Dear Diary: The eyes have it

Updated: Nov 26, 2020

Is it just me or are masks and face coverings kind of sexy?

Bear with me on this. It might sound a bit barmy to even suggest that disguising most of someone’s mug is enticing, but they do say the eyes are the windows to the soul, right?

And when the eyes are especially soulful they’re not just your bog standard windows, they’re beautiful bays, conservatory glass, horizontal sashes, French doors, Juliet balconies and sunny skylights with Velux blinds for eyelids.

You can tell when someone is smiling or scowling or being surly even when you can’t see their mouth moving. You can also hazard a rough guess at their bone structure and maybe even tell if they’ve got honkers of above-average size. And the bigger and more Roman the better if you ask me because a characterful nose is a big turn-on in my book.

Full lips are also near the top of my tick list, although it’d take an extremely tight mask to highlight if someone’s were kissably plump or too feebly thin to bother with.

With eyes the darker they are the more allured I am, although I wouldn’t say ‘No ta’ to Chris Hemsworth or Pine’s baby blues, Chris Evans’ glorious greens or Chris Pratt’s whatever-they-are-so-long-as-they’re-attached-to-Chris-Pratt.

There’s a bit of bother with this mask malarky: If the person is a specs-wearer their lenses might be so fogged up you can’t tell if they’re Jake Gyllenhaal gorgeous or Wurzel Gummidge ghastly.

As a happily face-furnitured fella myself who has never gotten on with contact lenses and who was once told by a friend that specs suited me because they helped break up my face (which I don’t think was meant as a compliment) I seem to have solved the foggy glasses conundrum.

The Fairy Liquid technique of dunking your glasses in washing-up water (freshly poured, obviously, rather than the same water you’ve been soaking the pots in) and letting them air dry didn’t work for me. They were so smeared I could barely make out if the lights at the pedestrian crossing were green or red and I came dangerously close to crashing into the heavily stocked Diet Coke shelf at Sainsbury’s, not to mention a couple of old ladies and a Rottweiler.

Internet-bought or homemade face coverings are an accident waiting to happen for me at least, thanks to smudged specs and impaired vision. But the three-ply surgical-style ones you can buy online or in-store work a treat if you make sure to twist the loops once on either side for a tighter fit, mould the metal bit firmly around the bridge of the nose and sit your glasses on top of the mask rather than above it.

Problem solved.

Not that I like wearing a face covering. Many years ago I spent thousands upon thousands of pounds on new veneers to replace the Stonehenge-style horrors that used to reside in my gob thanks to a deep-rooted fear of the dentist. You’d have been terrified too if growing up your dentist had the Dickensian name of Maxwell Twist.

I’m told I was a pretty fearless toddler. Mum says she’d often find me perched on top of the fridge freezer or walking tightrope-style across the back of the sofa as if auditioning for Billy Smart’s Circus. But I somehow morphed into the biggest wuss on the block, flat-out refusing to even attempt a forward roll in school gym class because I feared I might break my neck and screaming in horror if Mr Twist came within a mouth mirror’s distance of my face.

The result: By age 20 I had to have four back teeth extracted under general anaesthetic, leaving extra room for my remaining molars to move around at will, eventually creating gaps so big I could have flossed with a banana.

Fast forward a couple of decades and, having encountered so many widescreen-smiled Hollywood A-listers during my journalistic career, I was always so embarrassed by my own dental deficiencies I opted for costly oral reconstruction, although I probably wouldn’t have had the nerve to go through with the three-hour procedure if my dentist hadn’t offered me Valium.

Halfway through, zonked out on this most mellowing of medicines, I was dying for a wee and the dentist warned me: ‘OK but don’t look in the mirror’. So obviously I did just that to find one of the Orcs from The Lord Of The Rings staring back at me. My teeth had been filed down to stumps but, sedated and calm, rather than scream I just laughed.

Ninety minutes later I had a set of gapless gnashers that were so perfect I could have modelled for Sensodyne and those were only the temps. A week later I had the actual veneers installed and my teeth were so pearly white I feared they’d blind drivers and cause a pile-up.

Holidaying in NYC later that year I was beyond buzzed when someone in a bar remarked: ‘You have such lovely teeth. Are you sure you’re British?’

Eva Longoria may well have been thinking the same thing when I interviewed her in Monte-Carlo not long afterwards, except halfway through our chat one of the veneers came loose and wobbled around in my mouth. Eva said nothing.

The dentist glued it back in place on my return to the UK and, touch wood (or indeed porcelain), there have been no further molar mishaps.

Where am I going with this? Oh yeah, when face coverings became compulsory in shops I was a tad distressed. During the first lockdown I made it my mission to greet grocery store staff with a cheery ‘Thanks for working’ and a beaming grin. Then it was cover-up time and I couldn’t help thinking: ‘Yes, masks are important to stop the spread of the virus but it means I’m robbing people of my expensive smile.’

I suffered a personal calamity when pubs were allowed to stay open but customers had to wear face coverings unless seated.

Have you ever tried drinking a pint of lager through a mask? I have and it’s not pretty.

My first time popping to a pub after the coverings rule came into effect, it was a lovely summer’s afternoon so I sat outside. But the track-and-trace app wouldn’t work so I had to head inside for a better WiFi signal, register my attendance, go back outside, sit down, berate myself for forgetting to download the pub’s own app for ordering, go back inside, download said app, head outside again, input my credit card details, order a pint and wait.

When the drink finally arrived I’d become so flustered I hadn't noticed I was still all masked up. Cue me aiming for my cloth-covered mouth and spilling beer down my face and neck, much to everyone’s amusement.

But I honestly do find face coverings sexy. It’s a bit like that Forrest Gump thing of ‘You never know what you’re gonna get’, though I must pause for a moment and wonder: Am I the only person who can’t stand Forrest Gump? I walked out of it in the cinema and fell asleep when I tried to give it another go on TV. Ditto with Les Miserables both on stage and screen, and don’t get me started on Avatar. I bolted out of the Odeon Leicester Square mid-viewing, angrily muttering: ‘Fifteen quid for that? You can shove it up your FernGully.

Also, Forrest’s box-of-chocolates analogy doesn’t hold up because you know exactly what you’re gonna get if you look at the illustration on the back of the Black Magic box. But it does ring true of masks.

Not that I’m getting any. I know some people are but social distancing isn’t a pain, it’s my mantra, so I’m baffled as to how you could get close enough to consummate a date yet still stick to the metre-plus guidelines. And if there is someone physically equipped to do just that then his dance card must surely be full for the foreseeable.

Maybe forming a bubble would be a workaround, but the only bubbles I’m interested in come in those 102 gram Aero pouches you can sometimes get for a mere quid in Tesco.

And even if lockdown had left me craving amorous contact I’m too much of a rule-follower to be swiping left on dating apps. The only swiping I do these days involves my weekly shop, the kitchen counter and a damp cloth.

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