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HomeCommentaryAlley Poet's Pen: Long Live the Wink!

Alley Poet’s Pen: Long Live the Wink!

Sandee Gertz - Author/WriterNashville, TN – They say a good wink can reach across a room…

But I had almost forgot it existed. I might have thought it had become old fashioned: a relic of a bygone era, or only done well in the movies, perhaps by the likes of George Clooney, who seems to be caught often by photographers with one eyelid clamped down tightly.

But then it happened to me. Three times. Well, probably more times than that, but many were just downcast lashes lost in memory; I’m talking three memorable times in my life. The first can’t count. (It was years ago and I was taken.) But in the past two years, I have twice had (dare I say a flirtation with?) the kind of wink that travels beyond the eye level and transforms somehow into a physical current—one of inexplicable (and downright distracting!) strength.

A Smiling Wink
A Smiling Wink

(You think I jest, or maybe the poet had a little too much bourbon in the alley?) Well, admittedly one was from a stage in a club, but the other was in a library, and the third most recent one was in a place I can’t give away in this column (insert wink here). But all were powerful enough to drive a modern gal to flashbacks of black and white Casablanca images.

It felt timelessly romantic. And in a very non-creepy way.

I’m not talking about a passing innocent nod and muscle reflexive blink of the eye from someone in a grocery store line, or a waiter when you unknowingly order his or her favorite dish, or even a long-time companion when you dress up to go out to a big event.

I’m talking about a wink that changes things. Ups the ante. Reverses the path that’s most likely…one that makes you reconsider everything you’ve felt up until then kind of wink. Full confession: all three instances in my experience were not with anyone I even remotely had a “crush” on.  Then bam.  Or blink!

Proverbs in the Bible says: “Whoever winks the eye, causes trouble.”

In fact, according to research, “the wink,” (not the vintage of the Seinfeld episode of the same name where George gets grapefruit pulp stuck in his eye and is thereafter woefully misinterpreted) is such a powerful eye-opener precisely because it originates with the pupils, considered to be the gateway to the soul. Some communications experts claim that its use – far more than any other physical gesture—can play an “astounding role” in how people become attached or how they read one another. (From the work of Betsi Grabe, a telecommunications professor at Indiana University.)

But is it always illicit? In Latin America, usually. (It’s a sexual invitation.) In some native tribes, it’s followed with an invitation to a bush. (I’m not inserting a wink here.) In Nigeria, however, parents use it as a sign to their children to leave the room to let the adults have a conversation. And in some Asian cultures, it’s considered rude.

But in my “oh so scientific” research locally (I polled Facebook friends and acquaintances), most of you said you used the wink in its other form–one of camaraderie–and only with people you are very familiar and comfortable with. You might use it in a game of cards, or to indicate an inside joke. You use it to indicate solidarity, a “we’re in this together” kind of communication.

But isn’t anyone still activating the wink as a flirtation device? And what is it about this mysterious gesture that had me so tied up and distracted? I couldn’t put my finger on it. It bothered me. The vision of the last well-delivered one came up in my mind’s eye with random, annoying frequency. Dang wink.

Some of you men admitted to using the age-old gesture on women you find attractive, but claimed it wasn’t your “go-to” action in those cases. And I can recall with fondness a larger-than-life girlfriend I had in my twenties who used it often and with great effect. But she was a one of a kind.

Absolutely none of the female friends and acquaintances I polled can recall a wink ever producing the kind of combustible reaction I had experienced. One of my friends (who does not lack for attention from admirers) couldn’t even remember the last time a man winked at her. Except her grandfather.

However, age didn’t seem to be a factor in my focus group. In fact, it was used by twenty-something males and females more than the fifty-somethings. But still with little frequency.

So is the wink endangered? I came across some beautiful writing in a blog “Passages Home” by Taline Voskeritchian, who is from Jerusalem, but spent a good deal of time in Paris, where she assures us the gesture is still flourishing. Yet she’s worried about it disappearing in the “Anglo world.” In an installment called “The Paris Wink,” she bemoans the disappearing eye-flex:

“The wink gets no respect in our world.  More, it is often a target of scorn and suspicion and derision as though its throwers were all lecherous old men who get their kicks out of such perverse muscle movements.  But not so in Paris.  The wink is still around and can catch you off guard, when you least expect it, which is the real intent of the wink, isn’t it?  That those who are well-versed in it know when and how to throw you a wink, to suddenly and nonchalantly squeeze one eye—you know what I am talking about.”

Soulmate? Perhaps. And you wonder why I adore Paris?

And yes to her notion that the best delivered winks catch one by surprise. In fact, in thinking through this whole phenomenon (FAR too long, I admit!), I came to the following conclusions:

In order for said eye movement to achieve its ultimate effect, there needs to exist a perfect alignment of three elements: the right person, the right circumstances, and most importantly, the right time. In regard to “The Wink,” I hold these three truths to be evident:

  1. It is not nearly as powerful if it is used on someone who expects it.
  2. It takes a certain individual and a certain level of confidence.
  3. It takes RISK.

Think about it: anyone who seizes such a moment is vulnerable to rejection (or at least varying degrees of blushing.) Only confident people can pull off an effective wink, and confidence is sexy. But too much of it can veer into cocky, and that’s not so attractive. It’s a delicate art.

So, did I find anyone who had a similar experience as me?  I had to end up going to an online message board to find anyone who reported swoon-worthy feelings.  One woman claimed, “Love the wink! It makes me weak in the knees…” (She said it; I didn’t.)

The good wink says “I know you.” It says: “I know something that you perhaps don’t even realize.” And therein lies the seductive magic.

In “The Paris Wink,” Taline says elequently:

“What is significant is how you respond to the wink, or better still, that you actually do respond to it—without shame or coyness, that you are receptive to it, that you don’t avert your eyes, but accept this discrete little exchange for all it says and does not do…”

A good friend who had initially said she had nothing to report on the topic, wrote me back later to say that she went out that same night to a community event–an Octoberfest celebration that took place in a tent with twinkle lights. A man winked at her from across the room. A stranger.

How did it make her—a professional, ultra-liberated female feel? “It make me feel special and romantic. As though we were the only people in the room who knew it.” Not bad for an antiquated movement on the endangered gesture list in modern society.

Ironically, just a few days ago, I was talking to good friends at a local bar about this very subject. As I lifted my glass to toast the comrades surrounding me, an intriguing gent who I don’t know all that well delivered a well-timed wink from across the room as he lifted his glass as well. Hmmm. Stay tuned.

Sandee Gertz
Sandee Gertzhttps://www.facebook.com/sandeegertz
*Sandee Gertz is an author and award-winning poet from Western Pennsylvania whose work focuses on working class and blue-collar themes. Her book, The Pattern Maker’s Daughter, is available at Amazon and through Bottom Dog Press (www.smithdocs.net). Her book-length memoir, "Some Girls Have Auras of Bright Colors," (a quirky, coming of age story about growing up with a seizure disorder) is currently making the rounds of literary agents in New York City.   She has a Masters of Fine Art (MFA) from Wilkes University’s Creative Writing Program and teaches English at Lincoln Technical College in East Nashville.  She is currently working on a new novel, and occasionally "poem busks" in Printers Alley in Downtown, Nashville.  She can be reached at: .
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