979390AD-6995-48F9-961F-50F50FBB44C0“”Eyelashes evolved to keep debris out of our delicate eyes, and long ones do suggest femininity and youth.”

But what exactly is it about mini-hair halos around our eyeballs that evoke femininity and youth?

Not surprisingly, evolutionary biology has a theory about it that — again, not surprisingly — has a lot to do with babies. See, when we’re born, our big ol’ baby eyes are relatively huge in proportion to the rest of our face, and as we age, our faces grow larger but our eyes remain relatively the same size, which explains the youthful association of long lashes. And from there, youth denotes fertility, which circles us back around to babies. Also on the fertility front, David Givens, director of the Center for Nonverbal Studies, thinks the contrasting effect of dark mascara that brightens the whites of our eyes also signals good reproductive health.

On top of nature, there’s plenty of nurture at work, too. Interwoven within these furry fertility signifiers are our cultural constructs of feminine sexuality, complete with batting eyelashes that suggest a coy submissiveness and currying male favor sexual or otherwise. Think about it: have you ever heard of a guy described as batting his lashes or straight women batting their lashes toward other women? Aside from Mr. Snuffleupagus, probably not.

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