Schoolchildren can sniff out weakness at 20 paces. It doesn’t matter whether you have crooked teeth, ginger hair or a slightly rotund midriff. Once they smell blood, they go in for the kill. Call it taking the Michael or extracting the urine, such teasing to a small child can be mortally wounding. Of course, once you’re older, such behaviour doesn’t tend to wound so much.
I wore spectacles from an early age. Because my prescription changed every 6 months, it made no sense to spend a huge amount on any eye correction I wore, so I suffered the ignominy of National Health glasses. These were spectacles provided by the state for those who couldn’t afford to pay for fashionable eye correction.
By necessity, they were cheap. There was only one design which came in chunky plastic. You could choose between brown, black and a kind of tortoiseshell colour. In the rough and tumble of childhood play, broken glasses became a fact of life. Mum or Dad would carry out makeshift repairs using sellotape or superglue. When I started wearing them, the lenses were like milk bottles, fashioned from thick, heavy glass.
Thank goodness, over time the manufacturers turned to plastic which cut down the weight significantly. In addition, they worked out how to make the lenses much thinner. The bridge of my nose was grateful for both developments.
Several people (including Da Vinci and Descartes) dreamed up concepts for contact lenses, but it was 1949 before someone came up with a design that was bearable for any period of time. The original lenses did not allow oxygen through to the eye which led to all sorts of nasty side effects. Over the coming decades, more sophisticated, comfortable and safer designs were developed.
As soon as I started work, I sought freedom from the spectacles I’d been shackled to. I happily wore contact lenses for a number of years, before my laziness overcame my vanity. I don’t miss all the faffing around. I do miss the ability to see in the rain or to have a clear view when coming in from the cold.
So every 2-3 years, I spend the equivalent to a top of the range iPad on new spectacles. If only on economic grounds, if I was brave enough, I should invest in laser eye surgery. Developed in the 80’s from IBM technology, it was Dr Stephen Trokel who pioneered and applied the excimer laser in a ground-breaking procedure. The idea of burning away bits of my eye to sculpt the perfect lens sounds like it would be difficult to fix if they got it wrong.
One day, a quick injection of stem cells or the insertion of some nano-technology that adapts to your exact correction requirements will be safe, pain and error free. Call me a coward, but I think I’ll wait.
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