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May 31, 2008updated 01 Feb 2016 10:44am

Eye'll Have You

By Spear's

Nothing wrong with flowers, champagne and candlelit dinners. But a well-executed wink will get you laid quicker, says Vanessa Neumann

I am a winker. I wink often and with many. Despite being about to marry, I wink with men I meet on the street. I have even enjoyed good winking with women. In fact, I am a zealous winker.

Why? Because winking often gets me what (or whom) I want. It got me my husband, and it has also gotten me tables at crowded restaurants. Take a recent evening at Scott’s. Sitting at the bar, waiting to be seated, I stopped the passing maître d’. ‘Kevin, is my table ready yet?’ Wink. Smile. I got my table. Try it. You’ll see. Kevin or his equivalent will either find you cute and feel obliging, or will want you out of his sight. Either way, you’ll be seated sooner.

Seduction is of course the classic application of winking. After playing footsie under the table, the seductive woman announces her intention to separate from the group and be alone with the man she wants to shag – like so: ‘I’m really quite tired. I think
I might leave you guys and go home.’ Wink at seducee. If seducee is clever (he all-too-often isn’t), he’ll respond: ‘Yeah, me too. I think I may not go on with you guys and go home to bed instead.’ Wink at seducer. And they’re off on their illicit affair.

One can also wink to promote someone else’s illicit affair. Say I notice my good friend playing footsie under the table with a new man and I loathe her current or ex-boyfriend. Acting on the adage that the best way to get over someone is to get under someone else, I may turn to her and say: ‘Andrea, you look tired. You’re not going to join us at Annabel’s, are you? Maybe you should go home.’ Wink. ‘No, you’re right, I won’t join you at Annabel’s.   I might go to bed.’ She winks at me. I wink back. She winks at him. He winks at her. I wink at him. He smiles, and, hey presto, a new affair has begun,
and I’m on the inside track.

It is just this unspoken conspiratorial aspect of winking that gets so many people hot under the collar. A panicked 1881 editorial in the New York Times denounced winking, which had ‘spread with amazing rapidity in the Eastern States’, as an unspoken language used by otherwise prim-and-proper women to get themselves into disallowed mischief. According to the no-doubt feverish imagination of the editor, ‘a profound and well-known [though nameless] philosopher’ who lived in New York City collaborated with a female telegraph operator to develop a version of Morse Code for winkers, where dots and dashes were eventually replaced by right- and left-eye winks. This code could convey such complete sentences as ‘Meet me at the Metropolitan Museum next Thursday afternoon at 3 o’ clock.’ Hard to tell, though. Such frantic winking could easily be mistaken for the effect of a particuarly bad eye infection.

The wink that launched a thousand editorials, though, is the one George W. Bush gave The Queen after the bumbling 2007 welcome speech in which he thanked the Queen for participating in the US bicentennial in 1776 – making The Queen over 200 years old. Bush the Buffoon attempted to atone for his mistake by compounding it: he winked at One, and One gave him a frosty glare back that Bush himself acknowledged was ‘a look that only a mother could give a child’.

The perception of winking as something lascivious and undesirable seems to have started with the Bible, where it is considered to be evil both in its motives and its results. The book of Proverbs specifically says: ‘A naughty person, a wicked man, walketh with forward mouth. He winketh with his eyes.’ (Proverbs 6: 12–13), and: ‘He that winketh with the eye causeth sorrow.’ (10:10)

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Fear of sorrow, however, does not prevent Young Quakers from playing the game of Wink. In it, a central commanding character, the Wink, winks at other players to beckon them to kiss him. The winner is the one who escapes her vigilant partner’s grasp to kiss the Wink. In the Unitarian version of this game, called Smut, the winker is known as God, affirming that sex and religion are rarely far apart.

Winking, of course, doesn’t always have to be predatory; some of the best winks are conspiratorial or reassuring. I recently winked at a friend when over lunch her mother said something cruel about her. And I recently winked at my sister-in-law as our other halves engaged in some silly-yet-typical behaviour. Far from ‘winking at corruption,’ which would condone wrong behaviour, these winks reinforce ties that bind and said: ‘Hey, don’t worry about it. I’m with you.’ That’s why winking at my fiancé is still an effective way to get a kiss out of him.

So when in the next few months you are off on your summer travels in exotic climes, try giving a few people  wink and a smile and see what happens. It might just be the start of a beautiful friendship.

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