On cool specs as rite of passage

I have been finding old classmates on facebook lately (partly in my research work – I love how being a writer means you get to justify all manner of things as research! But I’m not pretending OK, research is very important), and I noticed that one of the Important Transitions out of the dire purgatory that is adolescence is the acquisition of cool specs.


With about 80% of the population myopic (might be different now – but this was the stat when I was in school) Singaporean kids have a corner on the spectacle market. Singapore is unrivaled in spectacular spectacle options, and yet, as 13-to-18-year-olds, we opt for the dowdiest, most awkward little frames possible. Whether round or square or what have you, they pretty much proclaim to the world that you are a Nerd. This shouldn’t actually matter in a world where nerdom is the norm, but somehow it does. Perhaps the globalization of coolness, or something pseudoacademic like that.

^Sometimes, adolescence makes you feel out of place. Alien, some would say.

Anyway, around about JC/first years of uni, suddenly everyone acquires cool specs. These are the funky harbingers of adulthood – frameless ones, and, even more audacious, colourful, or bold, or hipster specs. This was a Singaporean phenomenon before the current global hipster glasses thing, btw. Invariably, when JC seniors arrived by the bundle on teachers day, they wore cool specs. And we, the beige-uniformed masses, would stare admiringly at the sophisticated, self-assured way these specs were worn, along with (an assortment of) funky hairstyles, highlights, man-jewelry, and maybe even ang moh boyfriends with cameras in tow.

We knew that we, too, could one day be cool. That it is a matter of time before the acne clears up, the braces come off, and the experiment with contact lenses somewhat irritates our bleary paper crisis undergraduate eyes, and a pair of specs is necessary, even desirable. At this point we have several options. The loud and opaque ones? The architecture-student ones? The flashy Hong Kong movie star gold rimmed ones? Sarah Palin hot-mum specs? The possibilities are endless.

^Very, very Uncool.

Suddenly the awkward adjustment up the bridge of the nose is a sign of urbanity and self-assurance, rather than the embarrassed apologetic gesture of the besieged mugger. Actually, it isn’t. But we’d like to think so.

^ These specs were too cool for me. I simply could not keep up with their hipness. To this day they remain largely unworn. Sadly.

^These were more my speed, but sadly, they were of poor construction. I broke a couple of sets of lenses on these, before I gave up in despair.


My soul doth magnify the Lord.
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid;
for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
Because he that is mighty,
hath done great things to me;
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is from generation unto generations,
to them that fear him.
He hath shewed might in his arm:
he hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat,
and hath exalted the humble.
He hath filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath received Israel his servant,
being mindful of his mercy:
As he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his seed for ever.