Optometrists are my favorite kinds of doctors. With one or two memorable exceptions where I had to have my eyes dilated as a kid, visits to the eye doctor have been pain-free. Unlike dentists and primary care physicians, you can always count on your optometrist to keep his hands to himself. There is almost no invasion of personal space and absolutely no invasion of anything beyond personal space. I have always, as an adult, enjoyed the intelligent conversation of these polite doctors. I like going to the eye doctor so much, in fact, that I made a point of waiting until February to schedule an appointment so it could be my reward for getting my manuscript into the ABNA contest.
Is that strange? Maybe it is. I hadn’t really thought so until John started laughing at me for my giddy excitement at the prospect of getting my eyes checked. I hate doctors, by and large. Not as human beings, of course, but because they inevitably make me feel inadequate. “You should really exercise more and try to lose a few pounds,” they’ll say. Or: “Do you even bother to floss you teeth?” I suppose telling the unpleasant truth is a part of their job, but I can’t say I’ve yet found the grace to thank them for it.
In contrast, a visit to the eye doctor is like a magical balm to my self esteem. I am very good, you see, at reading letters from a distance. The only feedback I get is positive. When I fail, call an “e” a “c” or somesuch, there is never any censure, only a nod and a small adjustment to the enormous robotic owl mask. The whole burden for making my eyes see their best lies in the hands of the doctor, and if my eyes have gotten at all worse since my last visit, it’s NOT MY FAULT.
The other thing you should understand about me and my eyes is that we’ve been wearing glasses since we were five. I have a pretty severe astigmatism in my right eye that made corrective lenses an essential for me to get by in school. I don’t think anyone ever teased me about it, but not that many little kids where glasses. My second set of eyes has always made me feel a little bit set apart from people who either don’t need glasses, who can comfortably wear contacts, or who didn’t need glasses until they were older.
Glasses are a part of my face, and one that I have a quite pronounced love-hate relationship with. I love that they can make me see. I hate that they hide or warp the face I see when I’m brushing my teeth. (Another reason why dentists aren’t my favorite people, I’m sure–I present them teeth that are cleaned by a half-blind person without fail because I hate cleaning toothpaste off my glasses.) I’ve always felt like my naked face was the pretty and congenial one that people would want to be friends with, while my glasses age me ten years and turn me into the sardonic scholar people are afraid of. Every time I get to pick out new frames, I get to reinvent my face just a little.
It’s never enough to hide the fact that I am actually more the scary sarcastic person than the pleasant one, but the small change always makes people sit up and look at my face in a different way. Regardless of what’s going through their minds, I can’t help but feel a little more like the attractive and kind person for a week or so after the new-prescription headaches go away.
And that is why optometrists are my favorite kinds of doctors.