Once upon a time, there was one way to greet another person with your hands. It was called the hand shake. You reached out together, thumbs on top, clasp hands, and shook 2-4 times. Simple. There are variations of course: palm vertical, better, palm up, hand in hand, lingering, the push off, the pull in, the superior, the lesser, the finger cruncher, the bone cruncher, the palm pincher, the twister, and the very unpleasant dead fish.
I know that stuff like…well…the back of my hand. Come at me with any one of these and I’ll pick it right up. But that’s where my abilities end. If it were just a classic high five or low five once in awhile, I could manage just fine. What about the bro hand shake? What about all the weird bro hand jive stuff? Fist bumps? Fist bops? I’m afraid it’s all too much for me.
The fact that there are dozens of options throws me off. I’m leaving my current job, so I got a goodbye handshake from a man. He came in with the thumb extended high. Hand-shake? Or bro shake? I went bro, and he went standard handshake and so I just ended up grab his thumb solo. Try that out sometime and feel how awkward is. And it’s not the only time I’ve done it this month.
A good friend of mine, a very COOL good friend of mine ran into me at a farmer’s market. He lifted his hand up over his head with the palm down, wrist and fingers limp. I know that that is a huge low five now because my little brother explained it to me, but what I did must have been the most awkward, botched, hand greeting in history. If someone had gotten it on the phone, it would have gone viral. We’re both pretty tall, and he’s taller than me. He went up high with his left hand (right facing me). I panicked. The best I could figure was that this was going to be a mirror-facing high five of some sort. So as I walked his way I put my right hand up high for the five but his left hand didn’t flatten out and so I clasped it. But that’s not all. I then used my left hand to bring him in for a weird sort of hug, but because we were mirrored hands up and arms clasping each other our cheeks kind of came together noses toward right each other. It must have looked like the ugliest two-man tango in history.
And this goes for hugs as well. I was at a party with a bunch of Bengali men, and we got a little tipsy and as a result we bonded. We made pledges of lifetime allegiance to each other. We would be uncles to our future children. We would be at the weddings. At the end of the night, one guy came up to me as we were leaving and said. “David, we are cousins now. That’s how we do it in Bangladesh.” Then he came at me with a hug, arms wide open. Now, I’m a real hugger, none of that macho bullshit. You come for a hug, I’m going to squeeze you for at least four seconds, and so that’s what I tried to give him. But he stepped back, and held a wait-and-watch index finger up in front of me.
“We hug like this. Hug. Two hard pats on the back. And step away. Try.”
Yeah, well I don’t know if this is a Bengali thing or not, but that’s the way manly men hug. I’m used to it now. But what happens when it starts with a handshake which ends in a hug? Well, you’re supposed to do the hard slap or the shoulder bump and break away. Nope. Not me. I do the hand clasp and the tight hug with hands smashed between bellies at least 60% of the time.
I don’t know exactly how this happened to me. I didn’t have a lot of male friends, for one. And the ones I had were really sensitive musician types. But I fear that it is too late for me. Without significant remedial training, I will be strictly a hand shake guy. If I see a greeting coming on, I set the agenda first. I initiate a handshake before you have time to do any crazy shit.