Foresight: On Wearing Glasses – Four Eyes for Four Weeks

About a month ago, I went to get an eye test. I waited until my exams were over before booking the appointment. I don’t know why I did it that way round. It seems stupid really, but perhaps I was worried that if I needed glasses before my exams, they would weigh my face down, rendering me constantly unable to revise, ruining my sitting posture, distracting me in the exams themselves, and causing inevitable failure. Plus, I could still see things right in front of me pretty well, so it wasn’t that urgent.

It was my first eye test in over a decade. I remember being told I needed glasses for reading and watching TV when I was still at primary school. I was distraught. Those were still the days when wearing glasses consigned you to a very particular group of self-ostracised no-hopers, or so my old school would have it. I watched one film with the glasses on (Titanic, only in the relative privacy of my own living room, and even then I was embarrassed that my parents could see me!) before promptly hiding them under my bed and declaring them lost forever. What a shame. Social crisis averted.

Going to the opticians was never mentioned again. I went through all of secondary school, A-levels, a year of working and travelling, and the first two years of University without any real problems, and only in revision lectures from April this year onwards did I notice that powerpoint presentations (it’s always the powerpoint presentations!) were becoming hard to make out, especially if I sat towards the back of the lecture theatre. Panic and fear, you might expect. Well, no. In recent years more and more friends have got glasses, either to read with or for everyday life, and having tried a few pairs on and realised that, what a surprise, it’s possible to grow into them, and, what a surprise, different styles are available, and, what a surprise, some people look very cool in glasses, the likely event of being told I need to wear them wasn’t so daunting any more, but was actually quite exciting. I was just annoyed I’d been too scared and prejudiced to realise this sooner, and had whizzed miles past the upper age limit for getting free glasses! I’ve no one to blame but myself.

So, off I went to Specsavers (because if I’d gone anywhere else and had been even slightly dissatisfied with any aspect of the experience or the result, let alone if I kissed an old man at a train station by mistake, I’d have had their slogan ringing in my ears, reminding what a fool I’d been!). And lo and behold, yep, my eyes are pretty much exactly as good/bad as they were 12 or so years ago. I was hugely relieved that my stubbornness hadn’t caused them to deteriorate any further, and excited at the prospect of choosing some Woody Allen-esque frames.

But this is all context – it’s not supposed to be My Story, the eye chapter. I wanted to post about all the things I’ve realised that glasses wearers have to bear in mind, on a daily basis. So, for anyone who’s just started wearing glasses, or who might need them in the future. Here’s a little guide that a few bespectacled friends and I have put together of what to expect, what to do, and what not to do:

1. Gentlemen, DO NOT look down too sharply while using the toilet from standing, unless you want to roll up your sleeves and go fishing.

2. Gentlemen, DO NOT look up to sharply while using the toilet from standing, because the same thing will occur, but it’ll be even more embarrassing because you won’t even have seen what’s happened.

3. If you cough or sneeze into your hands (as one always ought), you WILL NOT be able to see anything for about 10 seconds.

4. Each time you sip a hot drink, you WILL NOT be able to see anything for about 10 seconds.

5. If you breathe out through your nose OR mouth while sipping a hot drink, you WILL NOT be able to see for about 30 seconds.

6. If you cough OR sneeze while sipping a hot drink, you WILL scald your face. This will probably not affect your glasses, but it’s definitely worth knowing about.

7. If you enter a warm space (e.g. a hallway) from a cold, wet space (e.g. outside in England), you WILL NOT be able to see for about 10 years. Opening the oven door and leaning in to check up on the progress of a delicious cake will have the same effect.

8. If you cough or sneeze generally, use one hand for catching germs* (see 3.) and the other for catching your glasses, which will almost inevitably fall off. (courtesy of Joanne Walton’s sister’s boyfriend)

9. Putting your glasses on the end of your nose to amuse a friend with an impression of a favourite school teacher, OR specifically Professor McGonagall, OR someone slightly unnerving in that way that people who wear their glasses on the ends of their noses for no good reason are (I appreciate that it is useful to be able to look through them and over them for short/long-sighted people, but it does look a little bit silly, let’s be honest), is funny, but DO remember that you have them on the end of your nose for deliberately comic purposes before you leave the house, to, say, meet a date, or attend an un-ironic meeting.

10. Putting your glasses on upside down to amuse a friend with an impression of a favourite snooker player, specifically Dennis Taylor (I appreciate that it is useful to be able to still see through your glasses when bending down to play a shot if you are, for example, a world-class sports person, but it does look a little bit silly, let’s be honest), is funny, but DO remember that you have them on upside down before trying to plead sanity to the police, or denying that you are, say, auditioning for a part in the film adaptation of The Lovely Bones.

11. If kissing a fellow glasses wearer, DO either remove one of both pairs of glasses before kissing commences, OR tilt your foreheads away from each other. Tilting may not be an option, depending on the frame thickness and balancing skills.

12. DO remember that your glasses are the most important thing in the world. If, for example, you fall off a canal boat into a canal, disappearing for some time beneath a blanket of weeds and algae, be aware that your parents will be more concerned about the safety of your glasses than the safety of their child. Thus emerge through the weeds glasses first, triumphantly shouting about how you managed to keep hold of them, despite nearly drowning. Your parents will think you got your priorities just right. (courtesy of my mum, retrospective by about 45 years)

13. DO remember to distinguish between when you are and are not wearing your glasses. Leaning over to suavely push your stylish frames up your perfectly formed nose with your even more perfectly formed finger only works if you actually have your glasses on, and otherwise results in vigorously poking yourself in the forehead. (courtesy of Alex Bowen)

14. Glasses DO trap flies, wasps, and other airborne insects between the lenses and the wearer’s face. Bee very careful. And DO NOT rub honey on your eyelids before leaving the house. Why would you waste honey like that? It’s delicious.

15. Glasses ARE the perfect disguise for a mono-brow. (courtesy of Joanne Walton)

16. Glasses ARE NOT toys. But they are props, and are useful for performing mid-poem impersonations of Woody Allen and Allen Ginsberg.*** (courtesy of Ian Bowkett) – please note that this may result in spontaneous sarcastic asides during conversations in the cinema queue.

17. Glasses ARE pairs when they’re on their own, and prides when they’re in groups.

18. Glasses ARE NOT allowed in passport photos. So, depending on the strength of your prescription, DO remember to take a friend with you when renewing your passport photo. They can help you line up your now utterly helpless face with the little red guide thingy on the screen.

19. DO remember to take a friend with you when choosing new frames (probably the same friend, depending on how the passport photo experience went for you both). Choose a friend who: a) has an aesthetic opinion that you value, and b) won’t ask you to look in the mirror to see what you think because YOU CAN’T SEE ANYTHING WITHOUT YOUR CURRENT GLASSES ON!

20. DO take nose-reinforcements to all 3-D film showings, because you will be wearing two pairs of glasses – the second, probably heavier pair, halfway down your nose – and your face will slowly droop forwards throughout the course of the movie.

21. DO NOT attempt to save yourself as well as your glasses in a physical fight. It’s one or the other people, and, unless you have a particularly valuable face, general advice is to protect the glasses. (courtesy of Joanne Walton’s friend)

Thanks to everyone (both of you) who suggested vital safety tips for glasses wearers. Stay safe.

Yours in Short-Sightedness,


* this blog is sponsored by the NHS** – “catch it, kill it, smear it on a friend’s face, bin it”

** it’s not

***in the EU it’s currently illegal**** to impersonate any famous glasses wearers during a poem other than blokes called Allen

****it’s not

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