Word of the Day: Multifocals

Pronunciation: MUHL-tee-foh-kuhls

Definition: (of an eyeglass lens) having several focusing areas that correct for both nearsightedness and farsightedness.

Usage: Here are your new multifocals. We take all major credit cards plus your firstborn blond male child (who is probably in his twenties by now, given that you’re getting multifocals). Please don’t wear them home on the subway as you will likely trip, fall in & die while your eyes “adjust” to what’s basically the start of a lifelong series of tricks played on your failing vision.


The end of my youth arrived officially about three weeks ago. The optometrist put away her instruments, turned the lights back on in the exam room and said, “Well, your new prescription will be for multifocals.”

That’s what *I* said.

(For those of you unfamiliar with the term, multifocals are the new bifocals, the way “restructuring” is the new “layoffs” or “Your call is important to us” is the new “50 minutes of ‘Yesterday’ on the vibraphones.”)

At any rate, the multifocal issue is a bullet I’ve been dodging for the last five years or so as my vision has gotten steadily crappier, thanks to a job that involves eyeballing a computer screen all day, and to the simple fact that I’m not getting any younger. After my last two eye exams, lo these many years ago, the doctor smiled benevolently and said, “No bifocals for you just yet, but they’re coming…”, and released me like a rabbit out of a trap, back into that wonderful place called Denial.

Denial: not just … well, you know.

This is, by the way, a great place to live, for those of you not residing there already:  it’s a nice cozy world where my RRSPs didn’t really take such a bath in 2008-09, where cheese Doritos are good for me, and where the print on things like food labels is simply getting tinier (and my arms are getting too short to read it).

I went through the same sort of denial when I had my first pair of glasses, actually. I had had to use them to see the blackboard in high school, but when I was in university my eyes took a turn for the worse, meaning I couldn’t read things like street signs or license plates.

I staggered along just fine, thank you very much, squinting and peering like a badger, until one memorable day I was riding my bike down Spadina Avenue and didn’t realize that the car ahead of me was actually stationary. This was in the days before bike helmets were mandatory, or even heard of, and I basically executed a Cirque de Soleil-worthy aerial somersault, complete with bicycle, as I connected with the car. Possibly the blow to my head (and my ego) jogged my brain cells into order because I wore my glasses without a fuss after that.

This time, however, it’s been rather more of an adjustment. (By this I mean “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” plus a minor tantrum in the doctor’s office, followed by prolonged sulking and wringing of hands. Eventually I learned that most of my colleagues of a similar age are also in possession of multifocals, and have been for quite a while, so I meekly shut my beak and got on with it.)

No! Me NOT wear multifocals! NO NO NO!

A couple of days ago I got the call that the new specs were ready, so, credit card in hand, I presented myself at the optometrist’s front desk and was whisked away for a “lesson” in the fitting room at the back, where I learned how to see through the darn things. For those of you not familiar with the technology (you lucky so-and-so’s) one looks straight ahead for distance vision, and down for up-close vision, like reading a book. Or a Doritos label.

However, it’s not as simple as it sounds (is anything, really?) and after a few hilarious moments (which I’m sure they will post on YouTube) involving me swivelling my head around, making Scooby Doo noises (“Haroo?”) and crashing into a couple of chairs, I was told to point my nose at whatever I needed to look at, rather than just trying to focus my eyes.

After a few more minutes of Haroo? and several more overturned chairs, I was released into my own custody once more, but told to wear my old glasses on my return trip & carry the new ones in a bag. “We always tell people not to wear them on the trip home,” said the specialist helpfully. “Just in case you misjudge something.  They do take some getting used to.”

“OK, super, thank you!” I said merrily and exited into the coat closet.

Wear me.

The long and the short of it is that she is right: I tried to read the newspaper the other morning, and after about 10 minutes of swivelling my head like a dashboard doll, pulling the paper close to my face, moving it away again, squinting sideways at it and finally flinging it across the room (OK, against my own kneecap…damn these glasses) in exasperation, I gave in and put my old glasses on again.

But this morning I made it through about half the paper before going back to my old glasses, and I even drove into work wearing them. (I’ll go get the car out of the neighbour’s yard after it gets dark.) In fact, I’m wearing them now as I type this, and I don’t seem uji  nsu 29yuhms’hklj smhjmu [jm’;==2!

Dammit. OK, fine. I’ll be here in the coat closet, eating Doritos, if you want me for anything. Hq098ghsg njh 687sh  njhsy046sAAEFF  yuyu.

Fine print, shmine print.


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