Fifty– The New Eighty

As I sit writing this my floater annoyingly hops across my pc screen, reminiscent of my childhood Captain Kangaroo or was it Romper Room’s, “follow the bouncing ball singalongs,” I realized age is in the eye of the beholder.
Last week found me at what used to be my favorite doctor’s office—the optomotrist, a place that I formerly considered a humilation-free zone– no tell-all big mouth scales to ruin your day there. But there’s more than one way to humiliate a cat or in my case a fifty plus woman.

“We’ve cleared an entire hour for you this time,” Javier laughed, as I completed my vision exam and he escorted me to the contact lens fitting room.

“Very funny,” I said praying that an hour would do the trick.

“Fifty-seven minutes,” Javier remarked glancing at his watch. “That might be a record.”

Of course, in that time I’d gone through half a bottle of “Pure Moist” contact solution, a roll of paper towels, and five lenses lost between my finger and eye. As a result the doctor took no more chances with his dwindling supply of optics and personally plucked the contacts from their containers with his tweezers before placing them on my fingertips while I worked my spastic magic on the uncooperative little buggers. What service! What patience!

“Don’t forget to clean up your station before you leave,” Javier teased staring at my nursery school handiwork strewn across the messy table.

“It’s still a bit fuzzy. I’m not sure if these are quite strong enough,” I said as I attempted to decipher the Happy Hour Mojito Special sign across the parking lot before bumping into the designer sunglasses display.

For the record I wasn’t nipping, I’d just lost my sea legs. Me breaking in new contacts is equivalent to the anybody else spending two weeks riding the Tilt-a-whirl at the fair.

“Give them a few days and if it’s not better, call us back,” said the doctor. “Your eyes have to adjust and your equilibrium will return.”

“I’ll be teaching a new class next week and I HAVE to wear my contacts,” I said, punch drunk as I stumbled out the door reaching for a Dramamine.

To the average “older” person, I’d say wearing glasses adds five to ten years to your appearance. With me it’s more like thirty. This became apparent last year when I wore my glasses to class instead of my contacts. I was horrified when the kids exclaimed, “Miss Mellie, you’re old! You look like my grandmother!” But it was when one of them compared me to his great-grandmother I vowed never to wear them again. Six-year-olds are merciless when telling it like it is. Just like the time before when I was making pudding with some kindergarteners and running my hand mixer on full blast. As they began to point and giggle chanting, “Look at Miss Mellie’s chicken,” I was clueless until I discovered my chicken was loose underarm flab flapping in the wind. Needless to say that was the last time I taught class in a tank top.

I’m sure I was a sight after I left the office, dizzily driving the streets of Boca with one eye closed as I tried to focus, praying I wouldn’t get pulled over for driving under the influence–of contacts.

You might not believe this, but this wasn’t my first time at the “contact corral”. It was my third. That first time was nothing short of a disaster requiring stamina, endurance, expertise, patience, and a hands-on team of at least four. When I inquired what night the support group met my doctor appeared amused. Hours later surrounded by several bottles of contact solution, clumps of wet paper towels, and a dozen opened contact lens containers it looked like a crime scene and the good doctor appeared worse for the wear.
Following my hysterectomy it became clear not only had I lost an ovary and my mind, but my eyesight as well. I remember that muggy morning I entered Publix desperate to find a quick menopausal cure while hubby was still alive and kicking. I was sporting my usual cheapo reading glasses when I mistakenly bought a supply of pre-natal vitamins instead. Geared for the young, lactating mother instead of the extra strength, multi-symptom, night-sweats/hot-flash supplements with the added “Plus Irritability” homicidal/suicidal gal about town it explained the look the cashier gave me and my sudden urge to “nest” after twenty years upon taking them. The floater that suddenly appeared was just a middle-aged added bonus.

“Do you know how difficult it is to shave your legs with glasses on?” I complained, blind as a bat from behind my foggy frames. “And this damn gnat won’t leave me alone,” I shouted, nearly knocking myself out as I swatted at the ferocious black bug.

