I am a winker.
I feel my way is threatened, and I wish to speak out.
With Sarah Palin winking to the television camera during Vice-Presidential debates, she seems to suggest that the gesture builds her credibility with millions of living-room viewers. Her promiscuous winking makes me feel cheap, used.
Certainly, the wink, like any other intimate gesture, can be misused and abused; most precious things can. I do not mean to excuse predatory, manipulative winks, meant to insinuate a relationship that doesn’t really exist.
I resent that, when I speak of winking these days, people tell me it makes them think first of Sarah. Or Tina Fey as Sarah. Of shallow, deceptive attempts to shape democracy around leaders who are just like the kind of folks next door with whom you might enjoy sharing such connection. This wink, though, has become a veneer, lacking substance. It attempts to gain broad power through deceit.
I believe a wink is best shared in mutual relationship, between consenting parties. The wink is intimate, embodied communication.
Simple and loaded with layered meanings, I cherish its multivalent possibilities. Across a busy room, the wink flies under the radar of the dominant discourse, carrying a silent greeting, a daring acknowledgement, or recognition of the absurdity of a situation. With grace, subtlety and speed, it builds connections between winker and recipient, and invites creative response: another wink, a smile, rolled eyes.
Free of the baggage of words, and easily layered on top of other, more public conversation, the wink connects two people in an instant, with more than words can say and without missing a beat.
Lately I have noticed my own hesitation to use this beloved gesture. Instead, I’ve found myself turning to bold smiles—which convey a similar meaning but lack the covert grace of a wink.
So, I hereby commit myself to reclaiming its usefulness. If you happen to catch one across the room, I hope you’ll wink back.