Eye tests and the death of unearned ocular smugness… | Jack Marshall’s column

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Having good eyes is one of those things which people tend to be smugly proud of. Even though there’s very little you can do to materially affect how sharp your eyesight is, the owner of a pair of 20/20 peepers will invariably trumpet their ocular keenness at any given opportunity, as if their visual crispness is painstakingly achieved rather than inherited.

I know this because I used to be an eye-boaster myself. Each eye test as a child resulted in the same self-congratulatory outcome: a pat on the back from the clearly-impressed optician, a lollypop gifted as a reward for eating my carrots, and a dose of pure self-satisfaction injected straight into my silly little ego for an achievement I had precisely zero influence over.

Early on, I adopted an unwarranted underdog attitude regarding all things eyesight simply because the vast majority of my family were glasses-users to varying extents. My mother’s lenses have steadily gotten thicker and more distorting with each decade, while my father has to hold things further and further away from his nose in order to successfully read them.

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While I casually aced every eye-test like an adult completing those mazes on kids’ activity sheets you get at family restaurants, my brother got glasses in his mid-teens, only reaffirming my unearned sense of optic superiority. And it’s against this pompous backdrop that I was championing my ogglers to my (glasses-wearing) girlfriend ahead of my latest test.

The famed eye-testThe famed eye-test
The famed eye-test

I all but strode into the test, confident I could essentially do it with my eyes closed. The lights went out and the letters appeared. But something was wrong. They were hazy and fuzzy, as if coated in peach fur. The Ns looked like Hs and the Ds morphed into Ps. I saw a fair few Xs masquerading as Ks and a J that was at least distantly related to a T. It was awful.

I came out of the test armed with a minor prescription for use whilst staring at screens at work and with more egg on my face than a food-fighter in a henhouse. I sidled up to my impossibly smug girlfriend, who rightly laughed at me and then helped me pick out some frames.

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