I was trying to make out the fine print on a bottle the other day. Lifting my glasses up I pulled the item closer, tilted my head down and peered under the frames. While I read tiny black on white print, somewhere in my unconscious neurons fired like pinballs through an intricate network until they found their mark and “ding” a flag went up and a memory flashed into consciousness. I pulled back and scrunched my face in confusion, as if trying to make out the source of an odd odor, and then my eyebrows shot up in surprised recognition – I have become my grandmother. What?! In my mind’s eye an image of my grandmother floats, her glasses moved to the top of her head or dangling from one hand while she reads and contemplates a crossword puzzle, a newspaper story, or maybe a bottle with instructions. I never connected my grandmother’s action with a universal experience of aging. It was just something she did. One action of many which together formed the person I knew uniquely to be her.
I have reached an age when in a dimly lit restaurant with contacts in, I will push and pull and angle a menu struggling to make out the fine print and a friend will reach into her purse and offer one or two or more pairs of reading glasses. When did this happen? When did my friends start adding over-the-counter hip-styled glasses in varying degrees of magnification to their stash of lip gloss, tampons, tissues, lotion, condoms, Band-aids, Advil and assorted other just-in-case supplies?
It probably happened sometime after I first heard myself refer to a group of 20-somethings as kids and around the same time I noticed that it takes a little more gym-dedication to keep the status quo. Maybe it slipped into my social circle and I wasn’t paying attention, I was focused too hard on what to order from that menu. Or like a sleight-of-hand trick, I was distracted by a friend’s good humored, flirtatious repartee with a young male waiter as she bid him check and see if the maître de had loaner reading glasses, announcing that they always have a pair, to realize what was happening. We laughed at her knowledge of such things. She was someone a little older and a lot cooler sharing her wisdom and secrets for what lay ahead, like an older sister who just got her driver’s license or could whip out her ID and order a drink at TGIF’s.
So now that I have struggled with jewelry clasps; wondered why anyone would choose white on black print for a website; squinted at a needle while trying to thread it; and, have been offered the tortoise-shell torch twice from friends’ purses (and once from my husband), the purchase of reading glasses stands before me like a rite-of-passage. And I will proudly move forward. I’ll probably skip the drugstore rack though. I have noticed that Anthropologie has recognized a market among the 40-somethings who aren’t ready for the role of Grandma and prefer to think of it as buying a fun, new accessory. Guess I’ll be heading to the mall soon, just like a teenager again in my own mid-life coming of age story.
UPDATE: Walgreens was a great place to start after all. Thank you to all who suggested that drugstores and Costco should not be overlooked. But I’m still loving the show-off, Anthropologie strategy and plan to adopt it too. So here are my +1.00 mag.”training glasses”.