By: Mary Fran Bontempo
To hear an audio version of this post, click the play arrow below.

Photo by Haraz N. Ghanbari for the Associated Press

 I’ve used the same gesture countless times to bring errant kids (or a husband) in line.

But on the President of the United States?

Last week, in a photo shot by Haraz N. Ghanbari for the Associated Press, Arizona’s Republican Governor, Jan Brewer, was caught wagging a finger directly into the face of the commander-in-chief. Seems the governor had a few issues with the President and sought to drive home her point with her pointer finger.

To be fair, there is another single-digit gesture Governor Brewer could have employed to catch the President’s attention. But that one would have likely had her being tackled to the tarmac by the Secret Service.

Still, it seems Brewer crossed a line.

Finger wagging is but one of many gestures, expressions, exasperated sighs and so on in the “scolding” arsenal of women and mothers around the world. We frequently use them in conjunction with words, but often times, a silent admonition in the form of a raised eyebrow, a tilt of the head or a quickly raised palm can be just as effective.

Think about how often your own mother quieted you with a quick swivel of her head followed by an arched brow. How many times did a deep intake of breath followed by an equally long sigh provide fair warning that you were treading on thin ice and should “knock it off” though your mother hadn’t uttered a single syllable?

There’s no doubt the plethora of non-verbal communication routinely utilized by women is effective. But it’s also highly personal and more than a little intimate.

Once, during a light-hearted “discussion” with one of my husband’s friends, I jokingly wagged my finger in his face to underscore a point. “Hey, hold on,” he said. “The only woman allowed to do that to me has stayed married to me for thirty-two years.”

He had a point—no pun intended. When we women employ our gestures, arched brows and sighs, we are performing the human equivalent of the action a mother bear takes to scold her cubs. It’s a less physical form of mama bear cuffing the offending youngster with a backhand, or backpaw, and knocking the cub off its feet. It’s a non-verbal way of saying, “Hey, dummy! Wake up and pay attention! I’m telling you this for your own good!”

And it’s also not something you do to strangers, or acquaintances…or the President of the United States.

For his part, Obama handled the incident gracefully, noting that he felt the entire episode was blown out of proportion.

That’s a good thing for Governor Brewer. Because if Obama had responded with a single-digit waving gesture of his own, I’ll bet the Secret Service would have simply looked the other way.

What’s in your arsenal of gestures? Click “comments” below and share!

Article first published as Giving the President a Finger on Technorati.