I came across my 4th class school photo recently from the Presentation Convent, the late Mrs. Connolly's class, and the memories of getting it taken flooded back. I’m balancing, aged 10 ¼, on top of a wooden school desk trying to avoid the ink well scraping my knee. Dressed in my navy-blue uniform gymslip and white blouse. My poem about trees is hanging on the classroom wall over my left shoulder. I’ve taken my long hair down from its usual ribboned pony tail and I’ve discarded my recently acquired glasses. I really hated those glasses back in the day!
I had started having trouble seeing the blackboard in school the year before. I had covered it up for ages by looking over Catherine’s shoulder to copy down whatever we had to write in our copybooks from the “board”. Eventually though, I was rumbled by an observant Sr. Antoinette and she noted it in my end-of-year school report that lately I seemed to be having difficulty with my eyes and suggesting that maybe I should get it investigated. Anyway, I eventually was persuaded and cajoled to visit Coghlan’s Chemists where the lovely Paddy Coghlan (RIP) tested my sight with various charts and lenses in a back room off the shop and confirmed what I already knew …. that the dreaded glasses were needed as I was very short-sighted indeed. I’d have given Mr. Magoo a run for his money…..but probably not far before I tripped over something 🤣.
Aged 10, I wanted to look like everyone else! Glasses would make me feel and look different. I’d have to be careful playing games. Broken glasses would have to be avoided. They cost enough in the first place never mind shelling out again for them. So, I got used to yelling “Mind my glasses!” whenever a basketball or tennis ball was sent careering towards my head.
Within a few short weeks of that visit to Paddy, the metal-framed glasses I had chosen were sitting on my nose. It was summertime. I remember coming home with them to Carrick-Beg and wearing them while sitting on the garden seat with my mother. It was like I had taken LSD (not that I ever have I hasten to add!! 😊). I could see every blade of grass and every petal on the buttercups. Before, it had all been one green blur!! So, this glasses malarkey had something going for it after all. The world had suddenly become a brighter, clearer place. (As long as I kept the glasses clean).
But I had entered the world of the begoggled. And aged 10 that didn’t fill my heart with gladness. Firstly, it’s hard to explain now but glasses back then were not the fashionable accessory that they have since become. Back then, there was very little choice in frames …. but moreover, the lenses (if you had really bad sight like me) were thick and heavy. Like looking through the bottom of a milk bottle. So not a particularly cool look!
They also fogged up in cold weather. Oh, how I hated visiting “A Cut Above” on the Main Street for my “Purdey hairstyle”; with glasses so fogged up I could barely see the receptionist! And I was like Vanderbilt from F-Troop when the glasses were off.
There was also a bit of a stigma attached to wearing them. To be fair, even though I remember being the first of my friends having to wear glasses, I don’t remember ever getting bullied or teased much over them …. though I’m sure I was sometimes called “speccy four-eyes”, “gogglehead”, “bookworm” or “swot” more than once. Seeing as I DID love books, I didn’t mind too much. There was nothing to dispute 😂. But I did mind about ALWAYS having to wear them EVERYDAY. So, in that 4th class photo I thought that by taking off the glasses sure I’d only be gorgeous once again.
Thankfully, I’ve long made my peace with wearing glasses. I’ve had the benefit of great opticians in Carrick, Waterford and Dublin. For one thing, glasses have improved hugely in design and quality in the intervening 40 plus years. Down through the decades I’ve worn brown, tortoiseshell, blue, green, red and clear plastic frames as well as those original metallic ones. I’ve also worn a variety of prescription sunglasses …. as the photos attached here will attest to. But, the really big improvement has come in the lens …. no longer heavy …. and coated now to reduce misting. Now, if only someone would invent windscreen wipers for glasses for us glasses wearers in rain-swept Ireland, they would be a rich woman/man!
In the late '90s, as my sight continued to get more myopic and my attempts at using contact lenses failed because of astigmatism, I decided to opt for LASIK eye surgery. I have to say that all through the noughties I enjoyed my freedom from glasses. I especially loved having a full field of vision instead of having to look straight ahead. And being able to see my toes in the shower!! I’d say I got a really good 10 years of clear vision from the LASIK before I eventually had to start wearing glasses again. Though I find myself taking them off to read more and more. (And then the stroke damaged my peripheral vision in 2017).
Looking back (pardon the pun!), I’ve been very grateful to be able to correct my vision fairly easily. Wearing glasses is a small price to pay to be able to see this wonderful world. It did give me an insight (sorry) if even a small bit, into how difficult it must be for anyone not able to correct bad sight either because of financial or medical conditions. Very early on, I always donated my old glasses to the opticians as they were recycled for those in developing countries.
I’ve also been a supporter of Sightsavers for over 20 years. Sightsavers works in more than 30 countries to prevent avoidable blindness and fight for the rights of people with disabilities. They treat eye conditions such as cataracts and tackle debilitating diseases, many of which cause sight loss. They also advocate for the rights of people with visual impairments and other disabilities, and help to improve local health services so they are sustainable. 91% of donations, including donated supplies, go to their vital charity work, with 9% going to awareness growth and funding.
As for me, I no longer worry about being different. Or looking geeky in glasses. As long as I don’t stand on them (like I did at the start of COVID), then all is well. Now all I have to remember is where have I left them down!! Love Mary aka Mrs. Magoo 😎👓🕶️.
Bucket List Items Ticked Off in the above Blog post 104
Number 44 - Giving Back - Support 8 Favourite Charities
Other Blog Posts
Blog 11 - Sydney, Australia
Blog 12 - Hong Kong, China
Blog 17 - Beijing, Xi'an & Shanghai, China
Blog 19 - California, USA
Blog 27 - Scotland
Blog 28 - Barbados
Blog 29 - Canada
Have you ever worn glasses? Tell me about your experience in the comments section below.
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My name is Mary and this is my bucket list blog ...having survived a near-death experience. I hope it encourages you to "live your best life". See how I'm completing my own bucket list items. And let me know how you're getting on with yours!