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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
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Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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No glasses for me.

Did any of you grow up in the New York/Connecticut/New Jersey tri-state area and if you did, do you remember the “Get glasses, Alice” commercial? In which a woman walks into walls and throws herself down the stairs and trips over the dog, and all her husband can say is, “Get glasses, Alice”? And he says it over and over again? And then she obediently hops over to her local vision center and gets glasses and her husband says something asinine like, “Alice, you got glasses!” and instead of shooting him in the head, she just smiles? This commercial was on when I was in junior high. Imagine what everyone said whenever I tripped or fell or walked into things. Imagine that I tripped and walked into things pretty much every day. That commercial is BURNED INTO MY BRAIN.

My vision has always been just fine, which annoyed me, since I badly wanted glasses. In first grade I wore my sister’s glasses to school for a full week, stumbling around and pretending that at last, I could see. I don't know if this was because I wanted glasses or because I wanted to be my sister, who was ten years older and thus, the coolest being who ever walked the earth. I’m surprised I didn’t wear her bra to school the following week, exulting that finally my breasts were getting the support they needed.

I went to the eye doctor a couple of weeks ago because my eyes have stopped functioning. Within a few minutes of focusing on a computer screen or looking at paper with words on it, they simply give up. If I fight them back into focus, they tear violently, as if my computer were composed of onions. So now that my eyes were falling apart, all I could think was, all right! It’s glasses time for me!

Except no! Damn it, my vision is still breathtakingly perfect. I have fatigued my eyes to the point of total collapse, is all. All I have to do is stay far away from the computer until such time as I absolutely have to use it. (The optometrist did give me a prescription for reading glasses, but I got the distinct impression that he was handing me a pretend prescription so that I would feel like a grown up and get out of there.)

The problem is, I need to use the computer all the time. I have tried not to look at the screen, but it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference. In fact right now my eyes are closed! You’re amazed at this, but it’s the truth. Now they’re open, but I’m looking out the window. No one’s out there. Where does everyone go? I bet they all have jobs. Those jerks.

I need some way to wrap this up, so let’s pretend there’s a tidy concluding paragraph here, instead of this. I have to go remove my eyes with a grapefruit spoon and immerse them in a bowl of chilled rainwater.

Reader Comments (58)

I faked eye exams when I was a little girl. I always wanted glasses really, really badly, and I still have perfect dang vision. I just got them checked a couple of weeks ago and squinted on the last couple of letters, even though I could see them just fine.

I've always wanted glasses but I want to need them. I don't just want clear frames. I'm not that superficial, ya know.

I also recently had a perfect hearing exam, which really devastated me.

Middle child. That's me.
October 25, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterPioneer Woman
I have a sudden craving for grapefruit.
October 25, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSusan
I'm the opposite. I have three pairs of glasses. THREE. One for reading when my eyes no longer can see a menu in a restaurant. One for the computer, because the reading glasses are for closeup and the monitor is over a foot away from my face, so I need special 2' away glasses (the best purchase I ever made, btw) and then my regular glasses because I'm blind as a bat and can't see anything without corrective lenses. Can't wear contacts because they don't correct my astigmatism and my eyes are missing an enzyme for tear production.

But like you, I stole my sister's glasses and wore them to school before I got my own and realized that glasses suck. Hers were blue aluminum cats-eye shaped frames with rhinestones. RHINESTONES! What every 3rd grader needs. So when my 5th grade teacher told my mother that I waas probably legally blind, my mother refused to believe her. The principal had to convince my mother that I couldn't see anything, and all the way to the opthamologists office my mother kept reminding me "you know the eye doctor will KNOW if you're lying". Only I wasn't lying. I WAS legally blind in one eye. Heh heh. Jokes on me.

October 25, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermargalit
The same thing happened to me. I was certain I needed glasses but my eyes were just strained.

