Monday, January 27, 2014

How to Handle Winking

Winking in my generation has seemingly become something that lives solely in the world of digital communications. I send out tons of winking emoticons to clarify that I am expressing sarcasm, like:

And my friends (and coworkers) send me winking emails, texts, and instant messages back. But in real life, my age mates exclusively wink if they are flirting or making some sort of sexual advance. Even when flirting, live winks are still a dying art form. 

So you can understand that when I was at a new site, and my 64 year old client winked at me when he announced that I was on the teleconference line, I was totally thrown off of my game. Little did I know that that wink was only one of an avalanche of winks that would define my time there. 

The security guard winked at me when I had to take off my shoes for the metal detector, strangers winked at me after saying "Hello" as we passed each other in the hallway, co-workers winked at me when they teased me, and even bartenders after work winked at me when I sat down. One time two men I didn't know were walking in front of me poking fun at each other. After making a particularly sarcastic comment, one of them turned around to me and gave me a big wink. I didn't even know he knew I was there. I actually stopped walking for a split second because it knocked me so much off-kilter. 

I really didn't know what to do about it.
In fact, while I was in this town, I was winked at over five times a day. It was as if I'd stumbled across one of those Amazonian tribes who are so out of contact with the rest of the world that they have their own distinct culture where winking is still a thing. After having spent years in a wink-less world, this left me kind of stunned. Only men were winking at me, and the first few winks made me wonder if this behavior was some kind of very confusing and misplaced flirting from men older than my father. But I quickly realized that in this microcosm, men dole out winks for all sorts of non-flirting reasons- like just acknowledging that they see you.

The frequency of the winking still left me reaching for how I was expected to react. I mean, what am I supposed to do after a wink? Wink back? The last time I live winked at somebody was probably as a child, when my parents goaded me into an exaggerated wink for their entertainment. My winking muscles had atrophied from years of disuse, and any attempt at returning a wink looks more like a painful face spasm than anything else.

Or maybe I was just supposed to smile?  Or laugh? Or look very serious? Or maybe I was supposed to catch the wink like a kiss that's been blown to you and put it in my pocket? Whatever I was supposed to do I just ended up standing there mouth agape as I searched for the appropriate reaction, and I'm quite certain that was not it. 

I've settled now on the fact that I can just give a warm smile back to show that I have received a wink. But, I'm sure I'll forget that ten years from now, or whenever the next time it is that I stumble upon a high density winking area like that. 



PS. When was the last time somebody winked at you?


  1. Vanessa, sounds like you stumbled into a time warp of some sort. Either that or the local denizens singled out a stranger for some Candid Camera kind of fun.

    1. Should it be a prank, I can't say I'd totally blame them for wanting to confuse the new city girl. And, if it was filmed, I would really like to see the confused/terror struck faces I made the first couple of times.

  2. I hadn't really thought about it until you brought it up, but now that you mention it, I can't recall seeing a wink in decades. There could be one of two reasons for this: 1) I'm a guy and winking is done only by men toward women. Or 2) because I'm a hermit, I don't have much opportunity to witness winking.

    Back when winking was more common, it sometimes meant, "I was just joking about what I just said," but was probably more often part of flirting. Speaking as someone who is probably older than your father, I could totally believe that it was misplaced flirting from men older than your father.

    Again speaking as someone who is probably older than your father, I suspect that your warm wink-receiving smile led the winkers to believe, "hey, maybe my flirting wasn't misplaced after all."

    You've been warned. Unlike me, not all old farts are up on the flirting political correctness of our time. Or maybe it's not that I'm enlightened. Maybe being a hermit doesn't offer me sufficient opportunities to be a politically incorrect jerk.

    1. It is interesting that most winking is done towards women- none of the other guys who work with me had even noticed until I told them to watch for it.

      And also haha! Thanks for the warning, I'll be careful to make sure that my wink-receiving smile is only luke warm in the future.

  3. I get winked at regularly by a very nice woman waitress at the funky local diner I frequent, the last time being three days ago. I eat there once or twice a week, and usually go there with my husband, male friends, or my sons. I am now pretty sure she has a crush on me. The first inkling I had about this was when I dined there about a month ago with a male friend of mine. We were having a great time, chatting and laughing, and this same waitress gave us an unexpected 50 percent discount. On the receipt, she had drawn a great big heart with "1/2 off" inside it. I paid the balance of $12.50 and left her a $10 tip. Anyway, now, she winks at me where my husband can't see it. It really doesn't bother me, but I'm not interested in women. I suppose eventually she will figure that out.

  4. It's okay. I'm pretty sure I would make a o___o expression at any winks thrown my way, especially from those older than my father. :/

    1. Yep- that is pretty much the face I made the first few times. I think there is just a big cultural difference at this site, and where I normally work.

    2. Hey, I was wondering if this blog has an email account I could reach the owners at?

    3. Yes, you can reach us at pocketprotectorandheels at gmail dot com.


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