The Washington Post

Debate body language

Yes, I am definitely reusing this picture, because his body is saying “I am in a great picture you should reuse often.” (Charles Dharapak/Associated Press)

As the tanks mass on the Syrian border, the over-coverage of the debate continues with a new guide from the New York Times to what to expect from the candidates’ body language.

Yet this guide tackles barely a handful of possible postures. Waving a ball? The pointer? Tilt and nod? There’s more to body language than that. This is the body language equivalent of, “Sorry, I don’t speak body language.” What about the myriad other ways your body can speak during the debate?

To remedy this, here are some other ways the candidates’ bodies might communicate:

Eye-roll: I find my opponent’s response boring.

Blinking: These lights are too bright.

Repeated blinking, seemingly in a recognizable syntax: T-o-r-t-u-r-e.

Gangnam-style ride-the-pony (Obama): demonstrating familiarity with “Gangnam Style.”

Gangnam-style ride-the-pony (Romney): explaining particulars of dressage.

Frenzied hand-clapping: I do believe in fairies!

Flailing with one arm: I think I’m having some sort of seizure.

Points and looks panicked: There’s a spider on my podium!

Points at opponent and looks panicked: That man is a lizard! I should not have tried Rick Perry’s back medication before coming here.

Spills water on self, begins melting: What do you know, I’m a witch!

Spills water on self, short-circuits: What do you know, I’m a robot!

Stands there stiffly, like a board that has been putting serious effort into this for months and months: I’m Mitt Romney.

Stands there stiffly, like a slightly more natural-looking board: I’m Barack Obama.

Hokey-Pokey: I, Mitt Romney, am hip and relevant, like the kids these days!

Suddenly throws arms back behind head, leaves it there: Failed effort to Dougie.

Folds arms: I’m defensive/cold.

Unfolds arms: I don’t want to look defensive, but I’m still cold.

Mimes shooting a gun: That was a zinger you just heard.

Twirls hair flirtatiously around one finger: Hello, sailor.

Twirls hair flirtatiously around entire hand: I want you to notice the high quality of my hair care.

Does backbend: You know, I used to be a gymnast, and I’m still quite flexible.

Bites finger, gazes into camera: I’m a sexy little rabbit!

Leans slowly leftward: I don’t think this floor is even.

Nods sympathetically, smiling slowly: I think I’ve just forgotten all my talking points.

Strokes rim of wineglass: I find you alluring.

Feet pointing away from you: I’m bored and plotting an escape.

Head rotates 360 degrees: I’m either demonically possessed or staff is going to have stern words for my manufacturer later.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day. She is the author of "A Field Guide to Awkward Silences".


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