Here's looking at you, ol' vampire eyes

One day your peepers are dishwater grey, the next you've got Elizabeth Taylor's violet orbs ... or maybe not. Karen Krizanovitch spends a day testing th e new disposable coloured contact lenses
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Indy Lifestyle Online
The eyes have it. Well, more precisely, strange and unusual eyes have it. By "it" I mean "sex appeal".

Eyes may be the double-glazing of the soul and all, but we don't fully realise how much eye colour means to us. Think about it. Where would our heroines be without their limpid pools? Elizabeth Taylor without her violet peepers? Lawrence of Arabia without Peter O'Toole's ice-blue orbs? David Bowie without his mismatched glazzies? Nowhere, that's where.

Well, that's exactly where I'm coming from. Despite my amazing body and perfect mind, I am cursed with a pair of myopic and astigmatic eyes. Even worse than their inability to see oncoming trees is their colour: a middling, dead grey. The nicest thing any man ever said about them was: "They are like Highland mist." What!? You mean like cold, vague and shifty? Thanks a bunch.

That's why I jumped - okay, it was a fall over an unseen chair - to try FreshLook Colours, Britain's first disposable coloured contact lenses. That's right, alongside eyeglasses, monocles, pince-nez, bifocals, trifocals, flip-ups, glare-free, hard contacts, soft contacts, toric lenses, gas permeables and - pant - disposable contact lenses, come disposable coloured contact lenses.

Having worn lenses for yonks, I am the perfect guinea pig. Not only have I experimented with every kind on the market, my natural eye-colour just isn't me. I've already bleached my teeth, so it's only natch to accessorise the eyeballs. (What I mean really, of course, is that I need help: I'm unmarried, for chrissakes.)

After a quicky fitting at Chinatown's Sightcare, where I was treated like the Queen of Sheba, I was given four different shades - Baby Blue, Hazel, Emerald Green and Violet - which were virtually guaranteed to disguise my pallid iris and allow me to see the numbers on buses before it's too late.

For those of you who aren't familiar with contact lenses, let me fill you in. The first coloured lenses I ever wore were just hard circles of green or blue transparent material. Visibly smaller than your real iris, these were basically coloured tiddlywinks. They tended to tint your entire world to their colour. I reckon those primitive prototype lenses are singly responsible for the weird colour combinations of the garish Seventies.

Today's coloured reusable soft lenses - corrective or purely decorative - are much better than those little eye-frisbees of old. These FreshLook ones are even better. They are dot-matrixed with a realistic iris-like pattern of colour. Wearing them was like having a tiny, tiny Roy Lichtenstein on my eyeball.

But would they give me, as the catalogue promised, "the stunning, mesmerising eyes you've always wanted"? I decided to wear violet - one of the weirder shades - and find out.

Unfortunately, the day was overcast. Bad news for eye-colour obsessives. I knew from years of trying to get men to look into my eyes that sunlight is what really brings a hot iris into view. No matter how I hung around light fixtures, no matter how much I stared at my male friends, no one noticed the colour of my eyes. I'm sure working in a darkened room had a lot to do with it.

Tired of posturing and looking wide-eyed, I grabbed my pal Martin, dragged us both under the light and said: "Okay, what do you think?" "Think of what?" he asked innocently. "My eyes," I sighed. "Oh yeah," he said approvingly, "that purple looks really, uh, Scandinavian. You know, fresh. But definitely Scandinavian."

Would that be like teak wood or pickled herring? Man, I can't figure it out. First my eyes are like those of Highland cattle and then they're like the little mermaid's in Denmark? Sheesh.

On the way home I shoved in weird colour No 2: hazel. As the optician told me (and what any sentient being could figure out on their own-some) is that each person's eyes will appear differently with the same colour. So what looks completely and utterly unnatural on me could look totally fabee-doodee on you.

Of course, the more unnatural they look, the more I'd want to wear them: my ideal in contact lenses would be either elongated cat's-eye pupils or a mirror finish. That would get me noticed, I bet. Noticed and probably committed.

I received a better reception at home. My cohort came up, kissed me and then, looking vaguely startled, said: "Hey, you look like Brad Pitt! Your eyes look almost exactly like Brad Pitt's in Interview with the Vampire! Wow. Weird."

I wanted to check the colour on the box. Were these hazel or witch-hazel? It was true. One glance in the mirror showed a toffee-coloured halo around my boring old grey irises, transforming them into Pitt's vampire eyes. Quite fetching to my mind, although my boy-king thought otherwise.

"You know, from about 18 inches they look real," he said, walking alternatively closer and farther away, studying my eyes as he moved. "But close up, you can see they're not real. They look sort of ..." "Fake?" I offered. "Yeah. Fake. Kind of cheap."

Humph. The next morning, I stuck on the emerald greenies for a lunch meeting. I tried another trick to bring out my eye-colour - sit facing the window - and it worked.

"Hmmm," said my lunch companion, "were your eyes always this colour?" I averted my eyes as he tried to look closer. "Why?" I asked demurely. "They seem so green today," he said. "But you know what they say." "What?" I fluttered my eyelashes. "If your eyes go green, it means you've been drinking."

I was crestfallen - this was as almost as bad as the time I wanted to buy a red hat, only to be told about an old Lancastrian adage: "Red hat, no knickers." Spoilt everything.

Well, there were only the baby blues left - plus the ethical problem of whether to tell someone the truth. Along with girdles, capped teeth, hair colour and plastic surgery, coloured contact lenses are the kind of thing you shouldn't really admit to.

That's when I bumped into my friend Nell. "Karen, guess what!" she enthused. "What?" "I've got a blind date on Saturday," she smiled broadly. "What do you know about this guy?" I asked. "Well," she said, "he has nice eyes."

I couldn't believe it. "Nell, everyone has nice eyes. Name one person who doesn't. Heck, even Charles Manson has nice eyes ..."

"You have nice eyes, too," Nell said. "I've never noticed them before. Heavens, they are certainly blue."

"Nell, I have a confession to make," I said sheepishly. "These aren't my real eyes: these are coloured lenses." Nell laughed: "Oh, I knew that, silly! I've got coloured ones, too, but I like your colour so much better. How much were they?"

Getting on the Tube that night, I felt my experiment had failed. Either folks noticed my eyes because I made them look, or they didn't really comment. Not at all, that is, until the wino came staggering into my carriage and stood next to me.

"Has anyone ever told you," he said, hiccuping gin into the air, "that you have beautiful eyes?"

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