Todd, a self-proclaimed insect annihilator suddenly threw back the curtain with a can of Raid in one hand and his commando fly swatter in the other.

“I don’t see anything,” he said, as I continued my frenzied assault on the swarming black nuisance. “I’m telling you there’s nothing here,” he said as I stood cross-eyed slapping at the wall.
Then it hit me. I’d spent the past twenty minutes swatting at a floater in my eye. It was time for the unthinkable. Prescription specs. And I thought my day couldn’t get any worse.

“Floaters are normal,” the optometrist assured, “At your age especially. How old are you now? Fifty-two. Fifty- three?”
“I’ll be fifty in two months,” I glared indignant.
“I see. Well, there’s nothing you can do about the floater, but we can help you with your vision. Perhaps, you’d like to look at a new pair of glasses today. We have a special on bi-focals.”
“Bifocals!” I blurted, clearly shocked with this newest rapidly encroaching old-age development.

How I went from Mickey Mouse Readers to bi-focals in fifteen minutes was beyond me.

“Just show me something in a contact lens and we’ll call it a day!”I snapped, those pre-natal vitamins and lack of sleep clearly taking their toll.

Contact lenses are a beast all their own. “They’re not for everybody,” Javier concluded, exhausted. In a word, I was inept. Totally. Lens challenged. I put them in inverted. I put them in the wrong eyes. They got stuck in my eyelashes and then in my hair. I dropped them on the floor, my shoe, and then on the doctor’s shoe. But I was determined to walk out of there as far as the world was concerned looking like anything, but ancient.
“It gets easier once you get the hang of it,” they promised with lying eyes as I left with my year supply of Fountain of Youth in a box, a secret shared only by my doctor, myself, and my floater.

Days later I remembered I wasn’t supposed to shower in them. Crap. I quickly grabbed a towel. The first one popped out without a hitch. And the second one went M.I.A..
I grabbed my glasses searching for it a good twenty minutes. I nearly gave up until I discovered it in a most unusual place— perched upon my right ta-ta. Hmm. Wonder if I’ve got 20/20/20 vision? My bff–you know who you are, wears tri-focals. I constantly tease her asking where the third eye is? I suppose now I know.
I like to think I’ve come far since that first time. Which is why I knew better than to begin class minus those contacts. Course given the fact that anything beyond two feet in front of me was fuzzy was a reason not to wear them. Looks like another appointment with Javier is imminent. Too bad it didn’t come in time to save me. Yes, I went down in flames in the first five minutes when one of my second graders took one look at me in my glasses and asked,”Are you like, 80?”

“Eighty! You think I’m eighty! My Mama is only seventy-three!” I exclaimed, flabbergasted.

“I sure never met anybody older than their mama,” he said, confused trying to do the math.

Last week I showed up for class without my glasses determined to shave off those thirty years come Hell or high water. I didn’t ask for a show of hands when I entered–couldn’t have seen them anyway, but I’m not convinced if tripping on the story time rug and falling onto the floor constitutes a more youthful look or not.

Until next time… The Possum Queen

About Mellie Justad

A transplanted Southerner trying to survive in South Florida or what I fondly refer to as,"The Land of the Southern Impaired" I write about everyday life from my days as my hometown's Possum Queen to being cut from my wet suit with the Jaws of Life with a pair of hedge clippers. My humorous essays have appeared in the anthology, Not Your Mother's Book on Being a Mom, Midlife Boulevard, The Storyteller, ParentingPlus, Dew on the Kudzu and Muscadine Lines. Remember when you find yourself at the end of your rope- don't despair and crochet your own noose- Just add humor.
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3 Responses to Fifty– The New Eighty

  1. Old age sure isn’t for sissies that’s for sure! Love this story.


  2. Laurie Mooso says:

    I sure love you!! You are forever young in my eyes 🙂


  3. LOL! Great story! Getting older is so hard, especially when I swear I only feel like I’m 30. I still have days when I feel surprise that a “grown up” can’t tell me what to eat, when to eat it or when to go to bed. My brain isn’t a day over thirty, except for those days when I can’t remember how old I am. 🙂


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