I accepted a lot of things about old people when I was a kid. Old people like Mrs. Peacock, my piano teacher. I accepted that she couldn’t get up from the piano bench without plooping out a soft, percussive fart. Everything was sort of loose on her, and that was just one more example. I accepted that neither of us was going to mention it. I did not get, however, why she always wore glasses but never looked through them. She looked over them, or under them.
I did understand nearsightedness because I had a hot case of it myself. Nearsightedness and farsightedness are caused by the eyeball getting squished out of shape. Most people aren’t 20/20. Myopic people have long eyes–mine is shaped like a pickle now–and farsighted people have short tall eyes. You get long eyes when you have a very vivid imagination, because all your ideas get crammed in the front of your brain, where the weight of them presses down on the eyeballs. And your imagination gets ever more vivid because you can’t see anything and you turn inward. That’s why your vision gets worse over time. It’s a feedback loop.
Lots of critters don’t have round eyes at all. Owls, for instance. They look nice and round from the front end, but they’re really shaped like buttons. Owls are tremendously farsighted and when things get too close they have to see them with their fuzzy feet, because they don’t have reading glasses, despite those pictures you might have seen that suggest otherwise.
The entire eyeball phenomenon strikes a lot of people as having been too complicated to have merely evolved. They prefer to think eyeballs are proof that God whipped them out just as is, because they like to give God credit for almost everything except having an imagination. In fact, complex eyes have evolved a hundred times a hundred different ways, and pretty dang early on in the history of life, too.
Anyway, people can develop near- or farsightedness in childhood, but the reading-glasses thing hits everyone sooner or later. Or, specifically, around age forty. This is when people are introduced to the notion of being old when various parts of them get stiff, or fail to get stiff, and the lens of the eyeball is one of the things that stiffens up. All of a sudden you have to hold your book further and further away from yourself to get it to come into focus, and by that time, assuming you haven’t run out of arm, it’s too small to read. Then those of us with glasses have to have our glasses ground two or three different ways. You might have book-reading focus on the bottom, computer-reading in the middle, and distance in the top. Works great for a while, and then you discover the book-reading lens isn’t really cutting it, and you start to look over your glasses and put your reading material right next to your nose.
Sometimes I have to look at something above me through the bottom portion of my glasses, which means I have to crunkle up my neck like an archaeopteryx. Poor old bird. That’s what did it in. Had to pretzel its neck just to navigate properly, and it lost all its aerodynamics.
Nothing in my glasses is exactly right for reading sheet music at the piano, so I have another pair of glasses just for that. And I need another pair for turning pages for someone else. Binoculars for distance. None at all for hand-sewing. I’m going to string them all on little jeweled chains and hang them from my neck and keep a lorgnette in my pocket so I can see which one I need next. That dangling collection of specs–that’s what’s really going to mark me as an old lady.
Unless I’m getting up from the piano bench at the time.