From Chicken Soup for the Soul in Menopause

Best or Better

You can complain because roses have thorns, or you can rejoice because thorns have roses.

Tom Wilson, Ziggy

I have a great idea for an invention. Inexpensive to manufacture, it would help millions of forty-somethings in denial. If designed correctly, the “Extend-o-Arm” would snap comfortably on to your wrist in a matter of seconds. With your arm length extended to forty-five feet, there wouldn’t be a need to hear your optometrist say the dreaded words, “It’s time to consider reading glasses.”

Who ever dreamed we’d be in this predicament? First, all the estrogen was sucked out of our bodies by some mysterious force. If that wasn’t bad enough, now we can’t read the label of our hormone replacement medication. “I think it says to take it three times a day for the rest of my life,” I said to my forty-something husband one morning. I handed him the bottle. “Can you read it?” He took off his non-bifocal glasses and propped the medicine bottle on his nose. His eyes crossed.

“It says take once a day!” he gasped.

“Uh-oh,” I replied, “I’m sure there’s minimal long-term damage.”

He grimaced. “I didn’t want to say anything, honey, but lately I’ve been noticing a three o’clock shadow on your face at nine o’clock in the morning.” We left immediately to shop for reading glasses.

My husband and I stood in front of the display at the local discount store. “Look at the variety!” my husband said loudly.

“Ssssh!” I hissed. “I don’t want to draw attention to the fact that I am in the senior citizen section of the store!” I had an image to keep up, for goodness’ sake. The blind forty-something in denial image was not an easy one to maintain, but I’d been doing a pretty good job so far.

“Do you realize that in just a few years we’ll be eligible for a senior citizen discount and the early bird specials at Joe’s Diner?” my husband mentioned. I knew there was some good reason why I had married him—I just couldn’t think of it at that moment.

I looked at the glasses on display. There were unrecognizable numbers on the lenses. “What’s the difference between 1.00 and 2.00?” I asked.

“Try a 2.00 pair,” my husband urged. “Bigger always means better.” I put on a pair of glasses trimmed in a leopard print and looked in the tiny, blurry mirror attached to the display. My grandma stared back at me. I turned to look at my husband. His face contorted in fear.

“Your eyes look HUGE!” he said. “You look like Marty Feldman in the movie Young Frankenstein!”

This was not going well, but I had to face reality. I could no longer have the grocery store checker hold my checkbook in front of her so I could see to write the amount. And the Extend-o-Arm would take years to patent and manufacture.

After much browsing, I finally decided on a pair that folded up into the size of a quarter. I figured the compactness of the glasses would be easy to hide in my hand, just in case I ran into one of my other forty-something friends and had to quickly rip the glasses off my face in order to maintain my image.

“Shall we buy the chain to go with the glasses?” my husband asked.

“Unless you want me to wrap that chain around your neck, I suggest you never mention reading-glass chains again.”

Later at home, I picked up a book and put on my reading glasses. “My goodness!” I yelled.

My husband came running. “What is it?” he asked.

I pulled down my reading glasses and looked at him over them (I could do cool things like that now). “I CAN READ! It’s a miracle!” I hated to admit it, but the words were clear, dark and, well—legible.

“I think I like you in your new glasses, my little Marty Feldman Jr.,” my husband said lovingly. Just like we managed to get used to my estrogen-less body, I figured we’d both get used to these reading glasses.

And maybe, just maybe, the reading glasses would keep me out of the large print section at the library, at least for another year.

Vicky DeCoster

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