ON MY OFFICE wall I have an autographed picture of Catherine Deneuve in which she is staring straight ahead -- at me, I'm sure -- with the most beautiful eyes.
There, I said it: Her eyes are beautiful. And do you think she'd mind my saying so to her face (if only I could get so close)? If you answer yes, then explain why she and millions of American women wear eye makeup.
American women spent more than $1 billion on eye cosmetics in 1983, according to the most recent industry data the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could find. This doesn't include money spent on tinted contact lenses and designer glasses.
Surely women are not spending this kind of money to impress only themselves. Undoubtedly many hope their efforts will be noticed by men and acknowledged with a compliment, even if it is no more original than a Barry Manilow song. The Roxannes of the world are far outnumbered by the Barbaras and Jills and Imeldas who would gladly trade some quality for quantity in praise.
If you doubt this, try an experiment. The next time you see a woman you know who has beautiful eyes, say to her: "You have great-looking eyes!" I guarantee she won't slug you. (The guarantee doesn't apply to strangers or women you might meet late at night on Calvert Street in downtown Baltimore. But that's a subject for another day.)
I'm not saying that eyes are the only measure of a woman's beauty. As Grandpa might have said, "There's nothing like a well-turned ankle." Or name your favorite part. Better yet, get beyond parts and consider their sum, taking full account of intellect and personality.
But eyes are important. If not windows to the soul, they are what men look at (most of the time) when they're with women. Trust me on this. To suggest that men should ignore the obvious in favor of the obscure -- "Gloria, I just love the hair on your knuckles" -- is part of an insidious trend.
Men already are plenty confused about women and what they want. Add in a new category of what women don't want, force men to weigh the originality of each compliment before it leaves their lips, and the result will be a legion of new priests.
Shakespeare again shall instruct us. From Love's Labour's Lost:
"For where is any author in the world/Teaches such beauty as a woman's eye?"
Are you listening, Melinda?