BORN TOO EARLY PERHAPS?

Looking through reams and reams of old photographs dating back to around the time of Noah (well, it feels like that sometimes!), I am distressed by the fact that what today is regarded as a fashion necessity, labelled me as a bit of a freak of nature. What am I referring to, you probably wonder? It is the fact that on all my school photos I was always the only one wearing glasses! What on earth was going on in the 1950’s which resulted in me being an odd one out? Nowadays every second person, including many children, are wearing glasses of every style imaginable.

I was diagnosed as having an alternating squint and had to have an operation to correct it when I was 3 years old. At that time parents were not allowed to visit their children in hospital and my parents could only peep through the window at the top of the swinging doors at the entrance to my ward. Even though I was so young, I have memories of having bandages over both my eyes and peeping under the bandage to be able to sneak a look at my surroundings. I also remember being in a cot and having to be fed by a nurse and the bowl was specific to the era – with a wide rim surrounding the actual bowl. This was probably to minimise any spillage.

Nowadays, if a child has a squint, the treatment is non- intrusive and definitely less traumatic. The problem in those days was that eye specialists had yet to realise that, if you corrected the muscle in one eye, then the other eye started to squint. Why this was only discovered by the time I had children of my own, and my daughter began showing the same kind of problem, heaven alone knows. After all, the eye is a muscle and muscles can be strengthened by exercises. As a teenager, and having emigrated with my parents from the UK and now living in South Africa, I had a second operation on the other eye but afterwards, much to my disappointment, I still had to wear glasses. The eye specialists who had operated on my eye now recommended that I saw a lady in Johannesburg, Miss Munro Henderson, who specialised in teaching people how to strengthen their eyes through exercises using a variety of printed cards.

The point I was trying to make is how advanced life has become and how attitudes have changed. When I was little, I was often teased and called “four eyes” by classmates. I was even asked if I wore my glasses when I was sleeping. I eventually learnt to answer that I actually did sleep with them on so that my dreams were in colour! The glasses I wore in the early years were national health issue (UK) and were round and pink with wire ear- pieces. If one compares what is available nowadays, mine really did look very antiquated, but then they were issued free!

How I would have loved to have been able to wear my glasses as a fashion item instead of just a way of keeping my eyes straight, at a time when image, and being like everyone else, was the most important thing in life. Teenage years are when you want to fit in, not stand out! Anyway, suffice to say that as soon as I was able, and soft contact lenses became readily available, my glasses became a stand-by for night-time reading in bed while my lenses were in their overnight soaking solution. Unfortunately, by this time my teenage years were long gone and I was in my thirties.

 As soon as I became a contact lens wearer, life changed dramatically as now I could swim in the sea and find my way back to our spot on the beach without the help of a human guide dog! Contact lenses were the best thing since sliced bread for me. My eyes no longer squinted at all, I found that I wasn’t as much a failure at ball sports as I had been whilst wearing glasses and my peripheral vision was amazing! Another fantastic benefit was being able to chop up onions without any tears whatsoever and being able to put food into a hot oven without the irritation of glasses misting up all the time. Raindrops falling on the glasses was no longer an issue and how wonderful it is to be able to see what you are doing when putting on eye makeup.

So now, why are so many people wearing glasses, whilst I, who have worn them from the age 3, couldn’t wait to swop over to contacts? Yes, there are some beautiful, mod frames from which to choose, but they still have the same drawbacks as before, except that no-one is made to feel embarrassed by wearing them due to them being viewed more as a fashion item than an aid for a disability! Sometimes one has to wonder whether they were born too early!!

BORN TOO EARLY PERHAPS?

Looking through reams and reams of old photographs dating back to around the time of Noah (well, it feels like that sometimes!), I am distressed by the fact that what today is regarded as a fashion necessity, labelled me as a bit of a freak of nature. What am I referring to, you probably wonder? It is the fact that on all my school photos I was always the only one wearing glasses! What on earth was going on in the 1950’s which resulted in me being an odd one out? Nowadays every second person, including many children, are wearing glasses of every style imaginable.

I was diagnosed as having an alternating squint and had to have an operation to correct it when I was 3 years old. At that time parents were not allowed to visit their children in hospital and my parents could only peep through the window at the top of the swinging doors at the entrance to my ward. Even though I was so young, I have memories of having bandages over both my eyes and peeping under the bandage to be able to sneak a look at my surroundings. I also remember being in a cot and having to be fed by a nurse and the bowl was specific to the era – with a wide rim surrounding the actual bowl. This was probably to minimise any spillage.

Nowadays, if a child has a squint, the treatment is non- intrusive and definitely less traumatic. The problem in those days was that eye specialists had yet to realise that, if you corrected the muscle in one eye, then the other eye started to squint. Why this was only discovered by the time I had children of my own, and my daughter began showing the same kind of problem, heaven alone knows. After all, the eye is a muscle and muscles can be strengthened by exercises. As a teenager, and having emigrated with my parents from the UK and now living in South Africa, I had a second operation on the other eye but afterwards, much to my disappointment, I still had to wear glasses. The eye specialists who had operated on my eye now recommended that I saw a lady in Johannesburg, Miss Munro Henderson, who specialised in teaching people how to strengthen their eyes through exercises using a variety of printed cards.

