What do you get a teenage girl who has everything? My friend Mina had her 18th birthday last week, acquiring all sorts of legal rights and the freedom to be let loose on the roads, a development I view with some trepidation. At 18, your wish list is often beyond the scope of your friends, who would rather buy MacBooks, spa packages and luxury yachts for themselves if they weren't a tad short of a million dirhams in pocket money. When we gathered at Emirates Towers for a treat at The Noodle House, Zara produced a novel present - a pair of blue-eye contact lenses. Mina can see perfectly well with her pretty almond brown eyes, but all teenagers love experimenting with their looks.
As a gaggle of giggling girls would, we made a beeline to the nearest bathroom - the food could wait. Being absurdly myopic, I use contacts occasionally, while Zara wears honey-coloured ones every day. "You're in safe hands," we declared confidently to Mina, who was excitedly opening the packaging and examining a contact lens. "No!" Zara shrieked. "Put that down, wash your hands first." Mina jumped and dropped it in the basin, then hastily scooped it up. Hands scrubbed, she watched worriedly as Zara showed her how to put it in. "Now pick it up and put it in your eye."
Looking alarmed, Mina poked a finger in the solution and drew it up, the tiny, thin circle of film clinging to it. "That's it, turn it the right way up." It promptly fell off into the depths of the sink; she extracted it and brought it level to her face, shut her eyes firmly and jammed it against her eyelid. "Ouch!" It fell off.
"Well, don't jab your eye."
"Well, how do I get them on?"
"You're not going to get them on with your eyes closed, silly."
"Where is it, anyway?" Veronika interjected. This created a diversion as we dropped to our knees to look for the lens, and finally spotted it on the floor, next to the dustbin. "You're probably going to get keratitis now," I told her sadly as we washed it with solution. "People do when their contacts get infected, but don't worry, you can get a transplant if you lose your sight."
No one was listening, and this time we made Mina sit down. While I held her eyelids stretched open, Zara gritted her teeth and stuck the lens on Mina's cornea. I have never heard anyone squeal so pitifully; her bloodshot eyes watered so hard they washed the contact right out.
Six more tries and a streaming nose later, Mina fluttered her lashes to reveal gorgeous cornflower irises. People are always grumbling about the agony young people go through to achieve ever-higher beauty standards, but then they need to see the pleased grin on a teenager who's been the party's blue-eyed girl for the evening. Our procedure was hardly sterile, but at least none of us harbours dreams of becoming an optician.
Lavanya Malhotra is a 17-year-old student in Dubai