Spec­ta­cles? Cool? Can’t see it, my­self

The Jewish Chronicle - - FEATURES - SI­MON ROUND

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.

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