Canadian Expat Mom

Tuesday’s Traveller: The One-Eyed Crying Woman

The One-Eyed Crying Woman by Lizzie Harwood


If you see me crying out of one eye on the green line of Stockholm’s subway, or on a beach in New Zealand, or on the 38 bus swooshing through the Angel in London… just walk on by. Or carry on with your day. I’m not sad. Maybe I am a bit sad, but mainly I am one-eyed crying because of my contact lenses.

I am an international one-eyed cryer. Since the age of 11. Here’s what that means.

When I lived in Canada as a pre-teen some eye doc decided I needed hard contact lenses to slow down my worsening myopia (meaning that I’m as blind as a bat without the aid of glasses or lenses). This slowed down my sports career. Technically I didn’t have a career in sports unless you count cake decorating as a sport (which I do), but when I’d run for the ball generally a lens would fly out of my eye and someone would crush it underfoot, or I’d search the gym floor until I found it, stuck it in my mouth for moisture, and reinsert it.

I guess here’s where some will go: eeew, she spat in her own eye?

Yes. I don’t see it as spitting in my eye. It’s more that my contact lenses are a part of me, so why not use my body’s natural defence fluids to clean grit off what is essentially my vision?

As a frequent traveller, I’ve resorted to this unhygienic trick in numerous places where the pollution and/or atmospheric conditions were hugely unfavourable to happy lens wearing. A few highlights:

Greece – on honeymoon in Santorini, trying to scooter around the island resulted in so much dust in my eyes I took to wearing a snorkel mask – sexy, no. Helpful, yes. Hey, I’d already ensnarled my husband so I could now afford to look less than my best.

30,000 feet above the South China Sea – on a flight to Bangkok my lens was so grimed up it wandered off my eyeball into the far dark-red reaches of my eye socket while I was locked in the airplane toilet. Several flight attendants banged politely on the door I was in there so long. It was like that scene out of Airplane where the guy’s shaving during turbulence. Horrible.

A street in Dominican Republic – what I assume was a shard of glass flew into my eye… at least that’s what it felt like. I lost control of my limbs and almost passed out from the pain.

Stockholm’s T-bana (subway) this morning – something gritty got in there, possibly yesterday’s mascara, yes I am a mom of 2 with all that glamour going on. I had to get off the train at Medborgarplatsen, stick my lens in my mouth, wait until the intense pain abated, reinsert without dropping the lens on the wet dirty platform, and carry on my journey with one red puffy eye still weeping.

Driving… actually it’s worse than driving… carpooling young kids to school in suburban Paris. The heating vents regularly blew dust into my eyes and I’d have to swerve off the N13 and stick a lens in my mouth. And then explain it to the kids. Like, “Yeah, that’s something only mommies do. Some mommies. Not your mommy. Let’s carry on, shall we?”

I know I look bipolar… like a halfway emotional wreck because I’m only crying on one side of my face… would that be an “emo-wr”? Like, half way to loony. It’s not pretty, but when I get something in my eye, it’s full meltdown conditions within 4 seconds. Hard lenses are nothing like soft lenses. It’s boot camp of the optical world. Hunger Games for eyeballs.

I got a real dressing down from Dr. J, my French ophthalmologist about 2 years ago when she almost burst a blood vessel at the realisation that I stick my lens in my mouth in emergencies. She made me swear on my granny’s grave to never resort to such antics again.

Her advice is to carry small vials of saline everywhere and wash my hands before gently removing and massaging the lens with saline then reinserting. I asked her, where does one find a clean restroom with working soap dispenser and sanitized hand towels in the subway, on beaches, or on the back of a scooter? She made me feel like I ought to stick to cake decorating as my sole physical activity.

But, I haven’t died from this habit. I’m sure I’m not the only one. I chatted with a guy who said his dad used to make his kids swim to the bottom of the pool to find his lenses and he’d stick them in his mouth and reinsert. Ha. It may be gross but most of parenting is too. And how easy is it to find that clean restroom when you can no longer operate one eye due to the very painful foreign object lodged under your favourite foreign object (the lens)? The pain is like being stabbed in the eye, Dr. J.

These days, living in Stockholm, I should have vials of saline on me but I haven’t figured out what that’s called or where to buy them (excusez-moi, Dr. J) so until I get my act together maybe you should stop if you see me one-eyed crying. If you are carrying saline and air-drying hand soap, please please do.


Lizzie Harwood is the author of the hilarious-and-honest memoir: Xamnesia: Everything I Forgot in my Search for an Unreal Life plus vibrant fiction: Triumph: Collected Stories. From New Zealand, she lives in Stockholm with hubby, two girls and two cats. She is an editor and coach to writers from around the world. Visit and Join her mailing list for new book releases at here and find her Amazon Author Page here.

3 thoughts on “Tuesday’s Traveller: The One-Eyed Crying Woman

  1. Pingback: I’m on @CanadianExpatMom today…. crying!! – Lizzie Harwood

  2. Catriona

    Ha! Now I feel a bit better about my husband licking his lenses all the time (apart from the bit about Dr J). Still, if it prevents incidents like the time in Croatia when he scratched his cornea, and spent the rest of the holiday with an eyepatch on photobombing tourists…

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