Honestly, though, the reading glasses help me a little.
October 25, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterHeather
I often worry about the number of hours I spend staring at computer screens - with work and home it must be more than 10 hours a day...
October 25, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan
I'll gladly trade you my eyes! I'm pretty much legally blind without my glasses (contacts, actually), and it sucks, sucks, sucks. I wish I could see like a regular person!! I hope your eyes start to feel better soon.
October 25, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie
The reading glasses should help. A few years ago I started getting really dizzy whenever I was at a computer (all the time). I thought I had a tumor. Or was pregnant. Turns out I'm just a smidge far sighted (or was it near sighted?) and need reading glasses. They help a lot, when I remember to wear them.
October 25, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTara
I never wanted glasses but I definitely wanted to go to the school psychologist when I was in first grade. They actually let me go for my birthday and I was ecstatic. On second thought, maybe it was the ecstacy that prompted the visit.
October 25, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAbigail
The reading glasses really help. I have fine vision but started to have the same problem (to the point that it felt like there was a huge grain of sand in my eye that wouldn't come out), so I was able to assuage my glasses envy with a pair of the lowest-prescription reading glasses from CVS. I don't need them all the time, but when I start to get that teary, scratchy feeling when I'm using the computer, they help a lot.
October 25, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLeanne
October 25, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRenee
I probably shouldn't suggest anything, especially over the internet and with no evidence to speak of, but you might want to get a second opinion? I had an opthalmologist (not even an optometrist, for which I really felt there was no excuse) tell me that my vision was perfect, no need for glasses. Thankfully my parents listened to my complaints of headaches and problems focusing and as it turns out, I have "latent strabismus" in both eyes (this means that my eyes are "lazy" but only when my vision is obstructed.. other times I just get headaches because my eyes have to pull so much further than they should have to). Anyway, I'm not saying this is your problem, just that if you keep having issues, you should maybe see if someone else can find anything else going on.

And yuck, removing your eyeballs with a grapefruit spoon. (Though I remember a science teacher telling us to enjoy our peanut butter and vitreous fluid sandwiches.. Thanks for reminding me of that.)
October 25, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMolly
hey, alice-the reading glasses might be worth it. i had the same diagnosis. perfect vision and destroyed eyes. all that lacemaking i do in my spare time, i guess. i ran out and got reading glasses for fashion reasons, and discovered that they greatly increased the amount of time i could spend reading/working before exhausting my eyes. if money is an issue you can probably get perfectly good "readers" off the rack. i do. and they're hip, not the granny variety. plus glasses make you a feel like a woman who means business.
October 25, 2006 | Unregistered Commentersara
Ditto for me and the glasses envy! I ALWAYS wanted them, wore fake ones in 4th grade, then actually needed them in 5th. Unfortunately, I never got the "cool" frames I wanted, my mom picked them out.

My vision was never terrible, just got down to about 20/100 or 20/200. Then, in my mid-20's, my vision started getting BETTER. My prescription was lower and lower until now, I'm at 20/20! I wear glasses for driving at night or seeing in concerts or movie theaters, but that's it. Apparently, it's pretty rare, but it also means I won't need reading glasses until much later than most people.

Damn. 'Cuz I really like wearing glasses. But if I wear them any old time, I can't see.

Sorry you missed out again. I like the suggestions for a second opinion.
October 25, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNoShowMo
"Get glasses, Alice." Is that all? Pshaw! That is nothing! When I was in school the commercial for some kind of detergent featuring "Katy the Cleaning Lady" was all the rage. Except when other people would say this there was invariably a substitution for the adjective. You just consider the possibilites!

The fact that Katy rhymes so nicely with lady has, in fact, been the bane of my existence! Or, at least it was in 2nd grade when Matt Applesomething used to call me "Katy Naked Lady." That was horrifying in 2nd grade, I tell you... HORRIFYING! Now, of course, it's highly amusing and I regularly refer to myself this way or "KNL" for short.
October 25, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTitanKT
Try some of that eye lubricant too. It isn't the same as the gets-the-red-out eyedrops that you use for hangovers, it has something mildly, well lubricating in it. It has helped my computer abused eyes tremendously. They can turn and shit again.

I wanted glasses as a kid, then went through a spell of using reading glasses as a way to look wiser than I felt in my mid-thirties. I am now in my mid-forties and need reading glasses which I buy by the dozen at the dollar store because I chronically lose, sit and step on them. Between that and my five year old and her glasses envy, there is no hope for keeping a single pair of glasses within reach.

