We went to a wedding in Amsterdam this week-end (friends of the bride). The bride really likes Chris, so he came, too. The wedding was held in an artists’ club. The groom is a sausage artist. No joke. Apparently, there is an international movement or society of sausage art.
Since the crisis with Chris, I find I have more in common than not with the arty crowd. Brief conversation with a guest: “And what do you write about?” I asked him. “Insanity,” he answered before moving on. Lots of common ground here.
Chris dutifully stuck with us for most of the time and then slipped away to discover Amsterdam on foot after dark. We all know what that might involve.
On our last day in Amsterdam, Chris and I sat at a sidewalk café enjoying the warm sun and a cold Amstel beer. I noticed, as I have from time to time, that Chris wasn’t wearing his glasses yet seemed to have no problem seeing, so I asked him if he could read a sign on a building on Johnny Jordaan Plein, and something in between us and the building, and could he read the tourist pamphlet he was holding. No problem.
“So, Chris, if you can read all of this, why are you wearing glasses?”
“Well,” he said, “I was in ninth grade and I was worried that I wasn’t keeping up academically with the others, and somebody suggested maybe I should have my eyes checked. Now that I think of it, maybe I ended up getting them because the store just wanted to sell me glasses, but when I put on the glasses, I also felt more intelligent.”
“Be that as it may, Chris, but that was the year when you changed both continents and school systems. You ended up actually a year ahead based on your birthday. You had some catching up to do as you could have gone either way grade wise.” What I didn’t mention was that he got a needed academic wake-up call, as he had been quite a slacker before that.
“Hmm, Mom, I wonder if I’ve been using the glasses as a crutch, just like the doctors in the early psychosis program said about the meds being a crutch.”
“Possibly, Chris. In any case, you don’t need glasses to prove your intelligence. Also (I thought of our recent Family Constellation), just because your father wears glasses, doesn’t automatically mean you need glasses. You’re not your father. You don’t have to take on your image of him. You’re you. You’re free to be yourself.”
“But, I’ve been wearing them for twelve years already.”
“You could try not wearing your glasses for a while and see what happens.”
It makes me wonder if he is beginning to “see” things more clearly, meaning that sometimes we wear unnecessary ideas or affect appearances that are not us. We unconsciously think this is how we are expected to be because of a parent. The vision thing is not without precedent in our family and makes me think that glasses are overprescribed, particularly in the country where we currently live. Frames here cost a fortune. Chris’s youngest brother, Taylor, was also prescribed glasses in fourth grade when Ian and I rejected putting him on Ritalin for non-existent Attention Deficit Disorder. We did, however, concede at that time that there was a possible eyesight problem. He was prescribed the usual expensive glasses (and spare pair), and after that he never wore them. That was a medicalizing or “optometrizing” of a childhood behavior.
All of us are fooled at some level. It may take us years to see, keeping in mind that the new vision is, in itself, just another shifting reality.