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Published on September 22nd, 2014 | by Richard Black


Bifocals, Prostate Exams and Other Accoutrements of Aging


This smug little bastard makes those glasses he probably doesn’t need so good. When I was his age I looked like Eudora Welty after she’d been in a bar fight. Quite frankly, I still do.

I’ve recently become a fan of technology, specifically smart phones and even more specifically of a new smart phone, preferably one with a screen the size of a legal pad of paper. Reading the four point font on my current phone while I listen to the radio,  play Mahjong, or drive has posed a challenge for a man of my advanced age and, quite frankly, a change is highly overdue.

In all honesty I really don’t care for mobile phones or phones in general. Don’t get me wrong they’re great and when I need to call 911 after my daughter has jammed four kidney beans up her nose but I hate being at the convenience of anyone who has the presence of mind to jab a few numbers into a keypad or yell my name at Siri.

Before I met my wife I had a landline for fifteen years and I don’t think I answered it more than four or five times during the duration of our time together. We had a lovely relationship, the landline and I. She didn’t expect much from me and the only thing I asked of her was not to ring. Having put the ringer permanently in the mute position (with her permission, I’m not a monster)my request was easy for her to accommodate and we spent the bulk of our time together in a dignified but comfortable silence. All couples should be so lucky,

One, specifically you dear reader, may wonder how I came to own a mobile phone in the first place. The answer, as with most things I’ve successfully resisted (Indian food, the dentist, etc) until my thirties, was because of my wife. I don’t generally like to share the details of my personal life but just this once I believe I’ll make this one, small exception.


Meet Betty. My first, my last, my everything.

A few years ago I came home from work some six hours late to find Laura on the phone with the police. She was noticeably upset and imploring them to search for my body even though I hadn’t been gone the required amount of time to be declared missing or even dead. After walking through the door I gathered from my fiance’s soul searing glare that I would have found myself in one, or perhaps even both conditions, if I had arrived a few minutes later.

In my defense I was under the belief that I told Laura I was going to be late. It was probably hard to hear my voice over the noise at the strip club in which I was eating lunch. The acoustics were absolutely terrible and that was an oversight on my part. I’ve always prided myself on taking blame when it was appropriate. The long and short of the story  is that I’ve had a phone ever since as well as a nasty rash on my left cheek.

Ten, even five, years ago I would have been delighted with the added functionality of a smart phone. I imagine I would have spent hours upon hours running through its various features and apps.  These days I can’t even be bothered to clear out all the spam in my personal email account and the odds that I’ll spend a few hours exploring anything other than how to make a phone call are close to those of me sprouting a second head on my foot.

Sure it’s great to download pornography when the mood strikes me in an Arby’s restroom but it’s a huge price to pay to be available to anyone I’ve had the poor judgement to give my number to. I’m a heavy and gregarious drinker so I suppose these sorts of things are inevitable.

In my humble opinion the best sort of phone is one that doesn’t ring. I took mine swimming a few months ago, accidentally I might add, and it hasn’t registered a call since. The experience has been difficult for my wife but, all in all, I’ve found this new feature to be positively delightful. Unfortunately my phone and I may have to become more involved; a prospect I greet with as much enthusiasm as sitting on my balls or the implications of the phrase  “We need to take our relationship to another level.”

A few years ago or so I went to an optometrist to be fitted for contacts and found the exam to be…a bit disheartening. I’ve worn glasses ever since I was 12 years old. Since that time my vision has declined at a rate that would make the decent of the Hindenburg seem stately and reserved in comparison. I’m generally aware of the fact that I’ll probably be legally blind by the time I’m 45 but that’s a problem for future Richard and one I spend my considerable mental faculties ignoring for as long as possible.

It was when the technician asked my age that I became a bit concerned and, quite naturally, I lied.


The synthesis of style and function

“I’m 31,” I told the forty something technician who notified me that she had access to my “actual” age via the forms I had just filled out.

“Then why did you ask?” I…well asked her.

“I wanted to see if you were going to be a problem,” she responded.

I cursed HIPPA for not protecting my imaginary age and vanity from health care professionals and once the exam was concluded learned that I might need bifocals upon my next visit. In retrospect I was lucky to get out of the office without a matching set of eye patches and a white cane.

One year later I can see the technician might be correct but only because the she wrote down her recommendation in forty point font. Due to a wicked astigmatism my contacts float around my eyes like those two morbidly obese twins wobbling around on minibikes. To make matters worse I also have the tendency to jam the wrong lens in the wrong eye, a mistake that provides me with all of the handicaps of an evening of heavy drinking and none of its pleasures.

Unfortunately I’m running out of contact lenses and find myself at an impasse. I need to pull the trigger on some sort of solution. I could order a stack online but most “reputable” companies want a recent prescription i.e. one that wasn’t written during the last Bush Administration. There’s probably some dubious source in North Korea willing to sell me a year’s supply and I’m a fan of global trade. I really am. I’m also a fan of avoiding eye herpes. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted to place an order but I’d prefer to forgo going blind and the inevitable lawsuit that will follow once I accidentally grope someone’s mother at Darcy’s school when all I’m really looking for is the handle on the door.

Given the consequences I’m forced to consider the fact that I may need to visit an optometrist in the near future and, preferably, before I’m indicted for sexual harassment.

Like the prostate exams, erectile dysfunction, and early onset senile dementia it seems that bifocals are one of the inevitable costs of aging. I was present when my mother was told that she had to wear bifocals and watched her promptly break into tears. She must have been around the age I’m at now and I distinctly remember thinking “what’s the big fucking deal?” as she sobbed on and off for the next three or four days. It turns out that the big fucking deal is that aging blows an elephant’s dick. With warts. Sideways. If you can do it gracefully then my hat is off to you but you probably have a full head of hair, 20/20 vision, reproductive organs that work without a hitch and access to a top notch plastic surgeon.


This woman’s old. Does it look like she’s having a good time?

Suffice it to say that my vanity precludes me from purchasing bifocals, so much so that I’m willing to put the general public at risk a few years down the line when my vision really goes to pot and I insist on driving without corrective lenses.

Fortunately, at least for my sake if not for pedestrians or other drivers, I come from a long line of men who’ve had the courage to ignore their physical limitations for the sake of their independence. Both of my grandfathers managed to drive up until a year or so before they passed and I like to think that I can do the same. Grandpa Black was 93 and still managed to fire up his ancient Buick every day to pick up his girlfriend, go to church and buy a few beers at the grocery store. I’m not saying he was the greatest driver in the world. He didn’t have to be as he never drove over 20 miles an hour. My grandfather was a considerate man and I imagine he wanted it to be easy for anyone in his path to move out of the way in the event he swerved onto the sidewalk or oncoming traffic.

I can’t say that I’m looking forward to losing my ability to read anything that isn’t a foot and a half in front of my face but following in this great tradition makes me feel a lot better about putting the general public at risk for the sake of my independence and vanity.

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