What Does Your Eye Color Mean?
Confessions

What Does Your Eye Color Mean?

By Robert Braders

When I was first given this assignment, I was sure it'd be a cinch. "'What does your eye color mean?' Psh – no problem," I said. Gather some hokey historical facts ("People used to think green-eyed people were possessed by snakes"1), throw in some questionable mystical / psychic / astrological beliefs ("Blue eyed Virgos totter on the brink of full-tilt madness"2), and we've got this thing in the bag! Oh, to be that young and naïve again.

1 This probably isn't true.
2 This probably isn't true for anyone besides me.

I knew there was going to be a lot of suspect information out there – I was pretty much relying on it – but honestly I wasn't prepared for just how suspect some of it might be.

My first search online led mostly to angelfire pages and myspace quizzes – neither of which, I feel, are ever likely to be looked on as pillars of truth by future generations. From them, for instance, I learned that blue-eyed people are "spiritual and intense computer loverz." Um, that's... pretty good, I guess, but it can hardly compete with brown-eyed folks out there; one quiz indicates that you're "straight up WARRIORS." Then again, another quiz says the same thing about green-eyed people. I guess we're going to have an insurrection on our hands.

From there, my search for meaning led to the even less reassuring world of pseudoscience.

It began with a study that apparently revealed that blue-eyed people are generally more intelligent than brown-eyed people. Don't you fret, though, brown-eyers! Allegedly you're better at running! The article didn't mention anything about green eyes, so feel free to think you're awesome or terrible at everything, depending on your self-esteem level.

The researchers who conducted the study admit that their results are based on observation, not science, which doesn't exactly fill me with confidence. I just flipped a quarter three times, and it came up heads for each. Based on observation, quarters always come up heads. Done.

Have you heard of phrenology? Back in the 19th century, some people believed that you could learn about an individual's personality by studying the bumps on their head. Sounds silly, right? Well, although phrenology was discredited as nonsense a long time ago, it has a spiritual descendent in iridology, the study of the patterns in the irises (the colored part of your eyes).

According to iridologists, your irises exist almost like a map to your body, with each different patch of color responding to a different organ or body part. By studying the changes in these patterns, iridologists can allegedly assess a person's health and personality. However, every scientific study of iridology has shown that diagnoses made with it are little better than random guessing... which may have something to do with the fact that your irises actually don't change in a lifetime. Yeah, whoops.

Unfortunately, when it comes right down to it, the main thing your eye color means is... what color your eyes are. And that all comes down to plain old biology and genetics.

When we're born, virtually all of our eyes started as blue (hence the phrase "baby blues"). This is because the white light entering our eyes gets scattered and absorbed by cells in the eye, reflecting only blue light back through the irises. It's the same reason the sky is blue, actually.

As we get a little older, however, a pigment in our irises called melanin begins to develop. With low levels of melanin, most of the blue light can still reflect back, and a person retains their blue eyes. At higher levels, melanin obscures this blue light, leading to brown, or even black, eyes. Green and hazel eyes are kind of the middle ground between these two extremes. Also, depending on how these patches of melanin form, you can actually have multi-colored eyes: green with brown in the middle, hazel around a ring of gold, that sort of thing.

The amount of melanin you actually wind up with – and thus, the color your eyes will be - is based on the combination of your parents' eye color genes. So, really, if your eye color means anything, it mostly serves as a reminder of where you come from – that you're your parents' offspring, or that you're one rung in a genetic ladder spanning generations. If that's something you'd like to be reminded of, great! If not, might I suggest colored contacts?

In the end, eye color can't mean the same thing to everyone. No two eyes are the same, and neither are the ways we as individuals consider them. Your feelings about each eye color – and what you feel they say about the people who have them – are based on your own personal experience. If your first boyfriend had brown eyes, maybe you still associate them with that time – sweet, innocent, carefree. If you have blue eyes yourself, maybe that's your favorite eye color in others. In the end, though, no one can really tell you what your eye color means but you.

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OPTI® eSTORIES is a place for eyes, of course - a forum for sharing tips and stories, for offering new vision and perspective, for discussing lifestyle and image, all through the window of our eyes. More than that, though, OPTI® is about celebrating the beauty within all of us, and the way our eyes can be just as unique as we are. Fun and feisty, elegant and soulful. It's all here. It's all OPTI®.

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