Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Eyewear Revolution

by All4eyes 2007

"THIS IS THE YEAR...for your best lens-look EVER!!!" screamed the headline of a women's magazine. It seemed they all proclaimed it was the year of your best something ever. It was the January issue and just as people were tiring of their snowflake sweaters and Santa hats, so too were they tiring of their red-and-white-stripe "candy cane" frames and the glasses with one lens tinted red and one tinted green some had been wearing (the odd visual effect not deterring them from being in sync with the season) and were eager for a new look. Samantha picked up the magazine, blew off the dust (it was from a few years back) and opened it to the article about lens-looks.

It started out with a personality quiz, a series of questions designed to help you determine if you had a "myopic personality" or a "hyperopic personality". Then there were charts showing various face-shapes and hair styles and pointing out which prescriptions (as well as frames) looked best with each-"If you have a round face, try using minus lenses to bring in those over-ample curves. If you have a long, thin face, plus lenses can "visually fill-out" your face and give the illusion of more normal width", interspersed with advertisements (cleverly disguised as "fashion news items") for various frame manufacturers and (for the more well-to-do) designers and contact lens companies to order the necessary counter-balancing lenses (for all those round-faced hyperopes and long-faced myopes).

It was a heady time indeed in the world of eyewear fashion. Not long before, one of the top medical schools had released a report of a study conducted over 100 years that showed that true, complete emmetropia was almost nonexistent and that therefore everyone should go and have their eyes tested to "see" in what way their visual performance might be enhanced. At around the same time it was discovered that "victims" of laser vision correction rarely achieved as good an uncorrected or, even more frightening, as good a corrected sight as their corrected sight before the procedure. There were so many people coming out of these operations with screwed-up corneas that had to be transplanted that the demand for replacement corneas surpassed the supply and a lot of people were pretty ticked off that there were people who had been blinded, through no fault of their own, who could have been cured by a transplant but had to continue through life blind because a bunch of vain people, who even in their uncorrected state could see so much more than the blind ones, didn't want to have to wear glasses anymore! This situation (not to mention that of ophthalmologists being sued every day for malpractice) escalated until finally the government decided to intervene and outlaw refractive surgery.

Contacts also were an increasingly nonviable option; as the levels of pollution in the air and the number of persons with serious allergies skyrocketed, the number of potential contact-wearers became smaller and smaller, all but driving the contact lens manufacturers out of business. And so, glasses became virtually mandatory for the entire population. With so many people now wearing glasses, they ceased to be considered nerdy or a sign of weakness and became an item of everyone's everyday dress (and a subject of endless fashionistic fascination), just like shoes. There even developed a trend of other fashion accessories based on spectacles, as people began having small lenses on chains as necklaces, hair barrettes with little lenses on them, even purses and chunky shoe heels made of glass or transparent plastic ground to prescription!

It became so rare to see a person without glasses that children (who normally got their first pair long before kindergarten, since it had also come to light how very important it is for optimum visual development that children see as clearly as possible) who came to school unbespectacled were often teased by their classmates ("Hey, Two-Eyed Tracy, did you know your face is naked?"). Because people nearly always wore specs when in public and only went bare-eyed in the comfort of their own homes and company of their intimate partners, being bare-eyed began to take on an erotic connotation, just like other forms of nudity-there were even dirty magazines with titles like "Bare-eyed Beauties" and "Unframed Faces", though there were those who insisted that facial nudity did not have to be associated with sex, that it could be a matter of simply enjoying the freedom of being bare and some of these decided to prove their point by joining facial nudist colonies, though their motives were frequently questioned. Largely because of this (although the only admitted reason was safety concerns of what an uncorrected person might plow into), it even became illegal in many places to walk about bare-eyed. This was wonderful for those who happened to look great in the lenses their eyes naturally called for, but not so great for those previously mentioned folks whose face shape and rx clashed or for myopes who's eyes were small anyway or hyperopes who's eyes were big anyway. These people suffered through wearing their less-than-flattering specs, until, through the wonders of modern science, air pollution was more-or-less conquered and breakthroughs in the treatment of allergies once again enabled most people to wear contacts.

