Yesterday, my daughter came home with glasses. I knew she’d be getting them; we had to set up an appointment in Waldport after the school eye-screening came back with drastically different results from last year. But the news wasn’t so-so bad: Just regular near-sightedness. Eleven to twelve years old is the age when eyesight can often change.
But she came in the door, her cute little round face all different from the wire-frames perched on the bridge of her nose.
“They’re purple.” She announced.
I watch her look at stuff. Look at stuff and see it different. The window, the cat: She lifts the glasses an inch to peer underneath, and then lets them drop again, re-exploring her world.
And then she goes to look in the mirror.
A queer little wind of desolation blows over my heart as her expression changes, and she backs up a bit, tilting her head to stare.
She is seeing. Seeing herself with sharp edges; seeing every angle, every shadow in dolby-digital, after months of fuzzy reception. Less distinct vision isn’t such a bad thing… it gives hard edges a softer feel. Near-sightedness is nature’s airbrush, giving dominant impressions over to color and ‘the-basic-idea’ of a picture, rather than the nitpicky details.
Now she sees. Sees herself, absolutely, according to the man-made laws of 20/20 vision- the ocular golden fleece.
When she turns sideways to give her shape an appraising study, I want to protest. I want to gather her hands between my own, lead her to the couch, and try to explain. This isn’t truth, this vision. She can see her freckles now, and under-eye shadows standing out like 3-D, but it’s only the sharp-focus view, and it seems harsh because it is unexpected. This is merely an exchange really- a new visual language of precision which can be useful for defining what requires definition. But it’s only one way of seeing.
We don’t really see anything accurately, as human beings. The colors we perceive in surrounding objects don’t reflect that object’s true color, but rather the specific wavelength of light that an object reflects rather than absorbs. What we can see is actually the color that an object *isn’t*.
We know the shape of the world through our senses, and those shapes are dependent upon the tools used to perceive. Perception among people varies as much as one person’s body varies from another. And that only covers the difference in perception among our species. Imagine how differently the world is perceived by creatures who have other primary senses.
For instance, have you ever tried to wrap your mind around the world of a dog? It is the olfactory rather than the ocular which dominates a canine’s perception of the universe. How differently places and people must seem when the primary descriptive is smell. How different the shape and sense of things must be to a nose creature instead of an eye creature.
This would confuse my daughter. It would confuse my daughter to be told she’ll never see herself the way anyone else sees her. That the shape of her face will always be colored by an individual’s impression of her overall self. That no two people will see her alike, that for various psychological reasons, some people will be attracted and others repelled by the specific shapes of her features, their combination, their color.
I want to tell her she is more beautiful then she’ll ever know she is. I want to tell her all her friends will also seem harshly defined through these new lenses, and that she hasn’t actually changed since yesterday. I want to tell her she can take the glasses off, because how you see the world might be more important, in the long-run, then how much of it you’re able to see.
See how tangled I get in February?
I open my mouth, to start with, what? I say,
“You look really cute in your glasses. Are you hungry?”
“What do you want to eat?”
And all the subtext swells up and sinks down again. Better that way. Parenting would be one endless labyrinth for her to endure if I actually tried expressing this stuff.
Besides… It’s going to be awfully cute to watch her discover the visual minutiae of a banana.
Thanks for reading, weebles. Oh, and happy birthday to me.