Friday, November 07, 2008

Shake It Off

I've been told I'm pretty tight - at least where my grip is concerned.

I distinctly remember the first time I was motivated to shake someone's hand. I was about 16 years old and I was meeting a man whose children I was going to babysit one evening. This gentleman was a local police officer, and so for some reason I was inspired to show him I would be strong enough to care for his children. When he greeted me at the front door, I threw out my right hand, poised to introduce myself in the traditional manner.

The police officer-father shared his surprise in discovering my firm handshake. I blushed because it was truly the first time I shook a man's hand without my parents' prompting.

I had shaken hands many times before. I remember meeting executives who worked with my father; it was an industry made up of mostly men in nice suits or sport coats. These men would visit from out of town, stopping by the house for a cocktail before dinner on the company expense account. My mother would be upstairs, pulling the hot rollers out of her hair, so my dad would introduce my sister and me to the guest du jour.

They all were typically the same. They'd bend over in our direction, shower us with big grins and then shove out their hands, waiting for us to reciprocate.

Our tiny hands would timidly limp out, not sure of the technique of this ritual.

Over time, we'd play along with this little game, gently offering our hand with smiles and giggles, knowing our grown-up counterparts were getting a kick out of this charade.

Years passed, and the handshaking ritual was pretty much lost on me. My friends and I greeted each other with high-fives, friendly waves or hugs, but nary a handshake. Even in high school, any handshake was embellished with fancy hand gestures and "secret" moves establishing an inside joke of sorts.

I recall one classmate who did greet people with the standard handshake enjoyed by adults around the world, and I remember thinking that was a little bit odd.

College came, and with it - independence, responsibility and promise. I began relying on the 'ol handshake for more formal ventures - meeting with politicos (I was well-connected back in the day, but it was for the "other" side), professors and parents of friends.

Senior year. Graduation. Finally, my opportunity at a "real job," and with that opportunity, a chance to establish myself as a credible professional. The hand shake is the first greeting that shows your potential employer your mettle. Do you offer a dead fish? Do you tilt your hand down and shake like a lady? Are you a bone crusher?

Over the years, I have perfected the perfect grip. It's a full on, finger tips-on-the-other-person's-wrist, clinch. My technique is disarming when a gentleman is expecting something a bit demure. Most people embrace my handshake, a firm but comfortable gesture that imparts grace and confidence.

For all my expertise as one of the world's great handshakers, I absolutely HATE it when I encounter someone who offers a less than substantial hand. Women whose handshakes are archaic and demure disappoint me. Men who adjust their handshakes to accommodate my female form are embarrassing and patronizing.

I prefer encounters with people who offer handshakes as confident and respectful as mine.

These days, I am now the crazy lady who bends down to a child's level and thrusts out my big, soft palm. Most children stare at my hand, a bit confused about its intentions.

After some prodding by mom or dad, the weary child's hand creeps out and briefly comes in contact with mine. Sometimes I feel like saying, Hey kid. I think it's kinda weird, too.

I'm just trying to prepare the business world for a new mover and shaker - one hand at a time.


liz said...

hahaha, i love shaking hands and do it whenever possible, even in very casual social situations. i just think it is a nice way to acknowledge someone new (rather than just a "hi" or something) and it seems to make people feel more comfortable even if they are a little weirded out at first. i also feel a firm handshake is best regardless of the gender or age of anyone shaking. yay handshakes!

WestEnder said...

My new policy is to never shake hands with women. Women are dirty. It's all explained here.

A new study found that women have a greater variety of bacteria on their hands than men do.

The best line:

Asked if guys should worry about holding hands with girls, Knight said: "I guess it depends on which girl."

Denae said...

I perfer to just grab the person and even though I'm not Italian..start kissing away cheek to cheek until they push me off and leave. Works especially well in job interviews.

5chw4r7z said...

I am Italian, when younger at grandma's it would take an hour to hug my way through all the aunts and cousins to the door.

I've noticed more women shaking hands lately, I like it when they stick their hands out, but I'm old skool and it seems weird for me to initiate it.