Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Don't shake hands with me
With H1N1 around, let's bump elbows
I have some excellent news for people with no social skills and really poor personal hygiene.
The next time we meet -- even if we are REALLY EXCITED about seeing one another -- we don't have to bother shaking hands. And forget hugging, kissing, rubbing noses or anything else that may involve inadvertently exchanging bodily fluids.
I base this on a Canadian Press story I've just read stating Canadians are willing to give up handshakes and hugs because of concerns over H1N1 flu.
According to this story, a Harris Decima survey of 1,000 Canadians found roughly one-third were less inclined to shake hands because of the H1N1 virus and more than half -- 52 per cent -- said someone had refused to shake hands or hug them because of flu fears.
Discussion Question: Isn't it sad when a little thing like a potentially deadly virus causes us to forgo a social tradition that has survived for centuries?
Answer: No, it's not! In fact, it's a great idea. I'm not being insensitive here. I realize some guys are going to have a hard time giving up handshakes.
For women, it's not as big a deal. Women have a wide variety of options when greeting someone, such as the "air kiss," wherein the greeter purses their lips together like a carp in mid-air and then makes an annoying smacking noise in the other person's ear.
So some women may not relate to the demise of the handshake, just as some men cannot relate to the concept of not wearing white shoes after Labour Day or attending a party wherein the only thing anyone does for fun is buy scented candles. But for guys, the handshake is a tradition dating back to caveman times, when an open hand signified you weren't about to cave in another guy's head with a mastodon bone.
For most guys -- especially if they happen to be the prime minister of Canada -- shaking hands is as far as you are willing to go in terms of public displays of affection. Persons of my gender have a strict code handed down by their fathers, wherein a handshake is one of the few accepted ways of showing affection for another guy, along with:
1) Insulting his golf swing;
2) Insulting his new propane barbecue;
3) Questioning his masculinity or personal hygiene habits;
4) Letting him use your TV remote control;
Especially that last one. If we, as a society, are going to be serious about outlawing handshakes, then we are also going to have do something about spitting, which basically means we will have to ban professional sports altogether, especially baseball, a sport where the rules of the game require players to chew smokeless tobacco and spit at least 30 times per second while on national TV, meaning if you look in the dugout of any Major League team during the ninth inning, all you'll see is a huge, burbling pool of brown drool.
But that's not my point. My point is waving farewell to handshakes is a swell idea. I say this because shaking hands has always been far too complicated. If you do a Google search for "how to shake hands," you get roughly 12,800,000 hits, including websites offering technical tips, such as these from eHow:
1) Extend your right hand to meet the other person's hand;
2) Point your thumb upward toward the other person's arm and extend your arm at a slight downward angle.
How can we expect ANYONE to perform a task this complex? (Hint: We can't!) The mind of a typical guy becomes flooded with troubling questions when thrust into a handshaking situation: What if the other guy grabs my fingers? What if I grab his fingers? What if he squeezes my hand with enough force to turn coal into diamonds? What if he doesn't let go in two or three seconds? If he pumps my hand more than three times, does it mean he wants to dance? If so, who leads?
Then there's the dilemma of what kind of handshake are they looking for in the first place? A lot of innocent guys have been injured sticking out their hand, only to discover at the last second the other guy is coming in for a fist bump.
I can't even begin to describe, using mere words, how awkward it is when you attempt a high-five only to have the other guy come underneath for a low-five, but I will try: It's very, very awkward.
All in all, H1N1 or not, it's best for everyone concerned if we give up shaking hands altogether. Better we do what Olympic organizers are suggesting: Just bump elbows.
So make it an elbow bump for me. I do NOT need someone squeezing my hand to make me feel welcome. I'm a modern, self-confident guy. I'm an island.
Please, someone, I need a hug!
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 20, 2009 A2
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