I wish I could go back to school knowing what I know now. But I guess it doesn’t work that way.
First of all, I would insist that my parents buy me glasses when I first began to squint and secondly, I would wear them. I can remember year after year trying to fake that eye chart so that I wouldn’t have to sit in the front of the room with all the losers. Sitting in the back meant that you were smart and didn’t need special attention from the teacher. It also meant you were well behaved and did not require constant monitoring. But as years went by and my teachers noticed my facial contortions while I attempted to make out the letters on the board, even from the front row, it became evident that I my near-sightedness was growing problem and I should think about getting glasses.
This was back in the day of “guys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses.”
In spite of my good behavior, I destroyed note after note to my parents that suggested I might be in need of a professional exam. It’s a miracle I survived those years, considering the risks I took walking to and from school, practically groping my way.
By fourth grade I was headachy and crabby most of the time and my report card grew increasingly questionable. An appointment was made in Burlington and I was fitted with the ugliest pair of specs on the planet. The rims were pink pearlized plastic and the lenses were Coke-bottle thick. But, the first few days I tried them out I had to admit to a few startling discoveries. The biggest was the huge amount of stars in the sky: I had never realized there were so many. Another piece of astonishment: Trees don’t get fuzzy as they get taller.
I found I could see the chalk board quite clearly and took to wearing the hated things more frequently but only in the classroom and at home, never out in public. I managed to break them regularly and my parents suspected (accurately) that I encouraged them to fall off my head. During my freshman year of high school I attended a parochial high school where, not only did the uniformed students look alike, the teachers were indistinguishable in their identical nuns’ habits. I had to give in so that I could tell them all apart.
Over the years I continued the battle of vanity over vision and in 1959, married and living in Germany, I checked out the possibility of contact lenses. I had never known anyone who wore them but they sounded like they would be worth a try. I went to a German optometrist who fitted me with a pair on the spot and told me to take a walk around town. I stepped out into the street and gasped. I could see everything. I had never been able to see like that in my life; I’ve been wearing them ever since.
Of course now, glasses are cool. Everybody wants to look like Harry Potter. My granddaughter wears not only glasses but braces, and with designer rims and invisible mouth gear, she’s confident she is the coolest of eighth graders.