Winking is an acquired ‘skill’. It’s actually hilarious watching little children try to shut only one eye- it’s hard for them and takes a lot of practice. Here are some questions: Why did humans ever start winking? Is there a certain purpose to the wink?
The reason I ask myself these questions is because I have a winking problem. It’s not that I am unable to wink- I wish that were the case. It’s that I wink uncontrollably when I find myself in socially tense situations.
Let me give you an example. I’m sitting in a room with other job applicants, waiting to be interviewed. You can feel the tension and people are visibly nervous. I feel bad for the others and want to give off reassuring vibes. One of the people smiles at me. Suddenly, it happens: I smile and wink as a gesture of encouragement. I immediately feel like an idiot. Who winks at strangers?!? I start to panic. What if the other person thinks I was hitting on him/her. I try to look in another direction, hiding my flushing cheeks. Why, oh why, did I have to wink?
Another example. We’re having a breastfeeding support meeting. One of the mothers is really upset and I want to make her feel better. Again, I have some sort of anxiety arise within that is urging me to act in some way. As soon as I make eye contact with her, there it is: I do the weird smile/ wink. I immediately feel like an idiot once more. I’m embarrassed and want her to know that I’m a normal person, so I make it a point to speak to her as soon as the meeting is over. Of course, I’m not completely sure what to say to make me look less like a crazy lady and the conversation is just awkward, until the other mother makes up some excuse to leave. She does so quickly.
The worst of the compulsive winking happens in public places. E.g. when I see a homeless person on the subway. I feel sorry for him/ her and wish there was something I could do to help. I’m studying him/ her discreetly, but I get caught looking, so I panic and bam! There’s the wink. Naturally, the homeless person sees this as an invitation to come over and talk to me. For a long time. It’s uncomfortable and awkward and all kinds of levels of strange.
On a happy note, I told my husband I was going to write about this and he has never witnessed it. Naturally, he thinks I’m a bit of a weirdo now (which is probably quite accurate), but I think he still loves me. At least I’ve had lots of subway conversations this way…