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Friday, March 25, 2011

My, What Big Eyes You Have

After a week of dating The Man, I moved home to Massachusetts. (Well, technically I spent a month in Europe post-college graduation and then I moved back home.) He stayed in Baltimore, so we mainly spoke on the phone for four months.

One night, friends of our family came to dinner and asked about The Boy. I told them how I had a major crush on him for the entire year we worked together but he barely noticed me. I explained how, motivated by annoyance and my impending graduation, I told him I liked him—only to get shot down. And I told them how he came back begging (naturally) and wanted to date (of course).

And then my mother’s best friend asked me something.

“What color eyes does he have?” Um…

Mind you, I’d spent a year (covertly) staring at him and working side-by-side with him and attempting to make witty jokes so he’d pay attention to me and not the TV when the restaurant was dead. I’d spent every day for a week with him. I knew he had great eyebrows (yeah, I was jealous) and a slight Baltimorean twang. But his eyes?

“Brown,” I said as if I knew. Only I didn’t. I had no idea what color his eyes were. But his hair was brown and, hey, most brunettes also have brown eyes. Besides, brown eyes were more common than blue.

Of course, the first time he came to visit, the first thing I looked at were his eyes. His blue eyes. Bright blue eyes.

My point here is that if I didn’t notice the eye color of the person I spent most of my days thinking about, how could I ever remember the eye color of my teacher, my boss, the bank teller. Unless you look like these guys...

...I probably have no idea what your eyes look like.

And yet every main character that’s ever lived makes a mental note of everyone’s eyes. Even if the person isn’t important to the main character. Even if the person’s standing across the room.

(Dudes, there’s no way I could tell someone’s eye color the minute they walk in the door. Or in the middle of a fight. Or when I’m paying attention to anything else around me.)

I’d also like to point out how incredibly close to someone you need to be in order to notice the nuances of the eyes. If you are noticing the flecks of jade in the new kid’s eyes, you’re probably thisclose to making out. Not four desks over.

(Also, why do characters notice flecks or deep tones in the eyes and not a weird vein or popped blood vessel?)

I’m not saying you don’t have to mention eye color in your book, but consider the situation. Ask yourself whether you would notice that person’s eyes or at that time or from that distance.

Quick (without looking, you cheater, you) what color eyes does Katie Holmes have?

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