Monday, 15 November 2010

Miracle cure: scheduled for a week on Friday

Questionable decisions I have made lately: scheduling laser eye surgery thirty six hours before I go to see the new Harry Potter on the biggest cinema screen IN EUROPE. It'll probably be fine, right? It probably won't feel like Voldemort is clog dancing on my retinas?

(You know, I'm honestly not sure whether this is, like, totally deep'n'meaningful or self-indulgent drivel. The uncertainty probably suggests it tends towards the latter, but hey, such is the joy of the blogging learning curve! Join me in my mistake-strewn path to enlightenment!)

This is really hard to write, because I'm so painfully aware that I'm treading on fucking dangerous ground. That dude who ambles into a feminist discussion on sexual harassment and says "I totally know how you feel, because a girl hit on me one time"? The straight people arsing around on the It Gets Better bandwagon? The rich kid who is "down with the working class because s/he waited tables in college"? They are dicks! I do not want to be them! So, to be clear, what I am very much not trying to say is "I have crap eyesight and as such am an authority on the experiences of ALL DISABLED PEOPLE EVER." If I am being that dick, I implore you to tell me, loudly, and I will shut up faster than a Wetherspoons at closing time.

What I am trying to do is build bridges across experiences. I can read all the blogs in the world and find people with every disability imaginable saying that, actually, they're not interested in being fixed, don't see their lives as inferior, and really wish the world didn't view the Miracle Cure as the only possible happy ending to their stories, and I can take those opinions on board and respect them - but I can't necessarily get it, on a gut level. It feels so far from my own experience that it's hard to find a way in. And, obviously, I'm full of ableist brainwashing which says that able bodies are just better: why wouldn't you want one?

But what I can do is try to trace links between what I'm feeling, and these feelings that seem so alien, and notice the common threads: finally get that click moment when you realise that you're not so different after all.

So: I've been short-sighted since I was eight. I don't really remember what it's like, being able to see unaided. And now, due to a near-miraculous set of circumstances, I am able to have laser eye surgery. Zing! Pow! Jesus says you can SEE!

I am ridiculously excited about this. I'll be able to lie down to watch TV! I'll have peripheral vision, so useful for subtly checking people out or judging their choice of tube reading material! I'll be able to go swimming on a whim without half an hour's prep time, and without The Fear that my contacts will flow right off of my face and I'll have to stumble home with no clue where my feet are! In my mother's delightful words, "when you're woken up in the middle of the night, you'll be able to see the burglar!" (There's a certain strain of cheerful stoic pessimism in working class northerners of a certain age, which can be summed up as "Well, the worst is clearly going to happen, so let's make the best of it. If we find ourselves in Hell, at least we'll be warm" that gives me true hope for humanity.)

I've never really thought about what it would be like to suddenly have perfect vision, because the possibility of somehow being able to afford it was just too ridiculously remote: it's like daydreaming about going to the moon. Sure, might happen one day, but it's so close to impossible that you can't really get attached to the idea. But now it's here, it's happening, and I've only just realised that part of me is kind of sad about it: I'm becoming aware of what I will lose in joining the Clear-Sighted Majority.

I love my glasses. I love being a person who wears glasses. Speccy Girl is bright, Speccy Girl is bookish; Speccy Girl always gets the cutest boy in school in all those late 90s transformation rom-coms. (There is a reason I still love She's All That.) You know how when you look at someone over the top of your glasses, and if done correctly it can be quite intimidating in a "bitch, please" sort of way, but what they don't know is that The Look reduces them to a meaningless blur in your eyes? Yeah, you probably don't, unless you're short-sighted too, and I will forget, the way you forget what being broke is like when you're luxuriating in a supra-minimum-wage pay cheque; the way you forget, when not in the grip of a depression, how it feels to be sure you're dying incrementally with every hideous second that passes. I will lose that strange sense of camaraderie that can sometimes spring up between fellow myopics: it would be pretty ridiculous to speak of a Short-Sighted Community, but it can be something to bond over in otherwise awkward social situations.

Short-sightedness is obviously not a disability. But there's no physical benefit in it (other than better luck with Magic Eye pictures, but as it's not the early 90s and we are not in Mallrats, I'm cool with surrendering that superpower). And I doubt that anyone with traditionally-shaped corneas would ever think that there was something to value in it - but this lingering sadness at the prospect of relinquishing an aspect of my identity still remains. And I, as a Physically Able Bodied Person, have no idea what it's like to be a wheelchair user, or Deaf, or have a long-term illness, and it might seem to me that there would be any reason not to be thrilled at the prospect of a miraculous cure.

I mean: basic decency dictates that if someone says "I do not want to be 'cured'", you respect that. But there's a difference between respecting an idea and understanding it. And I think, maybe, I've got a little closer to understanding. Fluffy bunny utopia where we all live together in peace and harmony on pianos will surely soon follow.

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