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Dr Phil: In praise of glasses

Dr PhilAs the world's leading bespectacled, freckly-faced ginger TV doctor, people often ask me 'Have you ever considered a makeover?'. Ginger hair isn't hard to disguise, the eyes could be lasered back to near perfection and last time I was on Richard and Judy, they spray-painted over my freckles with three inches of foundation. I looked like a bad clone of Robert Kilroy-Silk. So no thanks to the makeover.

The beauty of accepting yourself as you are is that you don't have to bother with New Year resolutions (and then feel guilty about breaking them). As you get older, your body performs its own makeover: ginger hair goes blond (well grey, but it looks blond), freckles merge and fade, and glasses look distinguished. But it wasn't ever thus. As an awkward teenager, I found glasses made socializing even more awkward. It's hard to snog in specs and your dance movements are a bit restricted. Last time I was in a nightclub, I lost my glasses six bars into Smells Like Teen Spirit and it took me an hour-and-a-half to find them. I did once consider having the laser operation to cure my short-sightedness but all the eye surgeons I know still prefer to wear glasses. Is there something they're not telling us?
My eyesight hit the buffers during puberty. I couldn't even see the blackboard, let alone read anything on it, but I survived by copying from William 'Thicky' Hickey (who can't have been that thick or else I'd have never made it to medical school). But I was found out when my suspicious Mum tried an impromptu sight test. Could you read the top line of that chart? What chart? Boom, boom, and off we go to the opticians.
The sight test was the easy bit, but choosing the NHS frames was really tough. Back in 1973, they were all a bit, well, obvious. I walked out of the opticians with what looked like a sea slug asleep on my forehead. Not that that my main concern. The lenses were so strong that the pavement came up to meet me. Still, it was cheaper than cider. Monday morning at Marlborough Grammar School. Tentative entrance from ginger boy in new glasses. Hey, look! It's Joe Ninety! No it's not. It's the Milky Bar Kid! How we all laughed.
Thankfully, it was a full year before we went Comprehensive so I had a bit of time to work on my self-image before the heckling got really personal. Even then, I only wore my glasses in class. How I wish I'd been brave enough to wear them round the back of the French hut for impromptu sex education. All my adolescent fumbling was lost in a purple haze. And I refused to wear glasses for the walk home from school, which encompassed Britain's widest high street. Miraculously, I was only hit twice.
At 16, my eyesight stabilized and I switched to contact lenses. I once crashed out after a party, put them in a glass of water by the bed, woke with a raging thirst and swallowed them. The optician told me that my insurance didn't cover gross acts of stupidity but I got both of them back with a bit of determination and a sieve. But the old hard contact lenses were hopeless for a junior doctor on call. I couldn't sleep in them and I couldn't spend five minutes putting them in when I was called out to a cardiac arrest. So I switched back to glasses and have stuck with them ever since. They're great for a GP. You can choose nice curvy frames that make you look more caring and studies have shown that relatives of patients are less likely to punch you if you're wearing glasses. And if you ever want to escape from reality, just take off your glasses and the whole world becomes a delicious blur*. Happy New Year.
Dr Phil Hammond is a medical doctor, comedian and commentator on health issues., where his glasses feature proudly on his books.
*Not recommended while sword-fighting or operating heavy machinery.

Written by: Dr Phil Hammond
Edited by: Dr Phil Hammond
Last updated: Friday, August 13th 2010

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Comments on this article

Posted by Margaret Ann on 22/01/2011 at 02:18

Wonderful reading, both informative and funny. I'm not really 100+ but feel like it now and then .. more "just over 70"!!!!! and rarin' to go if only I felt better without Mr Arthur Itis and IBS with complication - ugh!!! Keep up your excellent website; you are so refreshing and reassuring to read. Big handful of sunshine from sunny Western Australia to you and yours.