Dear Tell All: A woman in my office constantly winks at me and it gives me the creeps. I don't know if she's flirting with me or just trying to be friendly, but either way, I don't want anything to do with it. This woman is loud and obnoxious and just plain weird...the type of person I imagine lives alone in an apartment filled with stuffed animals and two frightened cats.
Maybe it's just me, but winking isn't appropriate at work. How do I get her to stop?
Dear Not Interested: I'm with you; there's something creepy and disturbing about winks. I still remember my first one - delivered by a sour-smelling old woman in Walgreens - and how its chilling ambiguity sent me scurrying to hide behind my father's legs. Winks suggest a shared intimacy or some inside joke. But if you don't get the humor or don't want any part of the intimacy, an uninvited wink is enough to make your testicles retract.
When Sarah Palin winked at the Republican National Convention, I swear I heard a collective, national gasp. We all thought, "What the...did she just wink?!" Back then, most of us didn't even know who this wisecracking huckster was. We certainly didn't know her well enough to welcome a wink. Then she did it again during the vice presidential debate. I felt the same inner turmoil, torn between making a campaign contribution and locking my doors.
Winking is just plain risky. It's one of those slippery social cues - like squeezing someone's shoulder - that can get you into trouble if used in the wrong situation. Just ask the woman who hip-checked the pope. Seemed like a good idea; didn't go over so well.
How do you make your coworker stop? That's a tough one. You could try showing your displeasure by frowning or immediately looking away. The problem is, serial winkers are like punsters; they're so tickled by their own cleverness, they don't notice that everyone around them is squirming.
It may be time for an unconventional response. Get yourself a pair of mirrored sunglasses and slip them on whenever your coworker is around. That way you can deflect the evil winks right back at her, so she gets a taste of the torment that she's been inflicting on you.