Now that I need reading glasses, I hate them so much. And I get really really angry at the people who put teeny tiny fonts on boxes of stuff I need to know how to cook or use. It would be so cool if those things came with voice chips for the visually impaired--no that would mean my pantry would sound like it was full of people making lists. That would be really bad. I guess I will stick to keeping dollar store reading glasses all over the house.
October 25, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSue
I have been trying to keep my head 3 feet from my screen now after reading the ergonomic suggestions. This is hard when you have a laptop and short, stubby arms.

When I got my first big-city job my mom told me to get a pair of glasses to wear to meetings. She said it would make people take me more seriously. She herself was a high-powered ad exec and was completely serious. I got a fake pair at Ricky's and you know what? She was right. AND nobody made a pass at me.
October 25, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLetterB
I have the same problem with my eyes! My eye sight is fine, but sometimes I cannot see AT ALL.
October 25, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJem
I loved that ad. Another favorite was "Italian, Thousand Island, or Vinaigrette?" for the hearing aids.

Does it help if you make the screen more or less bright? Change the lighting around your computer desk? I dunno. I've worn glasses since I was 3 and do everything I can to NOT wear them. Include drive.

Be careful driving in Pennsylvania.

PS, Remember the Chew Susie Chew doll, and Susie Chapstick ads? The bane of my existence in the 80's.

October 26, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSusie
Perhaps he was a snake-oil salesman rather than an optometrist, but my guy said you can have perfect vision and still require aid when using the computer.

He told me that focusing on a computer screen is not like reading words on paper. Because the pixels are mobile, your eyes are constantly focusing and re-focusing. Whereas with flat paper, you only need to focus once.

After asking me the distance between my head and the screen, he offered glasses that allow my eyes to focus a few inches beyond the computer screen. Which apparently does the trick. Maybe it's a placebo thing, but I have found HUGE relief from these glasses.

(BTW, in case he is crazy and you're interested in some snake oil, he's at Grand Central Optical on the Lexington Avenue concourse...)
October 26, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermadge
I can't believe I didn't even address the "Get Glasses, Alice" commercial trauma. I admit, it's a cross to bear. But...try being a 12-year-old Nicole who went by a pretty standard nickname at the time that the Prince song "Darling Nikki" came out. So not fun. No preteen should have her name linked with "sex fiend" (which rhymes with "masturbating with a magazine", don'tcha know).
October 26, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNicole
I've wanted glasses since I was ten but have had 20/20 vision. Just recently the eye doctor suggested I buy drug store reading glasses...someday I'll need the real ones...
October 26, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterEllen
same here! only not the older sister glasses wearing part. but the rest! same! i went to the optometrist recently with the conviction that i'd FINALLY lost at least some of my natural ability to SEE and she said? do you know what? perfect! she said my eyes are perfect! and like you i got a pretend prescription which i did not fill becuase three hundred and fifty dollars for a rpetend prescription? seems a bit pricey.

i did buy some 'reading glasses' at the grocery store for ten bucks though. they help not very much. don't waste your ten dollars. just keep looking out the window and let us know if anyone happens by.
October 26, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterhonestyrain
PLEASE don't spend a couple hundred dollars getting that Rx filled. Go to Target, try them on till you get the strength right, throw down your 8 bucks, and leave there a happy woman.
October 26, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterwordnerd
My daughter was the same way in first grade. She wore the 'Mrs. Sparks" glasses from her American Girl school kit to school and told everyone it's because she forgot to put in her contacts.

Wordnerd is right- Target has some pretty great reading glasses for a fraction of the cost.

October 26, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJ
When I am photographing sports for the newspaper and I stare through the lens for long periods of time the eye I do not use will refuse to focus for some amount of time afterwards that is directly porportional to the amount of time I spent staring through the other eye. It would not be unusal (but it may be dangerous) to see me driving home while contorting my face into all sorts of less than intelligent expressions in an attempt to help righty start focing again.

And I need reading glasses now too. You may think you don't, but the next time you try to read a lipstick color off the bottom of the tube of lipstick you'll be glad you have those granny glasses.
October 26, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterclickmom

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