I found out in Grade 7 that I needed glasses. Did I get glasses? No. I could still read the chalkboard from the back of the classroom, just as long as I squinted hard enough.
I didn’t want glasses. I didn’t know many people, if anyone, that only took out their glasses to see the chalkboard. People either had glasses, or they didn’t. I didn’t. And I didn’t want to cross over anytime soon.
In my head, I ran through how things would play out if the teacher put on the powerpoint slides, and I put on my glasses. I imagined that one person would notice, say something to the effect of, “You have glasses?” and slowly the entire class would turn around and say the same thing.
Twelve-year-old Paul did not want that. He just wanted to lay low and not bring too much attention to himself as he squinted his way through the day.
In Grade 8, my teacher gave us a pop quiz after we came in from recess one day. She didn’t hand us a test but instead, told us to take out a sheet a paper and write down the answers to the questions that were handwritten on a piece of chart paper, which hung at the front of the class.
You gotta be kidding me.
My desk was already at the front of the room, but I still couldn’t read her handwriting. I started feeling sick. Partially because I came in from recess sweating profusely. Partially because I was panicking. And partially because I needed an excuse to call home and get out of the situation.
I told the teacher I felt sick, called home, and got picked up. Crisis averted. Test averted.
In Grade 9 I became very good at copying my neighbour’s notes whenever we had to copy notes from the board or powerpoint slides.
I hated that teacher’s chose to teach that way. Couldn’t they just talk and we write down what they say?
I also hated when the teacher assigned our seats based on alphabetical order because chances were I was going to end up at the back. Did I speak up and say I couldn’t see? Absolutely not.
I was Squinty McSquinterson, but only when no one was watching.
At some point between Grade 10-12, I purchased a pair of glasses. Probably sooner than later. I had to. My annual trip to the eye doctor was getting harder and harder for me to fake my way through.
I remember one year I tried to memorize an eye chart that I searched for on Google, days before my eye appointment. It didn’t help at all once I got there.
The letters I could see on the eye chart were getting fewer and fewer each year.
So now that I had glasses in my possession, do you think I wore them at school? Nope.
Again, I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. I didn’t want people to stare. I didn’t want to answer questions. I just wanted to squint and get out of there unscathed.
In Grade 12, I ended up in a really big classroom. The back row felt like it was in another school district. Where did I end up? The back row. And this was a random seating assignment too!
Some people asked the teacher if they could sit near the front because “they couldn’t see.” I didn’t believe their excuse. Some of them had glasses. Of course they could see. And the ones without glasses could also see, but their friends were seated at the front, so…you do the math.
I had a teacher who liked printing out his powerpoint slides and having us read from them.
This wasn’t a problem for me if I was ever called upon. I would just read the sheet in front of me, rather than look up at the screen.
Except he called on me to read the one day he didn’t provide printouts. I immediately said something like, “I can’t see it.” Then I thought he would move on to someone else. Nope!
He told me to go sit in the front row to read it.
I did the walk of shame to the front row, sat down, and still couldn’t read what was on the projection screen. The first row of desks was still about twenty feet away from it. Lucky me.
The jig was up. Everyone knew I couldn’t see. It was embarrassing. My teacher asked me if I needed glasses. I thought that was a dumb question and if this were an NFL game, he would’ve gotten a penalty for piling on.
I never wore my glasses in high school. I was too afraid of how I would look, or what people would say. I know, it sounds crazy. And looking back, I wish I would have just brought my glasses to school and wore them.
But at the time, that’s not the kind of person I was. So I didn’t do that.
Contact lenses were never an option for me. An alarm in my head goes off if my fingers get too close to my eyeballs.
When I got to university, I knew I would have to wear my glasses. The lecture halls were too big and there was too much money invested.
I was fine with it. It was a new school, in a town two hours away from high school. For all these people knew, I had been wearing glasses forever.
In my first Astronomy lecture of first year, I sat with the only other person from my high school who went to my university. He wore glasses. And I knew exactly what would happen when I took mine out.
I put my glasses on and two seconds later he said to me, “You wear glasses, Paul? I didn’t know that.”
There it was. Exactly what I expected to hear had I got glasses in Grade 7. Exactly what I expected to hear had I worn them in high school.
And then a strange thing happened.
It didn’t matter.
It didn’t matter that I wore glasses. Many people wore glasses. Why should I have to squint my way through life just because I felt embarrassed or different.
Finally, a weight was off my
shoulders eyelids. I could read the notes off the screen and write them down, rather than writing down bits and pieces of what the professor said.
As time went on, I even started wearing my glasses outside of the classroom. It made it a lot easier for me to spot friends in the hallway and give confident waves and head nods, rather than ones where I had no clue who I was greeting until they got closer.
Presently, I don’t wear glasses all time. I don’t need to. Honestly.
I wear glasses to drive, watch TV, watch sporting events in person, and when I play video games with my best friend Chris and lose. Thankfully, I don’t need them to read. Yet.
I’m not embarrassed, ashamed, or scared of wearing glasses anymore. I haven’t been for many years now. They’re just glasses. I wish I realized that when I was younger, but I didn’t.
I still hate going to the eye doctor, though. A couple of years ago they asked me to read the eye chart without my glasses, “just to see what I was capable of”, or something.
I thought they were doing it as a joke. They were serious.
I saw the big letter E, but it wasn’t clear. That’s all I was capable of. Even if I had my eyes closed, I would’ve said “E”.
Everyone knows it’s the first letter on the chart, especially me.
I had studied it before.
Do you have glasses? When did you get them? Did you ever feel embarrassed about wearing them?