The surprise ending
I recently had a HOLY CRAP! moment at the end of one of our boy’s 5th/6th grade lacrosse practices. I actually had five (1-2-3-4-5) players come up to me after practice, look me in the eyes, extend their arm at a 105 degree angle, and offer their hand to give their thanks for such a great practice. I just about fell over. Not only did they LOOK at me, they gave me a firm handshake, and capped it with a solid (albeit with a pre-pubescent pitch) “Thank you Coach!”
“You say you want an revolution…”
I came straight home and immediately began gushing to my wife, assuming these boys and their parents had been reading all of our In Defense of Men posts and were motivated to start their own Manvolution. She immediately put me in my place and reminded me they were likely pulling and Eddie Haskel and trying to get more playing time. Either way, it gave me the opportunity to reflect on the current state of the handshake amongst men and women. There are as many types of handshakes as there are Domestic Square Pegs.
To begin with, I have always performed a subconscious analysis with anyone I have come to grips with. I analyze both their approach to the hand-engagement, as well as a Madden-like analysis of my own performance in the transaction. There are roughly four types of handshakers out there: the Offering a Dead Fish, the Crusher, the Fist Bumper and the Confident but Not Overstated Man/Woman.
Dead Fish Guy
More frequently than I would like to admit, I encounter Dead Fish Guy. It makes me squirm in a really uncomfortable way to have this impish-hand in my grasp that I feel could possibly slither out like trying to eat jelly with your hands (not easy to do…trust me). Kids, especially, have a tendency to give you a Dead Fish. Yes, their hands are small, but moms and dads, give them a tennis ball or frozen towel to help improve that grip strength because the Dead Fish is just flat out weird!
Every once in a while I run into The Crusher. The Crusher is the guy (and sometimes awkwardly large female), who feels the need to fracture your metacarpals one-by-one to establish his/her dominance in the room. It’s the handshake version of a dog peeing on a tree. Crusher’s low-forehead-cranial-development leads him to believe that you will be so distracted by the pain in your hand from his ‘manly’ handshake, you completely ignore the fact that he is obviously compensating for a small tool in his tool belt, if you know what I mean. Definitely refrain from promoting The Crusher with your children. It can only lead to other compensation mechanisms like lift kits and 40” off-road tires on their mall-cruising hybrid SUV.
The Fist Bumper
This breed is a bit of an anomaly for me. I have found myself offering a fist in lieu of a hand when my Germaphobic Howie Mandel gets the better of me. Generally speaking, though, the fist bumper is the guy who wants to ‘keep it real’…whatever that means. The fist bump can also sometimes be seen as a subversively violent approach to greeting someone. If you think about, you are making a fist and extending it toward a person at mid-torso/head height– and this is supposed to be welcoming?! I also wouldn’t recommend this approach with your kids because there is the possibility of a glancing blow that could easily result in jammed fingers or broken knuckles. Best to play it safe and avoid the Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots greeting.
The Confident but Not Overstated Shake
The DSP Harley-approved handshake is the Confident but Not Overstated Shake. This takes some practice to perfect but is worth doing with your kids at home to help them find that balance. I try and tell our boys to shake with confidence, not aggression, and make solid eye contact. The visual I have used is holding an egg or Jello in your hand. If you grip too hard, the egg will break or the Jello will squirt out. And if you grip too soft, the egg will fall or the Jello will slide off. It seems to be working because many of their coaches and teachers have commented on how ‘professional’ their greetings and ‘thank-you’s’ are.
If this truly is the Golden Age of Faceless Communication (text, Twitter, Facebook, etc.), bringing back the handshake might help this generation get a grip on their future in the real world. And if you are a Germaphobe like me, go the Jay Leno route and keep some hand sanitizer on standby for use when you are done– just find what fits for you! Just don’t get me started on other manners issues a la Count Raoul – I have a a date with Call of Duty MW3.
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