The point I was trying to make is how advanced life has become and how attitudes have changed. When I was little, I was often teased and called “four eyes” by classmates. I was even asked if I wore my glasses when I was sleeping. I eventually learnt to answer that I actually did sleep with them on so that my dreams were in colour! The glasses I wore in the early years were national health issue (UK) and were round and pink with wire ear- pieces. If one compares what is available nowadays, mine really did look very antiquated, but then they were issued free!

How I would have loved to have been able to wear my glasses as a fashion item instead of just a way of keeping my eyes straight, at a time when image, and being like everyone else, was the most important thing in life. Teenage years are when you want to fit in, not stand out! Anyway, suffice to say that as soon as I was able, and soft contact lenses became readily available, my glasses became a stand-by for night-time reading in bed while my lenses were in their overnight soaking solution. Unfortunately, by this time my teenage years were long gone and I was in my thirties.

 As soon as I became a contact lens wearer, life changed dramatically as now I could swim in the sea and find my way back to our spot on the beach without the help of a human guide dog! Contact lenses were the best thing since sliced bread for me. My eyes no longer squinted at all, I found that I wasn’t as much a failure at ball sports as I had been whilst wearing glasses and my peripheral vision was amazing! Another fantastic benefit was being able to chop up onions without any tears whatsoever and being able to put food into a hot oven without the irritation of glasses misting up all the time. Raindrops falling on the glasses was no longer an issue and how wonderful it is to be able to see what you are doing when putting on eye makeup.

So now, why are so many people wearing glasses, whilst I, who have worn them from the age 3, couldn’t wait to swop over to contacts? Yes, there are some beautiful, mod frames from which to choose, but they still have the same drawbacks as before, except that no-one is made to feel embarrassed by wearing them due to them being viewed more as a fashion item than an aid for a disability! Sometimes one has to wonder whether they were born too early!!

Odd one Out – Coffee and a Chat 2022 January No. 1

ODD ONE OUT

Looking through reams and reams of old photographs dating back to around the time of Noah (well, it feels like that sometimes!), I am distressed by the fact that what today is regarded almost as a fashion necessity, labelled me as a bit of a freak of nature. What am I referring to, you probably wonder? It is the fact that on all my school photos I was always the only one wearing glasses! What on earth was going on in the 1960’s which resulted in me being an odd one out? Nowadays every second person, including many children, are wearing glasses of every style imaginable.

I was diagnosed as having an alternating squint and had to have an operation to correct it when I was 3 years old. At that time parents were not allowed to visit their children in hospital and my parents could only peep through the window at the top of the swinging doors at the entrance to my ward. Even though I was so young, I have memories of having bandages over both my eyes and peeping under the bandage to be able to sneak a look at my surroundings. I also remember having to be fed by a nurse and the bowl was specific to the era – with a wide rim surrounding the actual bowl. This was probably to minimise any spillage.

Nowadays, if a child has a squint, the treatment is non- intrusive. The problem in those days was that eye specialists had yet to realise that, if you corrected the muscle in one eye, then the other eye started to squint. Why this was only discovered by the time I had children of my own, and my daughter began showing the same kind of problem, heaven alone knows. After all, the eye is a muscle and muscles can be strengthened by exercises. As a teenager, and having emigrated and now living in South Africa, I had a second operation on the other eye but still had to wear glasses. The eye specialists who had operated on my eye now recommended that I saw a lady in Johannesburg who specialised in teaching people how to strengthen their eyes through exercises using a variety of printed cards. Fortunately, with my own past experience, I was quick to find someone who would be able to work with a young child to avoid her having to wear glasses permanently. It worked!

The point I was trying to make is how advanced life has become and how attitudes have changed. When I was little, I was often teased and called “four eyes” by classmates. I was even asked if I wore them when I was sleeping. I eventually learnt to answer that I actually did sleep with them on so that my dreams were in colour! The glasses I wore in the early years were government issue (UK) and were round and pink with wire ear- pieces. If one compares what is available nowadays, mine really did look very antiquated, but then they were issued free!

How I would have loved to have been able to wear my glasses as a beautiful adornment instead of just a way of keeping my eyes straight at a time when image and being like everyone else was the most important thing in life. Teenage years are a time when you want to fit in not stand out! Anyway, suffice to say that as soon as I was able, and soft contact lenses became readily available, my glasses became a stand- by for reading in bed after my lenses had been placed in their overnight soaking solution. Unfortunately, by this time my teenage years were long gone and I was in my thirties.

 As soon as I became a contact lens wearer, life changed dramatically as now I could swim in the sea and find my way back to our spot on the beach without the help of a human guide dog! Contact lenses were the best thing since sliced bread for me. My eyes no longer squinted at all, I found that I wasn’t as much a failure at ball sports as I had been whilst wearing glasses and my peripheral vision was amazing! Another fantastic benefit was being able to chop up onions without any tears whatsoever, and putting food into a hot oven without the irritation of glasses misting up all the time. Raindrops falling on the glasses was no longer an issue and how wonderful it is to be able to actually see what you are doing when putting on eye makeup.

