Seeing his face in his new glasses was like going from a fuzzy romance to a horror movie, says Joel Maxwell.
OPINION: As we approach the end of the year, which has ended up being worse than the last, I have to share the story of my rapid aging of 2021.
Ko te ngako o tēnei pūrongo, ko te whakataukī nei, pea – ‘kaua e mate wheke, me mate ururoa’. Ae, il pūrongo whakakata noa tēnei, nāku i tuhi – heoi anō, me aro tātou ki te mōhiotanga i roto i tō tātou whakataukī rangatira.
(This column is about bravery in the face of overwhelming obstacles, perhaps.)
Until this year, I rejoiced at being mysteriously slow to age – one of those middle-aged people blessed with genetics that held back the weight of my years. Then in the space of one day, one moment really, it all fell apart.
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Like all the worst things, it started with self-improvement. I had known for a long time that I needed glasses for endemic astigmatism – recently I got them.
Everything was fine, the world was a new place; then I stood in front of my bathroom mirror.
Osama bin Laden was still alive the last time I think I really saw my own skin in HD. My gradual eye decline meant I could see the objects but not their texture.
This astigmatism became the soothing petroleum jelly rubbed on the lens of my life. Seeing my face for the first time erased from… whatever petroleum jelly… it was like going from a fuzzy romance to a horror movie. I aged a decade in an instant.
I had been a perpetually – albeit oddly enough – young man, evolving until my late forties. Now I was Frankenstein’s monster, or at least covered in the paper folds of the creature’s reanimated elbow folds. Granted, I was young, but only in the sense that my skin shared its appearance of having recently come back to life.
I thought I was possessed of a sweet age, like Count Dracula; now I was a brown guy melting in a puddle of soy tears, Count Chocula or something. I thought I was Dorian Gray, but it turns out I was just gray. I had solved the mystery of my slow aging: I was not.
At that point, looking at yourself in the mirror was like reading – in a newly created 20/20 vision – a hellish variation on the optometrist’s eye chart, only with facial accidents instead of letters.
Crow’s feet, strange spot on the eyeball, eyebrow crease, shaving defect, ummm second crow’s feet?
The warning signs were there. When I first put on the finished glasses, lenses adjusted, in the store, I could suddenly see the tiny pores in the nose of the person helping me. A few seconds before they ran out.
Within every middle-aged person is a 30-year-old denial. On the outside of every middle-aged person is a pair of 30-year-old Levis. Life has become a painful pinch.
My lessons for 2021 are that we are never what we think we are, and God’s greatest thrill reminds us of that. I have learned that things are generally worse than we thought. And I also learned that we should avoid mirrors.
And in a way, the pandemic helped me too. Wearing face masks causes my lenses to fog. It drives me crazy, so I find myself barely wearing my new glasses.
But eventually I learned that with courage and determination we can find our way.
Look at me – it took a psychic shock, and now I inspire you with my courage, for the little stipend I get for writing this.
So, in a nutshell, get vaccinated. And next year, when you get your booster, I can’t wait to be laughed at together again.