As an avid sports fan [insert prolonged sarcastic cough here], I was gripped by the recent news that an English soccerball player got told off for refusing to shake another soccerball player’s hand. Apparently he didn’t like the colour of his socks. No, wait, it was his shirt, he didn’t like the colour of his shirt. Whatever. The point being that hands were not shaken in the middle of a field and as a nation af shakey-hand greeters, England was rather miffed.
Now, while I definitely don’t condone the discrimination of anyone based on the colour of their socks, I have to say that I’m all in favour of giving handshakes a miss. They may well be the unspoken greeting of gentry and look marvellous in photos when accompanied by big cheques and politicians but they are utterly, utterly repugnant.
Think back to the last handshake you were forced to engage in, I say “forced” because let’s face it, clasping hands with a stranger doesn’t come naturally, does it? Tell me this, was it enjoyable? Did you want to carry on shaking that hand for the rest of the day? No, you didn’t. It was probably something you wanted to be done with as fast as possible and never speak of again, like the dash from the changing rooms to the swimming pool that time you forgot to wax. It was either bone crushingly painful, suspiciously feeble, like being handed a dead turbot. At worst it was suspiciously post-bathroom moist, at best it was almost definitely clammier than a soccerball player’s jockstrap.
If you’re not worrying about how best to strap up the broken fingers on your own hand without openly crying in the face of your overbearing assailant, you have to worry about the etiquette and hidden meaning of your own grip. Too firm and you come off as a ball-busting megalomaniac who uses orphans for target practice, too weak and everyone will know you cry yourself to sleep at night because you just can’t open that jar of peanut butter that’s been sat in the cupboard since 1984 and that your mother still sews name tags into your undercrackers.
Then there’s the whole issue of going top or bottom. No-one ever wants to be top or bottom but sometimes you’re forced into it. I’m still talking about handshakes for those sniggering in the back row! There have been whole books written about whether you go top or bottom; top means you’re an aggressively overbearing git and bottom means you have the spinal fortitude of a jellyfish – I’m paraphrasing here but you get the point. Shaking hands can be a sociological minefield of judgement and it makes me wonder why the masons bothered to complicate things with their elaborate secret versions. The standard version is bad enough!
Studies have found that the average human hand has 17 different types of urine on it. No wait, that was peanuts in bars, anyway, the human hand is pretty disgusting, don’t try and tell me it’s not because I’ve seen where mine goes and I take the London Underground to work so I’ve also seen where a lot of people like to shove theirs too. No matter how you tart up your digits with fancy nail polish and flashy rings, those things at the end of your wrists are basically bottom wiping, bogey picking, armpit scratching, sweat mopping, bellybutton fiddling harbingers of grime. No matter how clean you think you are, the person who borrowed your pen for a moment may have just played solo pocket billiards and they almost definitely didn’t use anti-bac gel afterwards.
What I’m trying to say is that when you kindly offer me your hand in a gesture of mutual goodwill, what I actually see coming towards me is a slightly moist, used tissue and the last thing I want to do is hold it while we get our formalities out the way.
Imagine walking up to a stranger in the street and licking their face? That’s about as hygienic as handshaking but for some reason it hasn’t quite caught on in the same way (unless you spend a lot of time in Camden). Maybe it’s because too many people complained about smudged make-up and garlic breath. How about bottom sniffing? That seems to work for dogs and as there’s no actual physical contact involved, waaaaay more sanitary than holding hands and it could prove to be an excellent ice breaker in tense business situations. “Ah, I see you had chicken fajitas for dinner. Did I tell you I have family from Mexico? Let’s do business!” Not convinced by that one either, huh?
Ok, there must be a suitable alternative to shaking hands besides face licking and bottom sniffing. What are we really trying to achieve with the handshake? We’re trying to get physically close to someone and show we have no weapon in our hands. We’re trying to put them at ease and show that we are on an even social and cultural playing field . Hmmm, GOT IT! The next time any one of you meets me in the street and need a physical action to accompany your already perfectly adequate words of “hello, how are you? You look stupendously gorgeous today as ever, you ravishing minx, you”, show me your very best jazz hands! I really think this could work. Imagine how much more entertaining the soccerball matches will be when the teams give each other the ol’ spirit fingers?!