Carrie and co are making reading glasses sexy – and it’s about timeDecember 14, 2021
And just like that, reading glasses are in fashion at last. The opening scene of the much-anticipated Sex And The City sequel saw all three of its stars reaching for their ready readers to look at the menu, with Carrie’s gold-rimmed, 70s style computer glasses one of the show’s most talked about fashion moments (they’re made by German eyewear brand Mykita).
Eyesight is such an easy thing to fix, yet we struggle to accept that it’s waning.Credit:HBO Max
It’s about time. For too long, midlife women have been ashamed to show their “eye age”. Recent research conducted by my platform, Noon, with Vision Express, found that over half of women over 45 say that losing their eyesight is the largest negative impact of the menopausal years and 73 per cent say it makes them feel old.
Not long ago, the problem scuppered what should have been an exciting night out with my husband at the buzzing new London restaurant, Circolo Popolare. We sat down in our dimly lit booth and grinned at each other – and then looked at the menu. It was light pink with small red writing. I squinted, I turned on my torch (that usually helps) but try as I might I couldn’t read any of it – it could have been written in hieroglyphics. My husband couldn’t read it either. Neither of us had thought to bring our reading glasses.
My buoyant mood began to sink. We began looking around at what others were eating, wondering if we could just point so we didn’t have to admit we couldn’t decipher the menu. In the end we asked our waitress to talk us through the options, but between the shame and the background roar of the busy restaurant – yes, my hearing isn’t what it was either – we weren’t much the wiser when she’d finished. Feeling idiotic, we ordered randomly and ended up with one dish which was inedible (it had meat in it and my husband is a veggie).
It was the first time I had ever really felt my age. Until that moment, I’d felt young and vital, deserving of a spot in a hipster restaurant, despite heading fast towards 50. But that evening, in that thronged room full of youngsters, I suddenly became Miss Marple, an old granny in need of spectacles.
My whole life I’ve prided myself on my 20:20 vision. I could read newspaper print in dimming light, devour a book or my notes in a dark car. Not anymore – and I hate it.
But these issues aren’t just an annoyance in your social life: the side-effects of not wearing reading glasses include eye strain, headaches and fatigue. And it can be dangerous, too: I got in the wrong Uber the other day because I couldn’t read the registration number of the one I was supposed to be in on my phone. If you are driving yourself and you don’t know your eyes have deteriorated, well that’s even worse; you could kill someone, or yourself.
After the age of 40, everyone will experience some degree of presbyopia – age related long-sightedness, where the lens becomes less elastic and flexible, making it difficult to shift focus quickly between nearby and distant objects. It tends to first present as difficulties reading fine print or books unless held at arm’s length and often results in eye strain when reading for long periods. Nearby objects can appear fuzzy and vision may become temporarily blurred when changing the length of the viewing distance.
Menopause causes sight issues, too – not just eyesight waning, but dry and irritable eyes too. “During menopause the androgen hormone decreases, affecting the meibomian and lacrimal glands in the eyelids. When these oil and fluid producing glands are affected, the eyelids can become inflamed, reducing tear production and tear quality, leading to dry eyes,” says Dr Dan McGhee at Vision Express.
These changes mean it is important to get your eyes checked regularly once you hit 45 – a routine eye test won’t just check your sight and prescription, but can also pick up early signs of diseases such as age related macular degeneration, eye ulcers and even some cancers. An eye test should become an annual event, but less than a third of women in their 40s have had one in the last six months.
Eyesight is such an easy thing to fix, yet we struggle to accept that it’s waning. For me, trying to weigh out ingredients without my reading glasses is now impossible. But I don’t want to have to go and find them in the midst of cooking. My kids sigh and roll their eyes when I ask them to read packets. It’s the same frustration I felt with my own mum or granny when they’d hand me something wailing, “I can’t see”.
More than the practicalities of wearing and carrying glasses around, losing your eyesight matters because it goes to the core of how we feel about ourselves. It is a blow to the youthful-feeling midlife woman to realise that you have become that older woman who needs her glasses.
But the truth is this is a fixable problem, with a variety of solutions now available to us. The easiest solution is the right prescription reading lenses, to use for close-up tasks; or, if you already wear glasses, to switch to varifocals or multifocals.
These have become a less common sight though, thanks to a rise in the use of contact lenses and the arrival of laser surgery for presbyopia, where a laser is used to reshape the cornea, allowing the eye to focus on near and distant objects again. It’s also possible to have it treated during cataract surgery, replacing the lens with a multifocal or accommodating lens.
We need a trip to the optician to help us to see, but the rest of society also needs to change their lens on midlife women, so we stop feeling ashamed of age and its natural effects.
Meanwhile, we should be taking care of our eyes just as we do the rest of our bodies. Nutrition is particularly important for eye health. Eating a diet high in fruit, vegetables, fish and whole grains, with plenty of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A, B, C, E and K will nourish your eyes and help your vision. Avoid artificial sweeteners and processed foods.
In the hundred-year-life (which is statistically where many women of our generation are headed) 50 is only half way through – that means we’ve got the afternoon and evening of our lives left. So yes, we need a trip to the optician to help us to see, but the rest of society also needs to change their lens on midlife women, so we stop feeling ashamed of age and its natural effects.
Since my disastrous trip to Circolo Popolare, I’ve got myself some fetching new specs (just a touch of the Dame Edna) and am campaigning to help women find their next chapter. It’s time to see midlife women differently – and all praise to Carrie and co for showing the world that reading glasses can be the height of chic.
Eleanor Mills is the founder of Noon, a platform for women in midlife.
The Telegraph, London
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