Andrew Karp
NEW YORK—For many people, having their vision corrected for the first time can be a profoundly life-changing experience. In my case, though, there was no “wow” moment. I only began wearing glasses in my mid-30s, and looking through the lenses felt strange for the first few weeks. I recall being conscious of the frame, a solid object that now circumscribed my view. But within a month the sensations went away, and soon the glasses felt natural.

What do you remember about getting your first pair of glasses or contact lenses? How did wearing corrective lenses change the way you see the world, how others see you… and how you see yourself?

VMail Weekend asked readers to reminisce about their first experience wearing eyewear and what it meant to them. Here are their stories.

Jon Torrey
Executive Director
Think About Your Eyes

“I started becoming myopic around age eight—at least that was when it became noticeable, and my parents took me for an exam. The myopia happened so gradually that it didn’t even register with me until my father asked me a question about something off in the distance, and I couldn’t see well enough to answer him. Once I had my first exam and put on a pair of glasses, I had the ‘Aha!’ moment of seeing every leaf on every tree. That experience of real clarity started my addiction to having perfect distance vision.

I don’t recall that my family and friends had much of a reaction, other than a few, ‘Oh hey, you’re wearing glasses!’ comments. The correction to 20/20 was much more dramatic to me than to anyone around me. All of a sudden I could see everything on the horizon—and catch a baseball!”

Alysia Gradney
Senior Director, Digital Marketing & PR
Vision Source

“Getting my vision corrected was an amazing experience for me. I struggled academically in middle school. As a result, I had a very low grade point average. My academic performance was so poor that I was placed within a special after-school program to help struggling students. After moving to a new town, one of my teachers suggested that I may have some vision problems. The school nurse conducted a quick test and found that the teacher was right. A few months later, I went to our local optometrist and received my first pair of glasses.

I have a very clear memory of putting on glasses for the first time. Everything was so bright and clear; it actually made my eyes hurt. I couldn't believe that this is what the world looked like; I was shocked by how close objects appeared to me and felt like I was in a new world. I actually started to cry and the optician hugged me for a long time. After that my grades improved drastically, I was listed on the honor roll, and I went on to graduate high school with honors.

At first, my family didn't believe that I needed glasses. With the urging of my teacher, guidance counselor and school nurse, my mother took me for my first optometry appointment. To this day, I am very thankful for those public school officials who cared enough about my education to contact my family. My friends laughed at me for needing to wear glasses but I didn't care. I was able to read the whiteboard at school, read signs on the freeway and leave school without a headache.

Currently, I have a love affair with glasses and own multiple pairs. My glasses are my cape, they give me the superpower of sight. As long as I have them, I feel like I can accomplish anything.”

Judith Michael
VP, Frames Operations
Frames Data

“I started wearing glasses in third grade. After I turned 13, I constantly badgered my mom about getting contact lenses. After wearing glasses for six years, I decided I wanted something different.

I recall sitting in the waiting room of my eye doctor’s office, the same office where I’d selected my frames from the choice of three.

Dr. Ziff had just fitted me with a pair of pale blue contacts that looked like little translucent seashells. He said I should wear them in his office for 15 minutes, then come back later in the week to wear them for a longer time, then take them home and gradually work my way up. Is it possible that this was the standard operating procedure for contact lenses at the time? I sat there in his uncomfortable waiting room chair, unable to read (which was and is my favorite pastime), dark-mascara tears streaming down my face, while other patients smiled at me, benignly.

I never did quite habituate myself to the hard lenses, and years later after trying to wear just one lens, even though I have a high-minus, I found myself in another eye doctor’s waiting room. I had to wait a long time; her staff had to bring in extra chairs for all the patients. I think she was in high demand because she was one of the few ODs who prescribed soft lenses at that time.

When the contacts she ordered finally arrived, I was so relieved to be able to see with no distracting eye discomfort. Some 40 years later I still wear my (now multi-focal) contacts 15 hours a day. I do wear frames an hour or two daily and am so grateful for super-thin progressives after those “Coke bottle” lenses from childhood. At some point I realize I will have to give up my contacts and return to round-the-clock glasses— maybe in another 40 years.”

Stephen Fournier
Kingdom Eyewear

“I had a screening at my school in 1967 and was featured on the pages of the city newspaper, promoting the optician’s work as outreach to the local community school children, providing eye test clinics on school grounds. I was diagnosed with an issue in one eye and needed corrective lenses.

I was so very excited to be able to wear glasses for the first time, because the kids I liked best were the ones who wore glasses. I was about to be transformed in looks by the wonderful fashion statement of the time, a classic combination frame. Today that same look is still quite popular.”

Davette Fournier
Davette’s Lunettes

“I began wearing glasses at age 12, due to difficulty seeing the chalk board at the front of the classroom. I was all smiles when I arrived at school the day I received my first pair of glasses, with a light correction for astigmatism.

Later as an adult petite person, I grew tired of always having to wear glasses that were either too big (typical adult sizes) or small, but not ‘lady-like,’ in my opinion. Discovering that need inspired me years later to start my collection, Davette’s Lunettes, for petite ladies with feminine style.”