From time to time when I look at Tadpole’s lovely little face I remember that she will soon be needing glasses. And I pray that the optician made a mistake in her diagnosis. She is a carbon copy of Mr Frog in every way, except for a defective pair of blue eyes, a genetic gift from her mummy.
When I imagine Tadpole in glasses, I cannot rid my mind of a mental image of myself wearing hideous National Health standard issue spectacles, available in a choice of blue, flesh pink, brown or transparent with bottle bottom lenses. I wore these from the ages of four to sixteen and the lenses got thicker as I became more short-sighted. The lenses were so heavy that the frames slid down my narrow nose and perched precariously at the bottom. Other kids thought I was stuck up because I looked ‘down my nose’ at them. Unsurprisingly I only like photographs of myself taken pre- and post-spectacles: the powerful correction distorted my face, my eyes seen through the lenses looking much smaller, my mouth and nose disproportionately large. I felt ugly. I was painfully shy and lacking in self-confidence.
Glasses were the reason why I hated swimming (couldn’t see the people I was with) and one of my excuses for being crap at sport (paranoid about getting hit in the face by a ball). If I ever fainted or fell, it was my evil glasses that did me the most damage. A vivid memory of a wasp once crawling onto the inside of my right lens right next to my eye still makes me shudder. In nightmares I am likely to ‘lose my glasses’ at a crucial moment so that everything becomes frustratingly blurred and I can’t find the person or thing that I’m looking for.
At a school disco when I was about thirteen, one of the rare occasions when our girls’ grammar school fraternised with the neighbouring boys’ grammar, a boy tapped me on the shoulder to tell me his mate ‘fancied me’. I didn’t have my glasses on that night, so to this day I have no idea who ‘his mate’ was or what he looked like. I had my first boyfriend only after I was allowed my first pair of contact lenses at sixteen. Without glasses I was a different person: I felt confident and desirable for the first time in my life, and set about making a damn good job of making up for lost time where boys were concerned.
I’m the first one to poke fun at those cringeworthy American teen movies where the hottest boy in school (always played by Freddie Prinze Junior) takes the nerdiest girl to the high school prom for a bet, but ends up falling for her when she takes off her glasses and shakes her hair out of its poneytail. Undeniably though, shedding my glasses did make a huge difference. I felt attractive and that alone changed other people’s perception of me. While I skulked around with them on, feeling ugly, that’s how people saw me.
I have promised myself that no expense will be spared to make sure Tadpole has the most fashionable glasses money can buy when she is old enough to care. Progress means that these days they are lighter, prettier, with thinner lenses – a fashion accessory that other little girls are jealous of (or so I’m told).
But the truth is that I’m the one who will have a problem with her wearing glasses. I’m going to need to find a way to exorcise all these negative feelings so that I don’t unwittingly pass all my hang-ups on to Tadpole. It’s not going to be easy, with taunts of ‘speccy four eyes’ ringing in my ears as if it were only yesterday.