Reading a lot – obsessively even – can have the weirdest effect on a person. Anyone who gets really involved in a book will understand. Hand up if you sometimes find yourself saying a line out loud to hear how it sounds. Raise the other hand if you try out what a character is doing to see how it looks or feels…yes?
Recently I’ve been winking while reading – often. Winking is not actually one of my many annoying habits, so I have to really try to do it. It doesn’t come naturally. I’m not sure that it’s a common trait – since taking up winking (in private, that is, I’d never do it publicly or in the direction of another person) I’ve carefully watched other people to see who winks.
I can report that I’ve yet to see anyone winking either in the street or in a social situation. The only winks noted have been in a 1940s romantic comedy on late night TV and a lot more in one of those British “Carry On” movies where the lecherous “hero” is always leering or winking at the busty blonde. In real life I think it’s safe to say that very few people wink unless they’re suffering some kind of stress disorder when the wink is more of a tic and not intended to be attractive to the winkee.
So – and this is my point and question – why do so many heroines of lesbian romantic novels wink at one another? In the past year, because of researching and writing a thesis, I’ve read a lot of what is popularly called “lesfic” (but which I think is a really ugly and demeaning description). In the course of this research I’ve been amazed and bemused by the amount of winking that goes on. For instance, in R.E. Bradshaw’s hugely entertaining Molly: House on Fire Molly and her paramour Lesley wink at each other 44 times.
Winking is a major activity in American lesbian romance novels, to the point where I had begun to think it must be a cultural thing – like mac and cheese and baseball – but then, along came Brit author Kiki Archer’s Binding Devotion. It’s set firmly in the UK yet its heroines wink at one another a total of 36 times in a novel about the CEO of a major corporation and her wife, the leader of a political activist outfit bent on achieving marriage equality in the UK.
And there are many, many other instances of mass winking activity in contemporary popular lesbian fiction – these two are highlighted at random.
My Writing 101 manual says repetition is to be avoided – unless you’re writing about a serial killer and the repetition is murder. So what is it with winking and women? Do you wink? If so – at whom and when and why? Do you do it often? Does anyone in particular wink at you? (Please don’t answer if you have a tic as described above.) And do you find yourself noticing authors’ funny little habits (tics, really!) in their writing? Are they charming – characterful – irritating – weird – or what? I’d love to know what you think. Meanwhile, it’s back to trying to stop myself doing odd things as I imitate whichever character I’m involved with today.