I don’t have pretty eyes. Well, actually, both of my eyes are pretty individually but together the effect is not good. My eyes look crossed.
This abnormality has no health effects for me whatsoever. Some people with cross-eyes have double vision. In such cases, surgical correction resolves the problem. Not me. My resourceful brain looks out through my weird eyes without seeing double. In fact, ophthalmologists have informed me that if I did surgically alter my eyes, I would ruin my vision. Since it is an ophthalmologist’s job to make people see better, not to make them prettier, ophthalmologists have universally advised me against any intervention.
That is not the case with everyone else in the world.
A good number of well-meaning (?) friends, relatives, acquaintances and strangers have gone out of their way to encourage me to do something about my eyes, not that I ever asked any of them for their opinions. Take this conversation with a stranger on a bus as an example:
Me: “I know they look like that but it doesn’t affect my vision. My ophthalmologist says that surgery would make me see double.”
Random Stranger: “Well, you could wear glasses from then on to correct the double vision. That would make you look better anyway because the glasses would cover your eyes.”
Seriously? Random Stranger thought I looked so hideous that I would be better off spending outrageous amounts of money operating on my healthy eyes with the intended result of ruining my vision for the rest of my life? Are eyes for seeing or for looking at?
I shouldn’t have been so shocked. People choose looks over health all the time when they submit themselves to dangerous and expensive surgeries (or diets or fad treatments) to alter their appearance, even if these attacks actually make their bodies less functional. Why should I be surprised that people expect the same from me?
When I was growing up, my gorgeous mother was particularly vexed by my eye situation. I inherited her lovely blue eye color (thanks, Mom) but it pained her to see that pretty color wasted by such lousy presentation. Throughout my childhood she tried to help, diligently bringing me to a variety of eye specialists in the hopes of arriving at a satisfactory solution. Fortunately, my mom kept the importance of my physical beauty in better perspective than that stranger on the bus; she was not willing to subject me to a surgery that would destroy my vision, but more than once, I saw her beautiful eyes cry tears of frustration when yet another doctor came to the same conclusions.
My own ugly eyes released many a tear as well, especially during my teen years. Mom took my tears as evidence of how badly I wanted attractive eyes. She was partially correct. I wish I could say that I am above caring about how I look, that my ugly eyes don’t bother me. That isn’t true. However, while I sometimes glare at my eyes in the mirror or sigh as I look at photographs of myself, I am only moved to tears when other people make a big deal about my eyes. The negative attention bothers me more than the irregular facial feature that provokes it.
At one point, after one of those crying sessions, my mom encouraged me to get a priesthood blessing for my eyes. The blessing promised me that eventually science would come to my aid and resolve my ugly eye problem.
That blessing was about two decades ago. My faith in that prophecy has since waned. As my first wrinkles begin to appear around my eyes, I wonder if it would be worth the bother at this point to submit to intervention, even if a harmless one were discovered. Haven’t I demonstrated that even with ugly eyes, I could find a mate, hold a job and even appear on television occasionally? Perhaps pretty eyes aren’t as necessary as friends, relatives, acquaintances, strangers, and I thought.
However, another part of me can picture myself seizing the opportunity if science finally finds the cure for ugly eyes. Maybe I’ll be an old grandma, retired and already free from any risk of workplace discrimination, decades past the taunts of childhood peers or rejection from superficial boyfriends. At that point, I would have no rational need to beautify my eyes, which would be hidden behind bifocals, anyway. Would I be happy that science had figured out how to make me a slightly prettier old lady? Or would I be disappointed in myself, because I still cared so much about something so trivial?