After much complaining about my eyesight going south (I am about to turn 43) I finally figured out the vision plan through my school health insurance program, coughed up the cash and got my eyes checked. The eyeglasses presently on my face and the accompanying eye exam happened at the end 2005. I didn't realize the pair I'm wearing are almost 7 years old. It is no wonder that my glasses aren't really doing much for me anymore! My vision has been affecting my homework in ways that have been very frustrating - I do a lot of tiny detailed work, or at least I'd like to think I do... did, as well I've been having a really hard time reading handouts. I can zoom in my screen to read electronic documents, buuuut I retain more information if I read the same material on paper (scientific fact, reflected light vs emitted light re: information retention, reflected light wins). I've been using magnifying lenses to look at things, for my hand work this is fine, for reading it's just silly and tedious...and I lost my easy to handle magnifier and have been using my giant swing arm circular fluorescent magnifying work light to read papers (silly). I don't want to be that person.
My biggest concern about getting my eyes checked and ordering new glasses has been the cost. My last pair of glasses (the pair I'm still wearing) were just a little over $1,000, the pair before that were on the order of $700, the pair before were about the same if not more. My sunglasses were even more expensive (sometimes 2x) because I prefer to have the Bellagio on my face like a middle aged filiapina wearing leopard print silk track suit. I've got style to maintain! At this time of my life there is no way in hell I could afford to get a new pair of glasses and none of the frames I have are suitable for the bifocal lenses I knew I'd need; and that's just the frames and lenses, not even the eye exam! The perceived cost was creating a barrier to making any progress towards addressing my complaint. However I complained enough both internally and externally to annoy myself, the last straw being the effects my vision was having on my homework. I was able to use my shit vision as a component of my work for a while, but it crossed into tweaking my comprehension. Having shit vision is pretty lame excuse for failing.
It took some work to navigate my insurance plan, a ton of emails and phone calls just to verify what I qualify for, what my out of pockets cost would be and of course the actual appointment setting. I'm used to paying cash for this stuff - that it took so many increments of communication just to be permitted through the doors of the clinic was supremely annoying to me. I'm not going to get into what I think of the insurance system. In the end my exam was $42 with my vision discount through the student health plan my school has. That I can do. I was thinking it would be closer to a hundred (or more) dollars.
Prescription in hand, now faced with shopping for frames. As noted above I'm used to fancy specs. Submitting myself to cheap eyeglasses is a compromise I never thought I would make. I swore to myself a long, long time ago that I would never wear cheap glasses as they're on my face every day all day, they are my most prominent accessory, they should be awesome. I also swore to myself that I wouldn't be the person who wears the same glasses for a hundred years despite desperately needed prescription updates. So, cheep eyeglasses it is. The glasses I ultimately wanted, Warby Parker are unavailable as bifocals (deep breaths...first compromise). I'd tried on their glasses, I knew which frames fit, I was really disappointed to learn they don't do multifocal lenses. The frames available in my price range at the optical shops sponsored by my insurance plan were LAME, lame, lame, lame, holy crap lame. Three or four styles, all Boeing Engineer style. Terrible. I could not even make myself get into how terrible they were, to embrace the awful to push it towards hip. I couldn't do it. A couple of friends (probably also tired of my complaints) had sent along links to online shops with inexpensive options, after shopping in optical shops I looked more seriously at their suggestions.
I settled on Zenni Optical because you can set search parameters with useful specificity that make the shopping experience manageable e.g. setting the PD, size, lens type, price, material, color, gender (m/f, unisex and children), and hipness. You can also upload an image of yourself to perform virtual try-ons. This significantly helped with my decision making processes. In the past I'd go into a boutique and take pictures of myself in the new styles I'd tried on so that I could see them later (with my vision corrected) and more seriously consider the frames unimpassioned by the thrill of shopping.
My only concern is that they do not offer PDs on the half millimeter. I was measured at 61.5 mm and was uncertain about ordering up or down half a millimeter. After attempting to measure myself (as per an online tutorial), I went with 62 mm. I ordered the black pair shown below and I want to get the blue ones in a month or so. The total cost for the $16 frames, with bifocal lenses, anti-reflective coating and shipping was $42.85. To order with a tint to have a pair of sunglasses would be an additional $5. Not too shabby.
For cheap eyeglasses the scope of selection is pretty reasonable. I don't feel like I had to compromise my personal taste too much to find glasses I didn't feel bad about having to settle for (which was my Lenscrafters shopping experience). With the price range available through Zenni Optical I can get an extra pair of glasses I won't be afraid to destroy at Burning Man (I wonder how being able to see will change my experience?) I've padded out my wishlist with glasses that will translate into sunglasses well.