I BELIEVE IN THE HANDSHAKE

Julie - Wilmington, Delaware
Entered on March 19, 2009
Age Group: 30 - 50

I believe in a handshake.

The “handshake” seems to have taken a turn these days; I find the new thing to be a fist “bump”. This change is distressing to me. In elementary school, I was taught that the handshake had an historical background and a social significance. Historically, the handshake has ancient Middle Eastern and Midlevel roots. Two men would approach to exchange amicable greetings or, more significantly, show that they did not have any weapons to bear. Moreover, the right hand was used as the left hand was considered an evil or deviant gesture. In turn, the handshake had a diplomatic, cordial and forth worth function paving goodwill between individual and nations. This lesson stayed with me and I do think about it each time I shake another persons hand with honor.

Today, a trend has developed where the hand has turned into a fist. I’m not comfortable with this change. The advent of this new greeting has come from the modern urban youth. What started in the neighborhoods has migrated into Television, Pro sports, Entertainment, all of the way up to the gestured lexicon of our own President showing how “ordinary” he is.

My question is this: why the change? I’ve asked some of those people in my circle why they exercise this custom. My brother answers that it is how all of his friends greet each other “now” and that, in his perspective, and as being bit of a hypochondriac, “ya don’t pass germs like you do with a handshake”. Interesting. At work, coworker’s knuckles thrust forward at the slightest accomplishment or amusing comment. Wanting to fit in, I’ve participated to understand this oddity. I’m now wearing mittens on the job. What I’ve found most curious is that when I’ve met an opposing fist with a greeted hand, I’m looked at as if I’m offering a melted Popsicle or lit firecracker in exchange. How disparaging.

It bothers me is that the tradition of the opened handshake is perhaps becoming old-hat after so many millenniums. After all, it represented “I mean you no harm”. Now, this fist bump, with its clenched hand, seems a bit deceiving or, if I may pun, underhanded. To say the least, it undermines the intent of the tradition of goodwill at a time, no more special than any other time in history, when we need goodwill towards each other.

I hope this is a passing trend. I truly believe in the purpose of the handshake. I find that there is nothing like greeting a new acquaintance or praising an employee for good work or consoling a good friend like a sincere handshake.