How Harry Potter made wearing glasses so magical for my son
This week I finally heard the words I've been dreading since I first got pregnant years ago; 'I'm afraid your child needs glasses'. It must sound melodramatic and silly to most people, such a tumultuous reaction to a little flaw. And it is a tiny setback compared to the unthinkable traumas visited upon many parents. But for me glasses represent a blighted childhood, characterised by anxiety and fear, and a self-image which put me somewhere between a rat and fat ugly Roland from Grange Hill.
I remember my first glasses. They were hideous pink NHS jobs, doubtless chosen by the same government-hired design team who opted for the brown and bottle-green palate which adorned DHSS waiting rooms. In order to make me feel that they were to be coveted, my teacher Mrs Rogers took me round all the primary one classrooms to 'show them off'. She told me everyone was jealous but the giggles and muffled murmurs of 'total Speccy' and 'goony Glecs' made me sceptical.
Her thesis proved optimistic. The playground derision started when I was five and lasted until I was 15, and finally able to wear contact lenses. Glasses made me a coward on the netball court, the dance-floor and even in the shopping mall, where I braced myself for comments every time I hung out with my friends at the seven-inch singles rack in Woolworths.
I might have been decent at some sport, but I was so scared of my specs being smashed I never found the nerve to go hell for leather in any physical pursuit and adopted a comical 'worst sportswoman ever' persona instead, pretending to be a heat-stroked Blanche duBois fluttering to the ground whenever a ball came near me.
Worse was any situation which involved an assessment of my allure. Like the Christmas school disco, when the boys were invited to choose a partner to throw around during the Gay Gordons. I had various ways of dealing with this vile process – literally turning my back or flicking the V at anyone who glanced in my direction (so that my failure to attract a suitor might be considered a result of my distaste, rather than a mass revulsion) – but it still hurt like a bee-sting in my belly.
My son is one of the sunniest-natured kids you could ever meet. For him, the world is a benign, happy place which only wishes him the best. He's also a boy who likes to kick around a football and run like the wind. He's very popular, king of the pack, and brimming with self-confidence. The thought of glasses having the kind of effect on him they had on me made me angry and scared.
And yet ... maybe this time it'll be different. As far as he's concerned, so far the experience has been nothing but exciting. There are other kids in his class with glasses and none of them get bullied. He's already spotted glasses he reckons are halfway between the Tenth Doctor and Harry Potter, which would make him as cool as Roland from Grange Hill was uncool. Thanks to JK Rowling, David Tennant and a bespectacled enlightenment, it seems the horrors of being a four-eyes in the Eighties may have been extinguished.
So the only response I could give the optician, when he told my boy and I that we should go and choose some glasses was 'Brilliant.' And I really tried to mean it. Maybe my son's faith in the future can finally erase my phobia of the past. I wouldn't put it past him, the little heart-mender. 'My first pair were hideous pink NHS jobs designed by same people behind the bottle-green Dole office waiting rooms'