Sunday, 29 March 2015

The Answer is Clear - What Was the Question?

For a long time, it seemed obvious that I had no aptitude for maths.
It was a reasonable inference for a seven-year-old. No matter how strenuously I tried to grapple with the mysteries of addition, subtraction and long division, the squared pages of my exercise book would always come back to me decorated with enthusiastic red crosses. Evidently, these number problems were only deceptively simple; their solutions lay frustratingly beyond my grasp.
However, when the new school year brought with it a new teacher, a new explanation shimmied into focus.
“Young lady, I would have been able to give you full marks for your work… had the problems you answered on this page been the ones I’d written on the board.”
In that moment, the clouds parted and I saw the world in a new light. I could say goodbye to being a maths dummy forever. However, the price of doing so was a lifetime of wearing that '70s badge of shame: a pair of NHS glasses. Being seven or thereabouts, I didn’t think in terms of Faustian bargains—but how much more of a bargain can you get than “free”, am I right?
Shortly thereafter, I began attending school wearing a pair of hideous glasses. At the same time, my ability in maths improved dramatically. Thus, I played a small part in reinforcing the stereotype that glasses are not merely a marker of intelligence, but somehow, magically, have the power to confer it.
Years later, of course, those NHS glasses would become the last word in style. Remember, guys, I was rocking those hideous frames before they were cool and, occasionally, getting punched for it. Such is the lot of the fashion trailblazer; I may have been getting my maths problems right, but I was getting '70s preteen style tragically wrong.
Had I been metaphorically less short-sighted, I might have taken comfort in the fact that, any time-travelling hipsters from the twenty-first century who had arrived at my junior school would have judged me the most fashion-forward kid in the class. Just another instance of coming up with the right answer to the wrong problem…
Alison Raouf


Adele said...

I fell off my bike at eight and broke three front teeth. I had a gold front crown until I was 15 and the tooth was fully grown. Magically the crown enhanced my dancing ability and took me to the Royal Albert Hall. Amazing what a little extra can do Alison. I hope that you are now an astrophysicist as well as a great storyteller.

Christo said...

Congrats on a story well-told and welcome to our group, Alison.
Having worn glasses from the age of two, I empathise. Few people born over the past forty or so years recognise how restricting little choice in how spectacles looked was the order of the day from when the NHS came into being in 1948 until relatively recently when so much has been de-regulated.
I've worn specs for so long that contact lenses have no appeal whatsoever - my specs are part of my identity, and few people would recognise me without them.