From trying to smoothly sail past ratio and proportion in Maths class to struggling to get the various ‘R’s in Hindi right, life was kicking my ass in the sixth grade. Like the white liquid droppings of a pigeon headed straight for my head. I was by no means a nerd. And at that point, I was desperate to be one. That I might not be interested in Maths didn’t matter to my parents. Or to anyone else. I needed to carry those magical numbers like stars in my pockets because like most other things and most other people, I had to prove myself. To my disadvantage, I didn’t even look like the studious kinds, for heaven’s sake! “Bad student” was written all over my face. I had to change that face. I needed to change that face.
That summer, I asked my father for a pair of fake glasses for my birthday. The ones you get for 100 bucks on Ezra Street. Very basic, no-frills, enough to serve my purpose. He laughed dismissively and asked me why I wanted them. I remember standing with my feet together and shyly telling him that I wanted to look older. Great. I was even lying to my father at the age of 11 and who knew I could pull off 30 seconds of impromptu drama!
A week later, a few days before my birthday, my father handed me an unimpressive brown case, unwrapped. Inside it was an inexpensive black thin-rimmed plastic pair of glasses with transparent gummy cushions for the bridge that sat perfectly on my rather long nose. I loved it! They were zero power, non-prescription glasses, so nothing about the world drastically changed from where I was seeing things. Sure, they were uncomfortable, but it was only a matter of time before I got used to them, I told myself. I wore them and walked around the house all day so I could be an effortless natural the next morning at school. I half-prayed that I wouldn’t need fake ones after all — my paranoid mother kept saying wearing those would eventually weaken my eyesight. I placed myself in front of the mirror. I thought I looked studious, maybe older, even. Heck, I even thought I looked good, or cool? Or actually, the word I’m looking for is “different”. God knows, the lines seemed to blur. I felt like a “new and improved” (whatever that oxymoron means) toothpaste, with extra shine and superpowers. My parents didn’t judge me. They didn’t say anything, they didn’t even size me up disapprovingly. I think they didn’t want to ruin this life-changing moment for me, however unreal it was.
The next morning, I braided my short hair, put on my transformers like they belonged to my face and went to school with a mission. I have no idea what I was thinking then, but if I can get into the head of my eleven-year-old self, I would’ve been nervous, excited, anxious, uncomfortable and very complacent, all at the same time. I wonder if things had turned out differently if I had put in half that effort in Maths. Of course things would’ve turned out differently, who am I kidding! But then I hated Maths.
I walked into class and it was inevitably the first thing my classmates noticed. Two things that never missed anybody’s sight: a new haircut, and a new pair of eyes. Well, I was lucky.
They asked me if my eyesight really had got bad. I lied. It was almost as if they knew. Why would anyone ask such a silly question? Why would anyone be wearing glasses if they didn’t need to? I lied, but I was certain it showed. I was not a nerd, only nerds in my class wore glasses. Too much TV? Maybe. They didn’t ask. I didn’t say. But it’s possible they assumed I was killing myself studying. And that possibility of their assumption was enough to keep me going.
I continued my theatrics. Religiously faked having poor eyesight so my teachers and classmates would at least think I’m working hard, even if I wasn’t. That was too much planning especially for a sixth grader. It was becoming difficult to keep up with my own bullshit. From sometimes forgetting to wear them in class to clumsily and guiltily walking in the corridors, what I wanted most and so badly was beginning to annoy me. I hoped nobody would notice if I suddenly ditched them. I might’ve got bored because I inconstantly stopped wearing them after about three weeks. They became a non-object within a shanty drawer inside my cluttered cupboard. Nobody ridiculed me and asked me if tears fell out of my eyes and my vision was magically fixed. I think they forgot. Or they knew? They definitely knew. It didn’t matter.
My grades didn’t change. Did anything at all change? I guess not. Was the angsty adolescent in me satisfied? Who knows. Did my classmates think I was weird? Hell, yes! Did I have any friends? Hell, no! Why did I even do this? I seriously have no clue.
Years later, my vision weakened and I needed glasses. I didn’t want them, but I had them. I’ve been wearing glasses for the past nine years now. I used contact lenses for a while in the middle but they caused too much pain and tears. Bright red, classic black, Crayola colours, and now a pop orange, I’m told glasses have become a part of my face or personality or whatever it is. I hate them. I can’t lie down and watch TV. I don’t know how to find them without wearing them, and more often than not I look like a sixteen-year-old gone all wrong. Even my understanding of the coolness, popularity and stereotyping of the word “nerd” has wholly changed since the sixth grade. The nerdy girls in my class were nothing like the Seth Cohen from The O.C. But then again, just because Seth Cohen wore Chuck Taylors, striped socks, read comic books and jizzed every time he heard Star Wars didn’t make him a nerd either. Nerdism, popular culture and common sense — all have a funny way of screwing with my head. Anyway, all I’m saying is that I still hate Maths with as much might, while I mull over the possibility of a Lasik, something I’m certain will leave me blind.