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Nice to meet you, but no.
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Nice to meet you, but no.

Wow, I take three days off and people are out there trying to bring handshakes back.

On Friday, the Toronto Star ran an article headlined, “As COVID-19 rules end, people are coming to grips with the handshake.” In it, a host of experts weigh in on this “powerful norm,” and how March 2020 might not have been the death knell for “one of the gold standards of human connection” we thought it was.

Nice to meet you, but no.

Look, we’ve been through this. Handshakes are bad. I wrote a whole column about this back in June of 2020, when hand washing and keeping our paws off each other was one of the gold standards of public health. I mean, hugs from strangers are objectively worse than handshakes, so if I had to choose, fine, give me your grubby mitt to crank up and down for a few seconds to acknowledge we met and I don’t have a weapon.

Handshaking may well indeed be one of the gold standards of human connection, but I’d also submit the practice also tops the podium for disease transmission. I’m not an epidemiologist, but I can tell you this: I haven’t shaken a single hand since early 2020 and I haven’t had a cold since then, either. Need I remind you that we, as a society, had to group enrol in Remedial Handwashing in the spring of 2020 because so many people didn’t know how to do it properly? Think of all the poop-hands you have undoubtedly shaken in your day because someone didn’t know to lather up while singing Happy Birthday to themselves (twice). Dominant hands + iffy hygiene practices = you do the math.

In the post-pandemic world we are now rethinking the handshake.(Jacquelyn Martin / AP Photo file)

Besides, handshakes are something very few people know how to do properly. There’s the Limp and Clammy. The Too-High Approach — am I supposed to kiss this? What are we doing, here — or the Finger Snapper (we get it, you read an article about confidence).

A good handshake — an oxymoron, but sure, let’s pretend — is firm but not too firm, absolutely not moist, and, above all, brief.

I didn’t mourn the handshake when it disappeared from our lives in March 2020 and I’m actively side-eyeing its return. Have we learned nothing about how germs spread? If waving can work over Zoom, surely it can work in person. Do we really need our hands to say, “it’s nice you meet you,” or “it’s a deal” or “good game” or “here’s a job”? Can we finally dispense with the cheesy grip-and-grin photo ops?

In July, I wrote about what’s NEXT for hugs, and the answer is consent. I think that’s true for handshakes, too. Sure, a handshake is a less intimate form of bodily contact than a hug but you’re still touching someone else, usually a stranger. Just because it’s been a social norm for thousands of years doesn’t mean everyone has always been cool with it. For others, a global pandemic may have irrevocably changed how they feel about a greeting they didn’t really think too hard about before.

Still, people can get very defensive about the sanctity of handshaking, and I know this because I once wrote “hands are gross” while having a publicly available email address. But I wonder if clinging to this particular social norm isn’t so much about handshaking as it is about normalcy. If we can say handshakes are “back,” then it feels like the pandemic’s grip is that much looser.

But wherever you land on this topic, I think we can all be thankful the elbow bump never really took off. Nice to meet you, but I don’t want to do that, either.

Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti, Columnist

Jen Zoratti

READING/WATCHING/LISTENING

I am currently reading No One Will Miss Her by Kat Rosenfield — a thriller that is narrated, in part, by the murder victim. I feel like my attention span for books lately is non-existent so this grippy mystery is just the thing to get me back into non-screen activities.

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