It wasn’t meant to be a blind date; that’s just the way it turned out.
I was browsing Hot or Not for good-looking men—you know, the way people do—when I came to this guy who was definitely HOT; just one look and my groin told me I was interested. ‘Click Here to Meet Me’—I clicked. There were two more photos. In one his long fair hair was in a ponytail; in the other it was flowing free, and gleaming. I read his key words and his blurb. He was gay! He was single! He was looking! Best of all, he lived less than 30 miles away! I wanted him! I clicked ‘Yes’ and introduced myself to the blond bombshell:
Hi, I’m Alex; I’m rating you 10; I live not too far from you. How about a date?
I waited for a response; interminably, it seemed. At last it came:
Hi Alex. Thanks for the rating, and I’d give you a 10 too. But looks aren’t everything, so how about getting to know each other before we meet? Love, Eric.
So we started e-mailing back and forward, once or twice a day; and the more I read of Eric the better suited we seemed to be and the more I wanted him. After a while we took to instant messaging, and would chat for hours on Yahoo. I was so patient; I didn’t pester Eric for the date I longed for, and in the end it was he who suggested it was time to meet over a meal. I agreed with alacrity, and we fixed our date, a Saturday lunchtime in summer at a Chinese restaurant in the gay village—we’d discovered we both liked Chinese food. I had to work that morning, but only till twelve. I couldn’t wait, I thought, to meet him face to face; but on the morning of our date, disaster struck.
The pollen count was stratospheric; my eyes were streaming. There was no way I could put my contact lenses in; without them, I’d be up the creek without a paddle but the last thing I wanted to do was appear in glasses on my first date with the lovely Eric! Don’t get me wrong; I actually quite like wearing glasses, but I’m not convinced I look good in them. I blame my big brother for that.
My vision has been terrible all my life, but of course I didn’t know that till I started school; like everybody else, I imagined the way I saw was the way everybody saw. No, I’m not short sighted; I’m long sighted. I could see things in the distance, well, after a fashion, and the things I couldn’t see I ignored. My folks just thought I was the ‘outdoor’ type of kid. Then I started infant school. At first we practised in trays of sand, writing letters about three inches high—no problem. The crunch came when we were supposed to graduate to pencil and paper; the teacher looked at my first attempt and said,
“No, no, Alexander! I wanted you to write between the lines.”
“What lines Miss? I don’t see any lines.”
After a few more questions, Miss let me have a sand tray again so that I could go on writing in that for the time being; but at home time she had a long conversation with my Mum. As a result I was taken to see an optician, who shone his light into my eyes and said,
“Well, Alex, I’m sure we can help you to see a lot better.”
The test showed I needed a high plus prescription. I didn’t mind having round wire frames, though of course I had no idea how they’d look with the lenses in them. A few days later the word came that my glasses were ready, and I went off quite happily with Mum to collect them. I went home just as happily wearing them and enjoying seeing all sorts of things I hadn’t been able to see before; and the next day in school when Miss offered me a sheet of paper to write on I was amazed to see the neat blue lines on it.
My brother was away that week, at some camp or other, and I was left in peace till he came home.
His first words were “Hey, look at Specky Ecky!”
I immediately whipped my glasses off, only to find what so many of us have found, that when you get the glasses you need, you very quickly become dependent on them. I couldn’t see a thing, not even the things I could have seen a week before. Mum jumped down Frank’s throat every time she heard him call me Specky or Specky Ecky or even Ecky; but she had no control over what he said at school, and I was stuck with the nickname, and the four-eyed geekdom that it signified, for the rest of my school career. I could see, and I liked that—but there was no denying the bulging round lenses shouted ‘NERD!’ near and far.
Eventually I had my revenge. Frank was going up to high school, and one day the term before I arrived home and went up to the bedroom we shared, to find him lying on his bed crying.
I said, “Hey what’s up?” but he ran out of the room, downstairs and out into the garden.
It turned out his class had had a medical check, and he’d been told he was short sighted and needed glasses. Needless to say, I lost no time in labelling him Frankie Foureyes—if big brothers can be bastards their little brothers sometimes manage to settle the score—but he cramped my style by wearing his glasses only to watch TV and (I guess) see the board in school. That was at first: within a year he was as dependent on his minus specs as I was on my plus ones, and over the next few years his myopia increased steadily till it levelled off somewhere around –7.
Oddly enough my vision is better now than it was in junior school. When I started high school Frank’s experience was repeated: with my glasses on I could only read half the chart, and when I went for a test the optician said:
“Alex, these glasses are too strong for you now.”
Over the next few years I needed weaker lenses every year or so.
The optician’s explanation went something like this: “Your eyes are doing the same thing your brother’s did, and a whole lot of other people’s do at your age. I you’d started out with perfect vision you’d be getting short-sighted like Frank but as it is you’re less long sighted than you were—so you’re better off!”
I didn’t mind; I’m happy needing a mere (mere!) +5.50. I still need that correction to see anything clearly; but when I left school I graduated to contact lenses to improve my image.
But now I couldn’t wear contacts; and for this date that I’d been looking forward to so long, I was going to have to choose between good looks and good vision. I wore my glasses all morning at work—I mean, seeing comes in handy. Nobody was fazed by this; somebody said,
“Trouble with your contacts?”
And I said, “Yeah, hay fever, so it’s bugeyes time,” which the other contact wearers in the office understood only too well.
When I left work I put my glasses in my pocket and put my mind to navigating my way through the blur; I know the gay village like the back of my hand but it still wasn’t easy. I got there in the end though, and spotted what I thought must be Eric: taller than I’d expected, with long fair hair in a ponytail (as far as I could see). I went towards him, and was greeted with:
“Alex! It’s lovely to meet you at last!”
“Hi Eric,” I responded, and we gave each other a peck on the cheek.
As you can imagine, I had been thinking about how I was going to order my meal; without my glasses I could no more read the menu than fly single-handed to the moon, and I had two alternative plans. One was to order a set meal for two; the other, if that didn’t appeal to Eric, was to choose a couple of standard dishes and let him do the same. However…
We were shown to a table with the usual immaculate linen tablecloth and napkins, offered drinks and handed menus. While we sipped our white wine, we looked (blindly in my case) at our menus.
Then Eric gave a slight cough and said diffidently, “I’m afraid the way the pollen count is at the moment I couldn’t put my contacts in; I’m going to need my glasses to read this menu; I hope you don’t mind.”
“Mind?” I said. “I’ll join you!”
With that I took my own glasses out and put them on, just as Eric did the same. We looked at each other and said, both at once, “Your photo didn’t do you justice!” and then burst out laughing.
From that moment we relaxed and thoroughly enjoyed our meal and our conversation.
Eric’s glasses are semi-rimless with dark green plastic frames and fairly strong minus lenses; I wear bold black plastic frames, and as I said already my lenses are +5.50. When we’d finished eating and were sipping our green jasmine tea, Eric said, a little diffidently:
“Alex, would you take your glasses off a minute?”
I did as he asked; then he said, “OK,” and I put them back on.
Then he said, “You know, from the moment I saw your photo I thought you were hot, but in those specs you are incandescent!”
“You look good in glasses too; can I just see you without them?” He took them off for a minute, and I inspected him through my lenses.
“Yes, they do something for you too—and I don’t just mean improve your vision. Tell you what: if we get together again you needn’t bother with contact lenses.”
“Uh, do you want to get together again?”
“Well, what do you think?”
He took my hand and pressed it to his lips, and said, “Is there somewhere we can go?”
Half an hour later we were in my bed. Five years later we’re still together.