I have a drawer full of eyeglasses, hundreds of dollars worth of eyeglasses, and I hate them all. I can't see well out of any of them, and I'm convinced eye doctors are evil, in cahoots with the federal government to put as many older Americans in trifocals as possible. Trifocals cause fatal boredom as you withdraw from any activity that actually involves seeing, or worse, fatal accidents because you can't see. If there are fewer seniors, less Social Security will have to be paid out. You see how it works? Trifocals work on people the same way beer goggles make ugly girls look pretty at closing time. Trifocals make people act senile, when we're really still sharp as tacks. We do all kinds of crazy things trying to see, or thinking we can see, or thinking we can't see because we're wearing trifocals. Every time I go to the eye doctor, he says I need trifocals. It used to be just reading glasses, but we rapidly advanced to bifocals and now trifocals, and it doesn't matter what eye doctor I go to. I need trifocals. I explain quite clearly to them that I work at a computer all day. The thing I'm looking at, the thing I need to see, is about 21 inches directly in front of my face. The other thing I need to see, by moving my eyes and not my whole head and chair, is the stand with the copy on it, which is anywhere from 18 to 21 inches from my head, and a little to the side. To have the reading part of the glasses be a little area on the bottom of the lens is for people who read nothing but a small Daily Devotion which they hold under their chin. I hold the newspaper up in front of my face, about a foot away, and my eyes scan from side to side. It isn't going to help me to have to actually move my head from side to side following the type along the length of the page, which you have to do to line up that little reading hole part of the glasses with whatever you're reading. Bifocals and trifocals work on the assumption that whatever you're reading is below your nostrils and not wider than 5 inches. Twice I've gotten the trifocal prescription filled and then returned them after a day, or didn't even leave the store with them. It has no useful seeing purpose in real life. Not in my real life anyway. I don't know in whose real life trifocals work. I explain all of this to the eye doctor and they have nothing to say because they know trifocals are stupid, but they don't have another idea. They are in on the conspiracy. I explain this all to the person making the glasses, and they have no explanation except trifocals is all they've got. They're different today; they make the lenses better, they tell me. Yes, better than the ones you had last year. There's less distortion in today's trifocals. There is not. It's all a lie. You can tell which people are wearing trifocals. They tilt their head all around as if a screw is loose in their neck. When they're trying to read, they lift the glasses off their nose just a tad, trying to position that little reading hole better. They rear back and lunge forward, trying to get a focus on things. You have to get used to trifocals, everyone who is lurching and tilting and rearing and lifting tell me. You'll get the hang of it. I got used to them, they say. I don't think so. What they've gotten used to is not having a normal life. They've given up trying to read. They think computers are the work of the devil because they can't see the screen unless they point their chin at it. They stumble and fall and break their hips, and I think it's the damn trifocals, not old age. I wore a pair out into the parking lot and looked down to keep the sun out of my eyes and my shoes were huge! My feet were so big, I had to take bigger, plodding steps. I thought my feet were touching the ground sooner than they were because the ground seemed closer. What's more, the pavement on the sides of me was blurry. By the time I got to my car, I was seasick, as if I had crossed a deck during rough seas. I can't even walk in trifocals, much less read! I returned my first pair of trifocals and told them to just give me reading glasses, which the store did, and charged me the same as if I had bought the trifocals. My second pair of trifocals was an attempt to get some middle-distance vision. I couldn't see the names of products and prices on the grocery store aisles unless I nosed right up to the shelves. Then, to see down the aisle, I had to push my glasses up on my head, then down again to see the next price. It was plunking my nerves. So I ordered a second pair of trifocals and before I even left the store, I declared I could see nothing at all well, certainly not $260 worth of seeing. They reluctantly agreed to just make a pair of glasses with the middle distance lens, but the price was the same as the trifocals. I complained, and they came down some, but not to what I would have paid if I just came in from the start and got a single-lens pair of glasses. So now I had two pairs of glasses in my purse, my reading/computer glasses and my shopping glasses. It solved the problem, but switching back and forth was plunking my nerves. You need trifocals, the doctor said. OK, this time I will not return them. I will take them home and try to get used to them like everyone who has given up on life assures me is possible. So I shelled out another pile of money for trifocals again, and you know what, I still can't see anything. Well, that's not true. I can see to drive about the same as before, and I can also see half the speedometer now. Those are things I haven't been able to see together in a decade. But I can't see the computer, and I certainly can't read anything longer in length then a Chinese fortune cookie, and even that I have to wave it around under my face until it intercepts with that tiny reading hole in my glasses. So now I have three pairs of glasses: my reading glasses, my shopping glasses, and these damn trifocal speedometer glasses. I tell you, it is plunking my nerves. Mariane Matera is a writer who lives in Richmond. Opinions expressed on the Back Page are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Style Weekly.
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