It has taken me longer than a decade and numerous lost contact lenses to reach this point, but I’ve grudgingly accepted the fact that I am now a permanent member of Club Four Eyes. Glasses weren’t a necessity for me until my mid-20s, and when I finally started wearing them, I thought I’d be no more than a part-timer, briefly slipping them on to check flight times at airports, admire distant landscapes from Welsh mountain tops and deceive job interviewers into thinking I was cerebral and cultured.
And then I started wearing them to the office, jogging on the streets and during the commute to work on the London Underground, lest I mistakenly end up in Tooting Bec (deepest, gang-ridden South London) instead of Tuffnell Park (leafy, nice North London). I knew it was time to wear glasses permanently when I celebrated my team scoring a penalty at a football match, only to be informed by the appalled stranger sitting next to me that the ball had in fact gone into the side netting.
Yet still I rejected the idea of myself as a fully paid-up glasses wearer. I dabbled in contact lenses, wearing them every other day. I studied brochures for laser surgery and looked forward to a time – soon, very soon – when I didn’t have to visit the opticians and suffer the butt-numbing tediousness of trying to make out the microscopic bottom line of an eye chart. And then one day my best friend, who has known me since my blessed spectacle-free infancy, told me that he could no longer imagine me not wearing glasses.
That to give my specs the sack would be as much of a seismic shock to his system as seeing Bob Marley without dreadlocks or hearing David Beckham speak in a deep voice. “You’d look weird without them now,” he said. “Sort of… incomplete.” Hearing this, my heart sank, because I had previously tried to think of someone famous and handsome who wore glasses and the best I could come up with was Michael Caine, whose only role as a romantic leading man was in Alfie – in which he didn’t wear glasses.
“What about Superman?” he said, trying to console me. “He wears glasses, and he’s cool, saving the world and stopping runaway trains with his bare hands and stuff.” But that wasn’t quite true. Diffident, bumbling, fallible Clark Kent wears glasses, not his invincible alter-ego. Worse still, he’s a newspaper reporter who perpetuates the stereotypical look of the journalist. And I hate to think of myself as a stereotypical anything.
No, I was definitely going to be naked of eye once more. No more wiping greasy smudges and condensation off my lenses, or carefully placing them on the bedside table at night the way old people drop their false teeth into a glass of water. Or so I believed. So what’s changed? Why have I now accepted that I’m permanently lumbered with my glasses? Cowardice, mainly. People who have had laser surgery have told me about the procedure and it sounds like something out of the film A Clockwork Orange. Eyelids held open with clamps, temporary loss of vision and the (admittedly slim) chance of permanent blindness.
It took me several distressing days just to be able to place a contact lens on my eyeball without wanting to puke up. Ten seconds into laser surgery I’d be screaming like a teething baby and fleeing the operating theatre faster than a bank robber. I know, I know. Millions of people have benefitted from successful laser surgery. And bully for them – they’re obviously much vainer and have a far higher tolerance of pain than I.
But unless they can find some magic pill that restores your eyesight to its original glory, I’ve resigned myself to being a glasses wearer for life. To alleviate my dismay, I’ve sought out successful and influential spectacle-wearing role models and come up with a list that includes playwright Arthur Miller, actors Peter Sellers and Johnny Depp (who never takes them off these days) and John Lennon to name but four (let’s not mention Harry Potter).
It’s quite consoling that Miller once squired Marilyn Monroe, then the most desired woman in the world. And that Sellers married the gorgeous Britt Ekland. It makes me want to go out right now and splash out on a new pair of Tom Fords. Maybe being a member of Club Four Eyes isn’t so bad after all.
Craig Hawes is alpha's features editor. After writing this column he has decided to buy himself a pair of vintagestyle Hardy Amies tortoiseshell glasses with a titanium keyhole bridge.