We haven't thought about this at all in class, but it seems like the history of glasses would probably parallel the history of reading in some striking ways. I know they were invented in the West during the late 13th century, but when did they improve and how? I'm newly nearsighted, which means that reading is easier for me than other things, but I know a lot of people who are far-sighted, and I know that past a certain age almost everyone needs reading glasses. Were eye problems less common before the widespread diffusion of reading, or did it just become more obvious once people had to read? I imagine forms of close work like needlework would require similar exertions of the eyes. Of course, people also died earlier then, so you had less time for your eyes to get old and blurry. Many questions to answer--the relationship between glasses and reading would be an interesting research topic.

What I'm reading: I finished Lucky, I read a few books about the Elgin Marbles, and I'm working on Measuring the World, which I was intrigued by because it's a "magical realist novel by a German." Imagine a depressed and overly intellectual Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and you have the idea.

Date: 2007-03-14 12:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I saw some film adaptation of shakespeare many years ago - Macbeth perhaps? - and there was this genius thing in it: a character had to read a letter, and he held it at arms' length and tilted his head to the side to try to read it ... because he didn't have reading glasses. When I saw that I had the same revelation as you did - in the past, literate people lost their ability to read when their eyesight failed.

Also, I had the exact experience you had with the glasses, except I was in the first grade. I got my eyes tested and they said, "How do you read what the teacher writes on the balckboard?" and I said, "You are supposed to be able to read the blackboard?" I thought it was part of the mystery of school that you weren't supposed to know what the teacher was writing.

Date: 2007-03-14 12:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Think about it this way: you're way, way ahead of those of us who started with glasses earlier. You can do that much more reading! :P

Date: 2007-03-14 01:15 am (UTC)
ursula: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ursula
I got glasses my sophomore year at Swarthmore. I was sort of miffed at how few people noticed.

Date: 2007-03-14 02:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
do you remember in 8th grade when we had the pep rally? the gym class was making fun of teachers, and i was mrs fleming, so i borrowed my mom's huge nerdy glasses from college. in the middle of the skit i put on the glasses ("have you girls seen my glasses? oh my, theyre right here on my head!"), and i completely lost my train of thought because i was like "whoa!.... i can see everyones face!" on the ride home i kept putting them on, and as soon as i was like "WOW! i can see the leaves on the trees!" my mom hit the brakes and basically took me straight to an eye doctor.

ive actually talked to at least two other people who didnt realize you were supposed to be able to see the leaves until they got glasses.

post pictures! i bet theyre hot.

Date: 2007-03-14 02:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I bet your glasses are awesome. On the other hand, I have heard that the eye exercise thing is for serious -- there's even a book about it. So, if you don't want to deal with glasses, you should try it. Because I have good vision (slowly detioriorating, I assume, but maybe I inherited my mom's eyes) and so I'm too lazy. :-)

Date: 2007-03-14 02:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
that book sounds great.

Date: 2007-03-14 02:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
fee lucky you're nearsighted. that means that you will almost always have your glasses with you, and you have the possibility of wearing contacts or getting corrective surgery eventually. i've been farsighted since i was 10, and that's definitely one of those things that's bound to just get worse...and i cant wear contacts for it...but hey!! welcome to the glasses club!!

Date: 2007-03-14 04:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Every 10 minutes?! So when you've finally gotten into the flow of whatever you're reading, you're supposed to stop and then try to recapture that state, over and over again. Hmmf.

When I remember, I do try to look away from the computer screen or book during natural breaks in the process, but I usually don't. I read somewhere that it doesn't do anything for eyesight, except way at the beginning when it might be the difference between no prescription and a very weak prescription, but maybe that's where you're at anyway. What it's definitely good for is preventing eyestrain, which just creates discomfort and temporary vision problems, right?

I had a period of time where I couldn't see the chalkboard very well but wasn't bothered by it because I was always drifting off in class anyway and still had all the right answers. I wonder how many Swatties went through years of schooling with problems going undiagnosed because their hampered performance was still better than the unhampered performance of most of their peers.

Date: 2007-03-14 10:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That's exactly how I ended up with glasses over Christmas. I went to my optician because I got a nice little letter telling me it was time, and ended up with a very high prescription. He asked if I was doing a lot of reading and looking at the computer screen and then looked on askance as I laughed hollowly and told him I was an Eng Lit student.

Entertainingly, despite being short sighted, I have to wear glasses to read because of how far away I hold the books.

My eyes are doomed.

Date: 2007-03-14 01:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I've worn glasses full-time since 5th grade! Blind as a bat without 'em. Welcome to the club!

Date: 2007-03-14 01:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Um, I meant that more in a congratulatory, "We've got jackets" sort of way than in a fecetious, dismissive way. Just in case it didn't come across right. :DDD

Date: 2007-03-14 03:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
/measuring the world/: Enjoyable, forgettable. Not really magical realism, but light for a german. Or so I think.
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