SPEX THE SECOND
Working Around the Problems of Inappropriate Eyeglasses for Reenactors
One should never enter into any sort of surgery lightly. Before any non-emergency surgery, be certain that you exhaustively confer with your physicians! Laser eye surgery—commonly known as Lasik—and the implantation of permanent lenses are both available. The former is still expensive and probably not covered by most insurance. It is has not been around long enough that we know the long-term effects of Lasik, so no one knows how long the beneficial results may last, and there may even be long-term side effects. The implantation of lenses is usually to correct cataracts or other eye ailments and should not be approached lightly.
The most obvious remedy are contacts. Contact lenses, which are small corrective lenses that are placed directly upon the eye, convey the illusion of using no device at all. Since all good living history—with the exception of practical archaeology—is, at its base, illusion, this a very suitable remedy.
There are people who are familiar only with the more primitive forms of contact lenses—heavy, uncomfortable glass or hard plastic appliances that could only be worn for a short time—that were invented in the nineteenth century. They had become relatively comfortable to wear for short times by the 1930s and had attained great popularity by 1940s. Rigid plastic lenses became available at this time, and soft plastic lenses were developed into the 1960s, although they did not became commercially available until the 1970s.
These lenses all did not breath and could not be worn for extended periods of time. Disposable extended-wear and gas-permeable lenses only became available in the 1980s and 1990s. A new generation of disposable, extended-wear gas-permeable lenses was introduced just before the turn of the millennium.
If you attempted without success to wear contact lenses prior to this time, see your optometrist for sample lenses. You might very well be surprised that your ancient prejudices were for naught.
Getting Accustomed to Going Without Eyeglasses
Most folk can go without spectacles. In an era with low rates of literacy, people of our period were much less concerned about perfect eyesight than we are today. Continued reliance on corrective devices has in some cases weakened the eyes and has increased our reliance on spectacles for convenience and comfort. There is, however, a great distance between convenience and necessity.
Practicing going without spectacles should not start at an event. Do it first at home, and do not try to overdo it. Do not be too active at first, and stay away from dangerous activities. You might find that there are certain things you cannot do; please accept these limitations so that you do not endanger yourself or others. Reenacting should not be run by egos!
Hints for Going Without Spectacles
Much about living history is, to modern sensibilities, inconvenient and, perhaps, uncomfortable. However, if you are willing to compromise, you will find that it is not impossible! Here are a few hints for not using your eyeglasses at living-history events:
A. Realize that spectacles must be abandoned only during public hours (within the confines of the ropeline if your organization uses such a thing). Outside, the use of spectacles are allowed, although you might find that continued use of no spectacles may make the transition more easy.
B. Before public hours begin, police the area in which you plan to stay to make certain there are no dangers that you might not see.
C. Find a pursuit that does not require good vision. These are pursuits to be practiced in public at events. You can, of course, wear spectacles when practicing a craft in a non-public setting.
D. Move slowly without your spectacles. Even if you are accustomed to striding quickly about, you will find that taking your time is safer. After all, your ancestors did not have tv programs or professional soccer games to rush to!
E. Allow fellow reenactors to guide you about if necessary.
F. Use a walking stick to help walk around if necessary.
G. Be careful around weapons, tent stakes and fire!
H. Request—and expect—that your campmates will keep the area relatively clean of debris and dangers, even as you expect them not to leave unsheathed steel around!
I. On walk-abouts, keep your spectacles convenient—I used to slide them up a sleeve—so that they are relatively accessible if you desperately need them.
J. Acquire a magnifying globe or crystal that is acceptable to the Authenticity Officer. It is presumed that these were also used as jewelry.
K. If absolutely necessary, put your spectacles on again when public hours are over or when leaving the ropeline. Some persons in your situation, however, prefer to go without spectacles whenever they are in period kit. As my wife said after a recent weekend event, “Oh, the green blobs have leaves…”
You will also often find that you have compensated so well that putting your spectacles back on after an extended period without will leave you slightly confused and dizzy.
Try it before rejecting the idea. You may find it easier to do than modern life has made you believe!
If Wearing No Spectacles Leave you Unsafe, Nauseous and Debilitated
If you are not capable of nor willing to go without spectacles and cannot otherwise correct your visual disabilities and you will not abide by the limitations imposed, find another hobby. Don’t expect the whole hobby to change its principles for you.
TW Moran of eighteenth-century reenacting posted the address for a site about Antique Spectacles and Visual Aids (http://www.antiquespectacles.com/) in February of 2009, and I found it incredibly useful and its creator, David Fleischman, incredibly helpful. It is filled with useful essays, wonderful period illos and photographs of extant artifacts and replicas. Highly recommended. I want to thank Doctor Fleishman for reading and commenting on this essay!
© 2006, 2009 Folump Enterprises