On my way to work this morning, I made a self-important life decision. Despite having failed in my most recent efforts, I have decided that I am done shaking hands.
As a germaphone for all of my adult life, I have never been keen towards engaging in that widely accepted greeting. I begrudgingly took part on the grounds that it was easier to avoid the awkwardness of refusing a handshake and the potential follow-up conversation that ensued. Fast forward to March 2020 when COVID made it more than okay to no longer partake, I thought then that I had my out and that, aside from perhaps a job interview or some other formal occasion, I would never have to shake hands ever again.
With social gatherings resuming over the last several months as life has shifted closer to normalcy, so have the default expectations of handshaking amongst so many. I realized quickly at some of these functions that my attempts to dodge a handshake by instead offering either a fistbump or an elbowbump resulted in a few awkward exchanges where the other person seemingly was surprised or dumbfounded with my effort.
I would like to acknowledge that most close friends and family whom I’m around semi-regularly have adapted to my preference. I do greatly appreciate that. For the most part, it’s those that I’m meeting for the first time or may not see regularly where the situation may have become slightly awkward. After two or three occasions, such as at a family party, I easily caved and went back to the default extending of the open hand while feeling a sense of defeat.
Today’s What’s News podcast by the Wall Street Journal included a story on the return to the office and navigating various social interactions, such as how close to sit together in a meeting or how to say hello. As I was listening on my way to work, I revisited my own recent handshaking avoidance fumbles and asked myself why a few awkward exchanges caused me to be the one who compromised.
If some jughead I happen to know or am meeting for the first time fumbles with my fistbump or elbowbump, that should be on them. Regardless of how one feels about COVID precautions, the pandemic shouldn’t be beyond the point of recent memory to where someone doesn’t know how to respond to either a fistbump or elowbump. At the risk of sounding callous, I’m not letting this opportunity that the pandemic has provided go to waste.
Feeling a sense of renewed empowerment with some added piss and vinegar, I’ve decided that this time I mean it. I am done shaking hands. It will require persistence from my end and the willpower to not give into self-doubt when I inevitably begin to second guess my efforts upon anticipation of or immediately following an awkward social exchange.
While I may be inclined to think it is everyone else who is at fault on this one, I am willing to admit that it is me who has the problem. To that, I say…
It’s not you, it’s me. Don’t take it personally.
JANUARY 2022 UPDATE — In the weeks that followed, I was forced to contemplate my stance towards handshaking and have since come to a renewed grip.