So, in my last post, I mentioned an exercise in which I had to list my skills. After we had made the list, we had to pick one of the skills and expand on it.
I chose “putting in contact lenses”.
It’s something I can say, with confidence, that I can do in almost any situation without a problem. It’s also something that other people have a major problem with. I’ve often impressed people by plucking the lenses out of my eye without the use of a mirror. Likewise, I’ve completely repulsed people by doing this. It’s about 50/50 but I’m still proud.
So, what’s my secret?
It’s not that I’m not squeamish about putting things in my eyes. It’s a natural human instinct to be repulsed by the idea of something compromising your first line of defence. However, my vanity will always supersede my discomfort.
Putting in lenses is icky. I could just wear glasses, then I’d be able to see (my vision is -5.5 if anyone is interested, meaning if you’re standing a metre away from me… well, I can tell you HAVE a face, but that’s about it) and I wouldn’t need to put an OBJECT into my eye.
Into. My. Eye.
It’s a strange and gross thing to do just to avoid wearing glasses, but, not being Zooey Deschanel, I’m less cute when I’m wearing my frames. It’s also so awkward to wear 3D glasses OVER regular glasses. So, I obviously don’t have a choice. In they go.
Not everyone has to do it. Some people can just… see. Waking up in the morning and seeing the alarm without having to bring it towards your face. Actually reading a shampoo bottle. Spontaneous sleepovers. These are luxuries afforded to precious few, thanks to corrective lenses messing with natural selection. If you’re one of the lucky ones who has perfect sight you may never need to know how it feels to poke yourself in the eye every morning.
But maybe you will.
Maybe there will come a day where you want, nay, need to put little bits of plastic in your eyes and you will be at a disadvantage because you haven’t been preparing for it your whole life. That day did come for my friend Niamh.
It was the night of my housewarming party. The theme was Vampires vs. Werewolves. There was red wine punch in syringes and Rice Krispie treats in dog food bowls – I do nothing by halves. Niamh was one of the first to arrive.
“I might need help.” she said, “I got contact lenses but I’ve never used them before, are you any good at putting them in?”
Finally, my moment to shine.
Niamh, with her 20/20 vision, had never worn contact lenses before but thought it would be a good night to try out bright yellow, wolfish lenses – I applaud the commitment to the theme. Unfortunately for Niamh, costume-grade contact lenses are huge. About twice the size of vision-improving lenses. Like comically, unsafely large. Like fitting a frisbee in a microwave. Like childbirth in reverse.
So, inexperienced as she was, she was struggling… and I stepped up.
Niamh has lovely eyes, they’re very blue. But they’re a bit small. I mean, the human eye is a bit small.
It’s very fucking small.
It became clear that I had been overly confident. I thought I was an old pro, I could handle lenses in in the dark. I could put them in in a tent on day three of a festival and take them out after a bottle of Prosecco. Or two. As it turns out, though, putting lenses twice as big as I’m used to into eyes that aren’t mine – i.e. that are inside another person’s head – is another matter.
We persevered. Have you ever peeled back a friend’s eyelids and tried to put something in there? It was intimate in a way I had never experienced before – because I had never wanted to or even thought about it.
Soon, though, we realised it was not going to happen. Mascara was starting to run down her face, other guests were starting to arrive. I had been too confident and had crashed and burned. I looked at the lurid yellow disk, still clinging determinedly to the tip of my finger, mocking me.
“Not so skilled now, are you?” It seemed to say. Niamh was cheerful about it, she has sensitive eyes so she had expected it to be difficult and her costume was still on point – but I couldn’t forget it. The defeat haunted me.
Unlike my own contact lenses, which I slid out expertly later that night, I may never get that failure out of my head.