The Clarity of Middle Age

It all started when the view from my balcony began looking hazy at night. Looking out at the blurred blocks of flats in the distance, I asked my husband: “Is it me or is it foggy tonight?” The first time, he assured me that my eyesight was fine and that it had been hazy of late. I was relieved until I realised that every subsequent evening, with its low light, brought about a view that was fuzzy around the edges.

I did not head to the optician immediately. While I love my parents dearly, I would hardly say that I am overflowing with genetic gifts — but stellar vision is indubitably one of the triumphs of our bloodline. Additionally, in a country with one of the world’s highest rates of myopia, I used to feel a frisson of smugness when friends with dry eyes from contact lenses or broken blood vessels from Lasik expressed envy at my 6/6 vision.

It’s not that I was worried about joining the ranks of the bespectacled. More than four decades of solid eyesight, to me, is already an extremely good run. It’s more that I thought that glasses weren’t necessary yet — even though I could not clearly see the features of people across a dimly lit room. I consoled myself that most probably looked better that way.

Related: How do family origins affect our eye health?

A trip to the optician


My eyes were opened (literally) only when I decided to tag along when my husband — an eyewear veteran who has been short-sighted since Primary 4 — visited his optician. I asked for an eyesight test to know where I stood. The moment the optician put test lenses on me, the world changed. Signs and faces in the distance suddenly swam into high-definition.

According to the optician, I could go without glasses for longer as my degree of visual impairment — short-sightedness, long-sightedness, astigmatism — was minimal. But I wanted glasses, mainly because the test lenses had shown me the crisply delineated world that I used to see. I could not go back.

It took longer to find the right frames than to decide that I wanted prescription glasses. It did not help that my other half, unaccustomed to seeing me in eyewear other than oversized sunglasses, kept laughing at the frames I tried on.

“I would hardly say that I am overflowing with genetic gifts — but stellar vision is indubitably one of the triumphs of our bloodline.”

So I knew I had found the right style for me when I slipped on a pair of titanium aviator-style frames with a matte-gold finish, and he suddenly stopped sniggering.

Naturally, I debuted my milestone-marking new purchase on social media. The strongest responses came from peers who, like me, were beginning to experience failing eyesight.

One of my male friends, who usually exhibits a fair amount of grit and is not someone I would have expected to quake at the mere mention of impaired vision, asked in all seriousness whether I had been nervous about getting my eyes tested.

When I laughed, he confessed: “I don’t know, perhaps I feel it’s a sign of old age, along with my ever-aching back, LOL.” It reminded me of one of my aunts, who is past 70 but refuses to wear reading glasses, preferring instead to pore over the newspapers with magnifying glass in hand.

Maybe this is because I don’t have to wear my glasses most of the time yet. As such, they are more of a fun accessory than a necessity. In the meantime, I’m leaning into the changes that come with getting older, such as my growing number of grey hairs. But check back again in a few years. When the visible signs of ageing can no longer be as easily ignored, you might find me stocking up on hair dye and magnifying glasses.