The anatomy of getting a black eye

Why applying a steak might help

Mattster: Why would anybody waste an expensive steak by putting it on a black eye? Does that really work? If so, how? If not, where did that old idea come from? — Jack, Escondido

You’re right. Packing a sirloin in the family first-aid kit is a pretty lame idea. Whose lame idea I don’t know, but it might have come from the notion of slaughtered flesh drawing blood from the wounded eye. Lots of old-time remedies involve sticking odd pastes and plasters on your body to suck out whatever ails you. The only way a steak could help a black eye is if you first stored the meat in your freezer. It’s the cold, not the meat that’s the cure.

Here’s the anatomy of a black eye. When you get socked or, ahem, bump into that proverbial door, small vessels just under the skin break and leak into the surrounding tissue. Blood and other fluids rush to the area to see what all the commotion is about. So first your eye turns red. As oxygen leaves the hemoglobin in the red cells, the blood turns bluish, and you’ve got your “black” eye. Eventually the hemoglobin breaks down into its component colors, green and yellow, giving your bruise that charming Halloween-y look.'The bruise disappears when all the blood cells are reabsorbed. Once the black eye appears, there’s nothing you can do about it. But if you immediately apply anything cold (including steak, I suppose), you can constrict the blood vessels and limit swelling and bleeding. But at that point you’re probably too busy applying your fist to the jaw of the bum who hit you to worry about cosmetic measures. My advice? Eat the steak while you plot your revenge.


Okay, I’ll give you an extra week on this “Matt for a Day” thing, since I wasn’t here last week to remind you. (Ma Alice will write a note excusing my absence if you’ll send a self-addressed stamped envelope.) To recap, in response to barely perceptible demands, you each get a chance to supply 150 or 200 entertaining words to answer one of the following real questions from real Alicelanders. Accuracy is nice; well-shoveled B.S. is too. Deadline: third week in June. Question #1: Okay, smartypants. I got one you’ll never figure out. There’s a champagne glass in downtown San Diego that is as tall as a building, but it’s not as visible as it used to be. Where is it, exactly?—Patrick Lockwood, San Diego. Question #2: I’m continually amazed at the phenomenal percentage of left-handed people there are in San Diego. It’s like the Twilight Zone/ Can you tell me the actual percentage of left-handed people here and how we compare to other cities? — Feeling Left Out, San Diego.

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