Article Date: 11/1/2009

The Boring Identity
Patient's Perspective

The Boring Identity

Why do middle-aged guys resist reading glasses? Because we all want to be ultra-cool super spies.

By Tom Asseiro, as told to Erin Murphy, Contributing Editor

At 42, I had gracefully accepted some wrinkles, stoically begun trimming my eyebrows and bravely choked back tears through the loss of a great deal of hair.

Please, I thought, sitting so far from my computer that I could barely operate the mouse, "Don't tell me I need glasses. Not me!" I shuddered at the thought of reading with half-spectacles perched at the tip of my nose and secured to a cord around my neck.

My wife didn't get it. She rolled her eyes and said, "Just go to the eye doctor." My 11-year-old son began refusing to lend his young eyes to help me read the small print on medication bottles and cell phone instructions.

But I held out. For me to get glasses, I'd have to lose the ability to read completely or experience a tough reading situation at a bad time.

A Bad Time at Boy Scout Camp

During one of my son's scouting events, the kids and parents had a sing along. First, they distributed lyrics — three songs shrunken and crammed onto a single sheet of paper. Uh-oh.

The scoutmaster repeatedly encouraged, "Sing along! Everybody! Let's hear it!" It was the wrong time to learn that I don't know most of the lyrics to "America the Beautiful." (Something about Pilgrims' feet???) In my vain attempts to avoid looking old, I'd gone straight from being a glasses-free young dad to being a mumbling, demented old man.

Contemplating glasses as the scouts enjoyed doughnuts and apple cider, I complimented my son's friend on his frames. As it turned out, his optometrist and mom, Maureen, was standing right next to me. "I think I need glasses," I told her. "Just for sometimes."

Just for All the Time

At my exam, she told me "everyone our age" needs reading glasses. I could even purchase them at the drugstore. Saddened, I envisioned a dusty, creaking rack positioned next to the walking canes. I told her I wished I didn't need glasses, and I definitely didn't want to wear drugstore half-glasses on a string.

"First of all, you don't have to wear half-glasses. I can put you in regularsized graduated bifocals with no prescription on top. You can put them on and off or leave them on all the time," she told me. "Second, glasses are cool."

She pulled out a binder filled with paparazzi shots. She and her daughter put it together — first, to help get teenagers into glasses, and then, to get reluctant 40-somethings into reading glasses.

I flipped through the pictures. Justin Timberlake, Kanye West, Johnny Depp…. I'm nowhere near that cool. Elvis Costello, Jack Nicholson, Spike Lee…. Those are bold, iconic glasses. Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Robert Redford…. They did nothing to calm my fear of aging. Rainn Wilson, Seth Rogen, Robert Downey Jr., Matt Damon.

Matt Damon? I envisioned myself — not staring at a computer screen, but instead fighting off assassins Jason Bourne-style and making catlike leaps across Paris rooftops.

"I'd like something like this," I said. The doctor agreed that I gave off a Jason Bourne vibe and had her optician hook me up with the right frames.

The Coolest OD

I don't look like Matt Damon or have Jason Bourne's hand-to-hand combat skills, but I can read perfectly, thanks to my eye doctor. She understands something important about middle-aged guys — we all want to be cool. And doctors who understand their patients' needs are the best doctors of all. nOD

Editor's note: Periodically, new OD will explore eye care from the patient's perspective. Whether you have a special interest in contact lenses, low vision or pediatric care, you'll find out from real patients what attracts them to a practice and keeps them coming back.

Optometric Management, Issue: November 2009