NOT LONG AGO I overheard a woman in a bar say that the first thing she notices about a man is his eyes.
This astounding statement caused me to look up from my beer, where I had been wallowing in the kind of gloomy funk so perfect for a barroom -- not that I'm looking for sympathy, you have your own problems.
Soon I was listening in on an amazing conversation between two women in their late 20s, neither of whom appeared to be on medication (although you be the judge):
"Todd, he's got great eyes. You know Todd?"
"They're sort of green. Except when the light catches them just so. Then they're, like, gray."
"What, like greenish-gray? My mother had . . . "
"Like Randy's eyes. You know Randy? In the next apartment?"
"Randy's got eyes like that. Except a little darker."
"You know who has nice eyes? My uncle Vito. That man has the nicest eyes . . .
This went on and on for quite some time, the two exchanging their views on iris coloration vis-a-vis many of the men in their lives. It was the most earnest discourse on eyes that I had ever eavesdropped on in my life, and I have been eavesdropping for so long now that my neck has the ability to crane three or four feet (and this has been certified by a physician) in any direction.
(Let me say this about eavesdropping. People say, oh, it's not polite to eavesdrop. You know what I say? I say, look, if people don't want me overhearing their conversations, they shouldn't talk so damn loud. It's that simple. This woman in the bar -- who was not exactly sipping Diet Cokes as the designated driver, if you catch my drift -- was talking loud enough to be heard in Vermont.
(So I don't think I'm gonna burn in hell. At least not for that.)
It struck me, after all this eavesdropping, that I have never in my life heard a man say to another man (even after a few drinks): "Boy, Lisa . . . she's got great eyes."
It's not that men don't notice eyes, either. It's just that a man would never say to another man that the first thing he notices about a woman is her eyes.
Because if he did say this, the other man would fall down laughing so hard that he'd probably spit up on himself, which tends to put a damper on any conversation.
(Although . . . you talk about eyes. I used to know a guy who had this thing about women's hands. He would meet a woman and five minutes later, he'd be poking the rest of us in the ribs and whispering: "Did you see her hands?! Boy, she had great hands!"
(Meanwhile we'd be thinking: Great hands? What is she, a shortstop? On the bomb squad? Who gushes about a woman's hands the first time he meets her?)
Look, if we can stop tap-dancing around this whole subject, the first thing a man notices about a woman is her face, and then how she is, um, put together physically.
Now a woman . . . well, I can't speak for women.
As a man, I wouldn't presume to speak for women. (Nor do I presume to speak for all men, let's get that straight. Just 90 percent of them. The ones who have their heads on straight.)
But a woman friend of mine said that women, for the most part, focus first on a man's features and then on a man's build. In other words, women leer in much the same manner that men do.
This woman friend added that this business about noticing the eyes first is a lot of hooey. She further speculated that the twentysomething dame in the bar was engaged in either drunken palaver or turgid, politically correct small talk for the benefit of her friend.
Which isn't to say that I don't find eyes sexy, or that I can't understand why other people would find them so.
In fact, I once sat behind a husband and wife at an Orioles game and overheard -- I'm telling you, that's all I do, eavesdrop -- the following conversation with the Orioles trailing the Yankees 3-2 in the bottom of the eighth and Cal Ripken at the plate:
Her: "He has the greatest blue eyes."
Him: "The man's batting .305 . . ."
Her: "Almost azure, really."
Him: " . . . with 12 homers, so it's not like we're out of this."
You talk about coming at a problem from two different directions.