April 13, 2006

To Correct or Not

”selfportraitchallenge”

As sometimes happens with strangers, or people I just meet, someone asked me yesterday what happened to my eye.


I was born with a lazy eye. Trouble is, it didn't look that way all the time. So when my mom kept taking me to doctors, they told her it would correct itself. It didn't. When I learned to walk my mom noticed I would bump into things on my left side, so she paraded me back to the doctors, where it was discovered my optic nerve was deteriorating...rapidly. They put me through all kinds of tests, CAT scans and the like, thinking it was a brain tumor or something else. No.

During visual development, if there is no input, or weaker input from one eye, the brain prunes what isn't being used. In my case, it was the optic nerve of my left eye. Now, I am almost entirely blind in my left eye, and it turns in.

This leads me to the real topic of this post. Since I was about 16, when an optician told me that I could have the muscles surgically corrected, I've been thinking about having that surgery. Back then it was risky. I could lose vision in my good eye if anything went wrong. This sufficiently scared my mom and myself from pursuing it. Over the years, with medical advancement, the surgery has become less risky. So now I'm considering it again.

I have a lot of feelings about this. Very strong emotions. For one thing, I have lived with this "flaw" my entire life. It has become part of me. Like a gap between front teeth, or a mole on the cheek or something. For better or worse, it is part of my physical identity. Do I really want to change it?

Second, it hasn't seemed to detract from my attractability. So, why bother? Besides, I'm afraid I'll look a little...vanilla.

Third, I am terrified of any kind of surgery. What if something went horribly wrong? I'm not thinking death, but what if they really messed things up? There have been cases where when they cut the muscles, one snaps back behind the eye and they can never retrieve it. Ugh. This makes me feel sick.

So why am I contemplating it then? For my future professional life. People tend to make snap judgements during interviews. I know I've had lost opportunities because of it.

Because I hate photographs of myself that freeze this flaw. Because the eyes are the first point of contact with anyone. Because I'm tired of always having to explain it. Because I want people to hear what I'm saying and not be thinking about that. Because some men have been attracted to me for solely this reason and that borders too much on a fetish for my liking.

Maybe the most important thing, something that has taken me a very long time to uncover and admit to myself, is that it gets in the way of intimacy. My intimacy. I think there is something about intimacy that requires gazing into each other's eyes. I can't hold a gaze. When I look at someone, I tend to look more at their mouth. Even when I'm watching a movie. This must come from years of conditional and unconscious training.

Then there is the practical issue. Insurance won't cover it so far as I can tell from researching. It is considered cosmetic. And the surgery is fairly expensive, as surgery is. Do I spend that much money? Do I have that much money? If I did, shouldn't I use it to travel, put it in a college fund for my kids?

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

I can relate to this is many ways.
-Holly

famjaztique said...

Holly...from Smith?

Anonymous said...

Yep.
-h

famjaztique said...

Oh awesome! I forgot who I sent notice out to. So many people remain "silent" readers. We'll have to chat about this in person sometime.

jennifer said...

you really have a lot of courage to speak of this publicly, and i think that's really awesome. as far as having the surgery or not, i think that's really something you have to think about hard: it seems you've been thinking about having it for a very long time, and on the other side, it's a part of who you are. Do you think you will be happier with yourself if you go through with the operation? Plus, you're lucky to even have the option. So it's up to you. Good luck!

famjaztique said...

thanks Jennifer...still considering. I wonder if I'll ever make up my mind.

Anonymous said...

Interesting...as a recipient of a "lazy eye", which was cosmetically altered at age five, and naturally reinstaded at age fourty, I see it as a blessing...WHY? First off, those that judge you by this mark, are NOT the type of people you wanna get "intimate" with. Honestly, would you wanna spend a lot of your precious timespace with a person who was that superficial? (Buddha knows, there are certainly enough of that sort here in Gentrification City, both Male and Female) And really, would you wanna work for someone who would judge you on that physical difference? You can get it fixed for free, it just requires some checking of benevolent agencys (hint, none of 'em are government based. Surprise!),but why? Think of it as an external version of your internal Bullshit detector.(you do acknowledge that you have one, ja?) It (your BSD) seperates the true from the untrue, the liberals from the faux libs, the gay from the jus'wanna fit in, the preditor from the socially retarded. It( the lazy eye) doesn't diminish beauty, and I like it for the same reason that I like nude beaches. It makes you more naked, and much less apt to be able TO bullshit (verb). groove, or not...Razz, near last of the dying breed (unwanted native son)

famjaztique said...

Dear anonymous,

Your comments hit home. You said well what I was trying to say when I said I was worried I would look too..."vanilla". I think it's true that my difference is pretty useful in many ways and does make me unique. That is part of the emotion that is wrapped up in the decision.

On the flip side, I remember listening to this interview once on Fresh Air. I don't remember who the interviewee was, but some sort of fashion designer. When Terry Gross asked her who inspired her she told the story of this professor who was always impeccably dressed. She (the designer) asked him once why he was always dressed so well and he answered that he felt it was important to bring some ease and harmony to all interactions, to put people at ease so that they could concentrate on the important aspects of the interaction.

This, I think, is what inspires me to have my eye corrected. There is as much value in harmony as there is in shaking things up. It's a question of in what ways do I wish to bring harmony to the world and in what ways do I wish to shake things up? It seems to me the latter should be more of a choice.

Either way, thank you for the comments. Well said.

gay said...

as imperfect as the se windows to the soul are it is a perfectly beautiful self portrait

famjaztique said...

Thank you Gay, and thank you for visiting.

Zhu said...

Just found this post I can related too... I'd be curious to know which decision you made.