When I was growing up, I was definitely not the funny one. This may have had something to do with the fact that I had one of those overbearing uncles who took up all the Humor Space at family gatherings, Christmas dinner, family picnics---you name it. Then, my younger brother took on this uncle's joke antics and it was all over for the rest of us. A combination of mockery, slapstick, and oh-so-painful punchlines, beware: for you too, may end up being the butt of every joke.
So I began to wink.
It was not really that intentional. That is to say, I wasn't sitting there one day and decided to take up competitive comedy by way of winking at the end of every funny story I told. It just became this subtle way for me to let people know that I was, indeed, actually joking around. Poking a little fun. Dryly letting on that I disagreed. Empathizing with their pain. Or masking my own.
But not everyone always gets my humor. (It's most likely a problem with my delivery.) Hey, a girl can still try. (And will, unfortunately.)
Kids love to wink, by the way. Mostly because they have no idea how to do it properly. And by the
time they (we) do, it's too late: we really shouldn't be doing it. It only causes trouble, you see. Ok, ok, it did for me---maybe not you; you might be one of those lucky wankers. I mean winkers.
Because a proper wink is subtle. Too much, and it looks like something just flew into your eye. Or that you're a creep. Or that you just had an eye patch removed and are trying to readjust after your eye transplant. Or maybe you just went to the optometrist's and only wanted to have one pupil dilated to save money and now can't see straight?
Too little of a wink and well, of course, no one bloody notices. Then you just look like you've got a slight twitch. So you'll just feel stupid because nobody (not even you) noticed that you just winked. What a winking waste.
So what went wrong?
Well, I was in my early twenties by then and winking (so far) had worked out beautifully for me. It was kind of my 'trademark': people looked forward to my wink in a conversation because I had perfected its subtlety so well. I mean, we're talking subtle. Sometimes they would suddenly say, "Did you just wink at me?" and children would ask for pointers to perfect their winks. (Ok, I made some of this up.)
But my point is this:
I was dating around at the time (you know, your twenties: a mess of mad love) and it became a bit of a um, problem with the male of our species. I seriously think it was all those high-concentration pheromones flying off the walls everywhere because jeez, no one seemed to care before. I had a boyfriend who got jealous of my punchline winks (not my actual winking capabilities; which, as we've established, were phenomenal), I had a boyfriend who got jealous of the target of my winks, I had a boyfriend who was just concerned about the health of my eye muscles, and I even had a non-boyfriend think he was my boyfriend simply because I had no boyfriend and winked at him. Not the boyfriend. At him. I didn't have a boyfriend at the time, remember? Jeez.
So that last debacle caused me to stop winking. Ok, it took a while. There were a few times, at the end of poking a little fun, I'd find myself starting to wink and juuuuust as I was clamping my right eyelid down, it was like my eyelashes even had to get involved in pulling those tiny (but jeez are they powerful!) muscles back up over my eyeball. It was like being on a ship and having a hundred little hairy men screaming Man overboard, man overboard! And everyone trying to pull the sopping wet mess of a scoundrel back up. Only, in my case, my face ended up looking it was trying to say, "Oh, don't mind me, I'm just trying to get The World's Largest Dust Bunny out of my eye." Not good. I pretty much gave up wearing eye pencil for a year to properly get a handle on the situation.
But why do we wink in the first place?
Most people think immediately of flirtation, but not so, not so! I promise you, winking has many other uses. I for one was the expert inside joke winker. Ok, maybe some of my winks were so "inside" even the person I thought was on the inside was on the outside hence causing winktastic confusion for all involved, but still. It was my wink of choice. According to Wikipedia (which is like, correct, all the time, right?): winking is an informal mode of non-verbal communication usually signaling shared knowledge or intent, which may also include, in all contexts, sexual attraction.
So I eventually weaned myself off the wink. (That totally didn't come out right.)
But the other day, something came over me and I daresay, a wink was absolutely vital to the conversation that ensued. Vital, I tell you.
I was talking with this older couple at a local café my son and I walk to in our neighborhood. I often wear him on my back in a carrier to make my life easier (read: no broken china, sneakily bitten into baguettes, no trolley accidents.) As usual, they wanted to know his name.
Finn, I said.
She looked at me like I was nuts. Like I was some pothead hippie mama (which I suppose I do look like, minus the pot) who was trying too hard going and naming my son after fish parts.
I won't lie. I live for this moment with the elderly.
I like to make them wait a few seconds, soaking in their odd judgments and assumptions.
Ok, this time I went on too long, because the lady actually started in on me (South Jersey is an interesting place to live) telling me what a very odd name to choose, what made me think of that?
So I said, "Well, I suppose you're right. We do try too hard these days now, don't we? You took all the good names." I winked at her husband following it with, "Actually, his name's Irish."
Ya know, as in two N's.
Suddenly, I was the coolest person she'd ever met. She went on and on about how special of a name I'd given him, was it a family name? if it was short for something. And all because I said Irish and an extra N in the same sentence. Two seconds before I'd just been some fish anatomy obsessed whippersnapper. I really should've messed with her and said it was spelled Phinn. As in Ph. Like Phat. She might've had an apoplexy when I explained that one, though. Talk about a generational gap.
The best part was how her husband caught on. He winked back at me, in that elderly-endearing way, not that creepy-old-man way. I think he winked back in reference to his omniscient, omnipotent wife.
He was clearly a master of the inside-joke wink, and in his case, a little too on the inside for a little too long.