So now, why are so many people wearing glasses, whilst I, who have worn them from the age 3, couldn’t wait to swop over to contacts? Yes, there are some beautiful, mod frames from which to choose, but they still have the same drawbacks as before, except that no-one is made to feel embarrassed by wearing them due to them being viewed more as a fashion item than an aid for a disability! Sometimes one has to wonder whether they were born too early!!

A New Era Dawns?

Well, we only have a few days ahead of us before we enter the 2020’s and, looking back, things appear to be vastly different than they must have been a hundred years ago, when people were waiting for the start of 1920.  I thought it would be a bit of fun to compare a couple of the differences between 1920 and 2020 as far as fashion and lifestyle is concerned, so here goes.

The first world war took place between 1913 and 1918 and is still referred to as The Great War. The loss of life and the conditions which the armed forces on all sides had to endure were horrendous by all accounts, as much of the fighting was done by soldiers in cold, muddy trenches. As in any war, as well as in the days afterwards, times were extremely difficult for most people and something needed to happen to improve morale. It may well have been that the anticipation of entering a new decade assisted in lifting peoples’ spirits.

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As 1920 approached, it saw women over the age of 30 in the UK having been given the right to vote in 1918, a privilege which American women were to receive during 1920.  Consequently, the fashion of the times started to reflect this new emancipation and the “flapper” arrived on the scene, with her beautiful bobbed hairstyle which was suited to the head hugging cloche hat of the time. The wearing of the Chanel inspired, drop-waisted, shorter length shift dress meant that no longer did women have to squeeze themselves into tight, uncomfortable corsets. For evening wear these dresses would have been decorated quite elaborately with sequins and crystal beads. The style was well suited for dancing the Charleston or the Black Bottom at the new night clubs where jazz was all the rage. The desire to have a slender boyish figure made its appearance along with the fashion for smoking, using fancy cigarette holders, and wearing make-up in public. By all accounts there was a major shift regarding morality during this period in history. All in all, for those who could afford it, life seems to have been a time for having fun.

Men’s fashions changed as well during this period. One only has to watch the movie, The Great Gatsby, to see how dashing the men’s outfits were compared to the austere clothing which was worn before and just after the war. Pin striped suits or blazers worn with white trousers and braces, trilby hats or straw boaters, two-tone shoes, and natty bow ties were the rage.  All in all, a very attractive time where men’s clothing was concerned, albeit for the wealthy.

As we look towards 2020 things are rather different.  Fashion has had to accommodate the changing shape of many people the world over as obesity has become a serious health issue. Despite this phenomenon, more and more flesh is exposed than in the past and, with the exception of certain religious groups, there is often a noticeable lack of modesty. The rather unusual dance style known as Twerking (as made famous by a certain American female singer)  raised its rather ugly head, or should I say backside, in recent years in the name of dancing, and tattooed bodies are in evidence in abundance across the board, age and sex seemingly being irrelevant. It is very important amongst many people to have clothing which is branded e.g. Nike, Adidas, Jimmy Choo, Calvin Klein – the list goes on and on.  Even if people are not particularly wealthy, it’s often the image they wish to project which is the important factor and not affordability.

Skinny jeans are still all the rage as we move towards the new decade and, to be in fashion, there need to have more rips and holes in them than denim. If they have a designer label on them, then the price does not reflect the lack of material used to make them. It has also become common practice to wear denim to just about any event. No longer is it necessary in many cases to wear an evening dress to attend a theatre production, or to have a meal at an upmarket restaurant. Only if an invitation states that it is a black-tie event, does a man need to wear a dress suit and his partner a cocktail dress. If an event states smart casual then this covers just about any style of dress other than shorts, tee shirts and flip flops!

When we look at the way in which transport has changed in 100 years, we can quite comfortably assume that It would have been a select few who were able to afford to buy a motor vehicle as 1920 approached. Most people would have had to rely on trams or steam trains or even a horse and cart, although cycling was a very common form of road transport at the time.  Nowadays, in many countries, it is almost a rite of passage for teenagers to get their driver’s licences as soon as they are old enough. Even without their own personal vehicle, there is often a family car which they are able to use every now and again. Bicycle riding, especially in some countries where drivers are often reckless and negligent, can be extremely hazardous, so being able to drive a car is seen as critical in order to get where you want to without having to depend upon sometimes unreliable public transport. There are many countries where trains and buses run regularly and without undue delays, but in other countries that is definitely not the case!

I realise that there are dozens of contrasts which I could investigate regarding the hundred years between 1920 and 2020, but it could take me months to do justice to them all. Suffice to say, all we can do to cope with all the changes with which we are constantly faced is to take a deep breath and try to embrace them without having a panic attack. To use a well-known cliché, there are two certainties in life – change and death, so if it’s only change that we are coping with, we are still in a good place after all. So, bring on 2020 with all its potential challenges and opportunities, and let’s clink glasses with those near and dear and drink to a good New Year wearing our ripped denim jeans albeit with their designer logos!

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