Confession time. I HATE it when people wink at me. It always feels like an unearned, forced attempt at intimacy – especially when the person is some celebrity whom I have not even met (like Lindsay Lohan or Sarah Palin, above). A wink says, “You and I share a naughty little secret,” when, in fact, the person doing the winking has most likely never shared a damn thing with me and just wants to be excused for (get away with) something. No one with whom I have actually been intimate has ever winked at me. They don’t need to.
I find it equally annoying when someone who is not a friend addresses me as “my friend.” I don’t think I have to explain why this is bothersome. The inherent hypocrisy is self-evident.
Here’s one exception to my I-hate-winks credo – in the comics drawn by R. Crumb, a character will occasionally look directly at the reader and wink, usually in the last panel, after the character has done something particularly sociopathic. In this context I find the wink excusable – funny even – because the implied request for complicity and forgiveness is grotesquely out of proportion to whatever it is the character has just done (e.g., stabbed someone in the heart with a fork).
Another exception – in the 1932 film, Me and My Gal, starring Spencer Tracy and Joan Bennett, and directed by Raoul Walsh, an old character actor (J. Farrell MacDonald) sticks his broad Irish face into the lens and, looking directly at the audience, winks and invites us to “Come on in!” at which point the camera follows him into a room where some kind of neighborhood party is taking place. Sure, the breaking of the fourth wall in Walsh’s movie is startling and grotesque, but it’s also warm and funny, and consistent with the loose, improvisatory feeling of the film. Again, the wink is a request for intimacy, but given the general likeability of Walsh’s characters, we are more than willing to comply with the request.