At some point after 40, you'll find yourself sitting in a dimly lit restaurant and wondering why the menu has such tiny, illegible writing where the entrees should be.
You will dismiss this incident as a fluke – as the result of poor printing choices made by cut-rate menu makers. And then you'll just order something safe and reliable, like a chicken caesar salad, and hope for the best.
Unfortunately, the same problem will pop up again while you're doing laundry. You'll squint at the tag on your jeans, trying to remember if you should tumble dry low. But all those itty bitty words that you had referred to for years have suddenly dissolved into a confusing blur.
It's the age of reading glasses. And once you get past the initial denial, it's time to act. Otherwise, you'll forever be missing out on the little things in life.
So I did it. I got progressive lenses. In the olden days, when I could read newspaper articles with ease, I had just been nearsighted. But now my new progressive lenses had different zones to help my eyes see both up close and far away.
"You'll get used to them in a week or so," the optician told me.
But I didn't.
I was dizzy all the time. I had headaches. The world didn't seem as stable and solid as it used to be. I longed for my single vision lenses, but since I'd just had cataract surgery in one eye, my old glasses and contact lenses were the wrong prescription. I was stuck.
Then I heard about Warby Parker in Adam's Grant's book, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World. Originals is an interesting read about the people who manage to find creative alternatives to the way we've always done things.
Warby Parker is a new way to buy eyewear. It was a startup founded by college students who thought that a pair of nice glasses shouldn't cost $500. So they found a way to sell them cheaper – much cheaper – about $95 total for a pair of single vision glasses -- cool frames, coatings, lenses and all.
Here's how it works:
You browse the Warby Parker website and look at photos of designer-looking frames on a diverse group of hip and happy young people. This part alone is really fun because everyone seems so positive and excited about wearing glasses in the first place.
Then you choose five pairs of frames that you want to try on. At home. For free.
Warby Parker sends the glasses to you (sample frames with clear glass lenses), and a box arrives at your door that says. "Good Things Await You." You open your treasure chest and have five days to decide on a favorite.
If you want Warby Parker to give you personal advice about which frames look best on your face, you can post a picture of yourself wearing a few different options and add the hashtag #WarbyHomeTryOn – this hashtag works on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
A hashtag is that tic-tac-toe symbol on your keyboard that looks like this: #
Hashtags make things searchable and will get certain people's attention on social media.
I used the #WarbyHomeTryOn hashtag with a photo collage that I made on my smartphone and put it on Twitter:
And sure enough, within minutes Warby Parker tweeted right back at me:
In the end, I didn't wind up choosing any of them. I returned the box with the free prepaid shipping label after five days of playing dress up, and Warby had no hard feelings at all. They even offered to let me try five more frames for free, to give me a chance to experiment with other colors and styles.
But I was getting used to my progressives and didn't want a back-up pair of single vision glasses after all.
Still, Warby Parker makes progressives too (for about $295) so this new way of buying glasses isn't reserved solely for young people who can still read fine print. Warby Parker is looking after the over-40 crowd also, and as a side benefit, is encouraging us to learn how to use hashtags and photo collages and all those pesky smartphone things that we've been meaning to ask a Millennial about.
Now that you've got those trendy new reading glasses, check out Our Socially Awkward Marriage, a book that Tom and I wrote about Asperger's Syndrome and relationships >>