You might think this would have stopped the glasses trend, but by this time glasses were a firmly established fixture of everyone's lives and it was too late to reverse it. This did, however, allow people who previously had been stuck with their natural prescriptions to wear any rx they found flattering to them or attractive to their partners or even to experiment with all different rxs, though most seemed to want to find the look that was best for them and only alter it slightly and gradually from time to time, preferring to maintain a single, predictable way of seeing things and being perceived by others. Another serendipitous thing for people with large eyes and round faces or small eyes and long faces was the use of myodisc or lenticular type lenses, so the first person would wear minus lenses in a plus carrier and the second plus lenses in a minus carrier, to flatter both their face shape and their eyes. Of course, there were those who objected to this "trickery", when they discovered their "myopic" significant other's plus contacts, like the mislead individuals of yore who became upset upon discovering their "blond" mate's hair dye, but most minus lens lovers were simply happy to enjoy the view.

But this was only the beginning of the eyewear revolution. "Ah, those were the days" Samantha sighed as she picked up another old magazine, this time a more serious news magazine, from a few decades after the date the previous one was printed. The news included a long article discussing the pros and cons of the new "crack-down" on "corrective lens prescription fraud". There were now tougher sentences imposed on doctors who gave out "illegitimate" rxs and for people who were found wearing the fashion-forward but "deceitful" GOC combos. There was talk of religious principles and how it was a sin to go against one’s intended nature, some even called for a good ol’ fashion stoning of the "wicked cross-lensers", though most took the less radical view that "these people" would surely "see" the "refractive error of their ways", if only all the good, spiritually-minded folks of the world would spread the message and save these poor lost souls from their own foolishness.

Furthermore, marriage was redefined in the "eyes" of the law as "a union between a myope and a hyperope" and this also applied to gay marriages in states where they were legally recognized. This was done on the grounds that "myopes and hyperopes were created as complementary opposites". This is all that the actual law regarding marriage stated, but many had expanded on this short statement to produce hour-long sermons on the subject. This new morality of vision led to the creation of whole new groups of outcasts-"homovisuals", who were attracted to those of the same visual persuasion, "transvisuals", who felt they really were the opposite of their physical rx on the inside (hyperope trapped in a myope’s body or vice versa), the previously mentioned "cross-lensers" who liked to wear the opposite vision’s specs, but didn’t actually feel that they should have been born the opposite vision, and "optically ambiguous" persons, who had one myopic eye and one hyperopic, or who had a kind of mixed astigmatism that made them nearsighted along one axis and farsighted along another of the same eye, these people’s parents were generally advised to have them operated upon in early childhood (this being the only legal use of refractive surgery) to make them clearly myopic or hyperopic.

Samantha was one of those people who would have been labeled "Bivisual" as she had always been attracted to both myopes and hyperopes, but this was accepted at the time of her marriage to her husband Fred (who was a myope like her). He had been gone and she had been alone for some 20 years now and she felt that a new romance really didn’t have a place in her life (she was only 96, and thus probably had quite a few good years left (after all, the average life expectancy for a woman nowadays is 130), but she rather enjoyed the freedom of being able to live her life her own way and her friends and great-grandchildren kept her quite busy). Speaking of Samantha’s great-grandchildren, just as she was finishing looking through her old magazine collection, she heard her great-granddaughter Julie come in. "Hey, Julie, what have you been doing all this fine afternoon?" Julie took a deep breath and prepared to tell her Granny of the meeting she had just attended. It was hard, but she trusted her great-grandmother and she had always seemed to be pretty open-minded, more so than Julie’s mother and grandmother, even. "I just hope she can understand" Julie though as she began "Well, I had an interesting experience, actually. You see I went to this meeting…"

Note: This story is a kind of "prequel" to the story "Challenging the New Morality". I guess I really should have written this story first, but if you’ve never read either one, maybe you can read this one first and then that one and pretend I wrote them that way ;-) (if you’ve already read the other story, I guess this one will help fill in some missing pieces). I’m working on some other stories for this series, too. 8-)

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