So I walk into a party with a friend the other weekend, and am excited because it is allegedly going to be rife with people in New York City whom I do not know but who are, according to my friend, totally my kind of people. (Not sure what this means, exactly, but I go with it.) Some of them might be dudes who I befriend and introduce me to girls they think would be a good match for me, ultimately resulting in my wedded bliss.
In my experience, the first impression is crucial in these kinds of situations. Unless you’re already drunk when it happens, you tend to remember the first time you meet a person. Especially if it was a weird interaction. And you know what makes it turbo-awkward? When your first acknowledgment of each other does not go well.
You know what I’m talking about. Sometimes you go in for the traditional handshake like a normal person, but the person you’re introducing yourself to goes for the dreaded fist bump or a perverted, more complex version of the handshake that involves thumb/forefinger webbing touching thumb/forefinger webbing and it’s just a huge mess. You may start sweating a little bit. Sometimes people go for the hug. Sometimes people go for that thumb/forefinger thing combined with a half bro-hug. (Which I wish had never been invented.)
It’s terrible and there’s absolutely no reason for it.
Why can we not just agree that upon first meeting, we shake hands? And that’s it? This has been the custom for years and years. Why try to fix something that isn’t broken, only to seem like we are more cool or hip or French? Every time I see dudes across the room locking in a thumb-webbing half-hug embrace I think “Oh, those guys must know each other from way back, to be greeting each other in such an intimate (and vaguely nonsensical) way. But I have had plenty of people try to greet me in the same fashion without me having ever even seen them before in my life. I go in for the traditional handshake, signals get crossed, I blush, maybe he blushes, we make some weird grunting noises of disorientation, and then we try to use our hands to greet each other again. On occasion, I go straight for whatever I think it was he was trying to execute, when he goes for the traditional handshake. Which makes it doubly uncomfortable for everybody.
So I beg you this holiday season and forever thereafter to utilize the traditional handshake. It’s universally adored, accepted and recognizable. It may not be as sanitary as the fist bump, but sometimes one has to put his personal health on the line in the interest of normalcy and avoiding awkwardness.
I’m not saying you have to be locked into the traditional handshake forever. Once you build familiarity and some sort of repertoire with a person, feel free to shake in a way the two of you are both comfortable with. You never know, you might even get to a point where you can execute a handshake like this, and thrill all those around you.