Spectacles? Cool? Can’t see it, myself
ONE OF the pivotal events of my school career occurred when I was seven. My teacher, Mrs Soames, had noticed that I was struggling to read what she was writing on the blackboard. In fact, to get a decent view of what she was writing, I needed to get so near the blackboard I practically ended up with chalk on my nose. Soon she tired of my constant trips to the front of the class and my mother was informed that I needed a sight test.
The optician prescribed me glasses — to be precise, one pair of standard issue National Health specs of the type specifically designed to maximise the humiliation for any child. They worked a treat. From being a kid with poor eyesight and moderately high esteem I became a kid with good eyesight and low self esteem.
I was at the time the only myopic pupil in the class, though soon I was joined by some of the other smaller, weedier Jews. In an instant my football career was almost dead. If I wanted to head the ball, it meant leaping athletically while removing my glasses in the same instant, then putting them back on to see where the ball had gone — this stuff never happened to Johann Cruyff.
Then there was the shape of the glasses. They were round — so was my name. This lead to some hilarious jokes. The jokes got even better a couple of years later when I switched to square frames (you could probably make up your own here).
Then there was the attitude of my classmates who now saw me as a swot. My teachers, unimpressed with my progress, had me down for a dunce. Glasses were ruining my life.
Thankfully, it seems that the current generation of children are not going through this experience. According to a new survey, kids with glasses are now seen as cool. Indeed, 43 per cent of speccy four-eyed (I’m sorry — I mean bespectacled) children now claim that having the right pair of glasses makes them more popular than their deprived un-myopic mates. They cite the influence of Johnny Depp and Harry Potter for making specs acceptable, which is ironic because Harry wears precisely the same kind of glasses which ruined my own image back in the 70s.
Still, on the plus side, at least I was in tune ethnically with my own people (there are very few employees at the JC who don’t wear glasses and we always gang up on them at playtime).
There is also scientific research undertaken (er, by me) which indicates that short-sighted people are cleverer than their counterparts with 20/20 vision. It stands to reason. If you are unable to see well enough to spear a wildebeest as it roams majestically across the plain, you need to come up with an alternative strategy to corner your prey (going to the supermarket works for me).
To this day, I prefer not to wear glasses. I have been mentally scarred by specciness. Contemporaries who were not subjected to glasses in childhood, happily sport designer frames. Me? However cool the specs, they always bring back that mental image of me pinned to the floor in the playground as my “friends” all tried on my glasses while making the stupidest face they could manage (Richard Josephs didn’t actually have to try that hard).
Thankfully, this kind of thing happens slightly less often when you are a grown-up. But then you can’t be too careful — that’s why I’m wearing lenses now.