For our new series we’ve invited people to share stories of their childhood artefacts. Hayley tells us about a memorable fashion accessory she wore.
I have a lazy eye. Normally, when I tell people this, they stare intently at my face. Waiting for it, I guess. But it’s not the type that makes me go cross-eyed.
My lazy eye was discovered when I was six. My mother was concerned about how bloodshot my eyes got after reading. She took me to an optometrist and I was diagnosed: lazy eye. The solution: cover my functioning, perfectly fine eye with a patch.
Now, instead of giving me a typical eye patch fashioned out of fabric and elastic like the kind mostly associated with pirates, it was decided that I should wear a flesh-coloured adhesive Band-Aid patch over my right eye, so that it would take people an average of thirty seconds to figure out just what exactly was off with my face.
And I made matters worse. I participated in school swimming lessons wearing the adhesive patch, emerging from the pool with it stuck slick against my eye socket so it looked like I’d had the entire eyeball removed. I poked a hole in the middle so only the dark pupil showed, and I told the kids in my class that I could see into their souls with it.
I guess I was bullied. I’m very good at repressing painful memories though, so I can’t quite be certain.
I wore that adhesive, eye-socket slicking, bully-magnet patch from ages six to ten underneath tortoiseshell-rimmed glasses that had one lens magnified so strong you could probably burn ants with it. I applied a new patch to my right eye every morning, and I ripped it off every evening, pulling out a few eyebrow hairs each time.
And then, when I turned ten, I was given a choice: keep wearing the patch to maintain my improved strength of eyesight, or forgo the patch, but keep my lazy eye. My mother instructed me to think carefully. What if you walk into a tree branch and it blinds your good eye? What if you’re about to be attacked from behind, and they’re coming from your left side? What if you can’t watch 3D movies? Well, 3D movies do give me splitting headaches. But I opted for the patch-free life.
I went home after that final optometrist appointment and I grabbed the box of patches from the bathroom and I saw that there were about eight left in the box. I peeled off the adhesive backings from each one and I plastered them all over my body, everywhere but my eyes. I studied myself in the mirror and marvelled at the patchy freak I was right now, and that I would be this freak no longer.
And then I went and sat in a bath for about an hour, soaking the patches, because although I had de-sensitised the skin around my right eye from four years of ripping off these patches, the rest of the skin on my body was pretty tender.
Words from Hayley Stockall. Hayley is an online editor for Stilts.
Illustration from Tilly Hutchison. See more of her work at tillydrawspictures.tumblr.com.