I recall a sunny day in 1979, so bright and luminous it literally hurt my eyes. We’d ventured out as a family to a local farm for what looked like an impromptu summer fair. Several fathers were lobbing wellies as far as their soft stomachs would allow them, flexing their arms warily afterwards as they stepped to the back of the line.
I was left to my own devices as I ambled through the field, avoiding the numerous cowpats. I was looking down, not out of necessity or from any childish shyness, but simply because I could not look up. The light was so startling and violent my eyes were watering with the effort of keeping them open. My hand offered a feeble shade and so, blinking through my tears I stumbled towards an old faded parasol in the hope of refuge. As I sat down on one of the white plastic chairs my discomfort was cruelly intensified. Was there no escape from this white searing light reflecting all around me, burning the insides of my eyes?
My mother was impatient with me, and attempted to pull my hands away from my face, but the pain was too much to bear. Exasperated she left me with my hands clamped over my wet eyes, breathing in the cool darkness.
That was the day we should have all realised quite how light sensitive I am; or…I was.
Sunglasses have always played an imperative role in my life, an accessory that was more of a fixture, than an ornament. I never bothered with the one expensive pair of large A-list glasses, but instead focused on quantity. Sunglasses could be found in my car, stuffed into the creases of most bags (even in winter), and at least four pairs co-habited with all the hats and scarves by our front door. I wore sunglasses even on grey days.
The inevitable side effect of this was of course the tell-tale white line that caressed the bridge of my nose every summer. Even the canniest make-up couldn’t fully obliterate my glaring incandescent white tan line…
Now I don’t need sunglasses at all; not even on the sunniest, brightest, most vibrant of days. I can’t afford to lose even a slither of light; so squinting is not something I do anymore.
Of course the upside to this is that I no longer suffer that irascible white line that slowly develops between my eyes from June onwards.
I no longer look like my kids have had a go with white crayons after forgetting to top up my sunblock.
The irony of course is that I now don’t have enough colour vision to appreciate my new flawless grown-up complexion.
The comedic white tan line may be no more; but it has come at a price.