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The Horror of Handshakes

Benutzer:dapete and Benutzer:Ezrimerchant shak...


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?!

About prettyfeetpoptoe

I live in London and have both my own legs so I am fortunate enough to get out and about on occasion. I form many views on the things that I see and do and love nothing better than a session of linguistic gymnastics in order to share these views.

71 responses »

  1. You know, for the first time ever, I completely agree with you. Absolutely unequivocally hate un necessary physical contact….. Except during …. You know, coitus .

    How about a quick punch to the nose as a form of greeting?

    • I think you’re having a profound effect on him Peeptoes!! Heeeheeheeehee……

      • ….for example, if I punched bird brain here on the nose when I ran into him/her , he/she’s going to have what’ll be genuine tears ( which could only be from the joy of seeing me, duh ) and he/she’s going to try super hard to smile as well….. You don’t get that sort of result from anything else these days .

        • Instead of a punch, how about just a slap to the face? Punching one in the nose causes SO much blood and quite a mess to clean up. Not to say it’s a bitch to get out of clothes.

          • tsk tsk….. So much violence. Where did all the blood come from? I was simply talking about a friendly fistbump….. To your nose…. Theoretically.

            • LOL!! Some people fistbump a tad harder than others, then it’ll be misconstrued as a sign of violence. It will end horribly. CIS will be called in, and if it’s between two nationalities, Secret Service, FBI, SIS…etc.

              Isn’t this Peeptoes blog? 🙂

              • No, no, you two carry on. This is most amusing to sit back and watch.

                • You ever been in a brawl ma’am? I once ( in all my 20 years ) got into a fistfight which started with a cone of ice cream ( I won’t try to explain ) . My other theory is that this releases tension and all sorts of pent up madness because honestly the chances of this leading to confrontations are almost garunteed….. No more unnecessary wars I’d like to think and so really, we’d be saving the planet, one broken nose at a time….

                • I aim to please!

            • what if their nose is really oily? what then? i’d rather shake hands then.

  2. This is amazing! As someone who suffers from hereditary hyperhidrosis (read: sweaty palms all the time!!!), the mere thought of shaking someones hand makes me anxious. Which, in turn, leads to sweatier palms. Maybe I’ll start wearing gloves and claim I was in a serious burn accident which left my hand unsightly and disgusting. Maybe.

  3. This is why they don’t let me see customers as I won’t go in for the handshake, I just nod.

    I had to pull out of the kissing friends on each cheek thing too, dfine if you rarely see them bt everyone started doing it when we’d see each other every other ngiht in the pub. I stopped that, it’s stupid

  4. Another alternative to shaking hands is the ‘fist bump’: Closed hands, gently touching and no fleshy paws with outstretched tentacles, oops, fingers to contaminate you but unless you’re chillin’ with the massive, perhaps not good in a business setting. In certain Mediterranean countries, face kissing is cool – even with men – but perhaps it won’t fly in Anglo-Saxon nations (although about as close to face licking as one could get). I think the Japanese have it sorted with the bow: Respect given without ANY human touch (although a recent ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ episode picked over whether a shallow bow is as genuine as a deep bow). Coming to think of it, I remember President Obama being criticised for bowing before the Japanese Emperor but not so much for ‘fist bumping’ Michelle after finishing a speech. The ‘fist bump’ it is then!

    • I’m possibly the whitest white girl out there, there’s no way I could pull off a fist bump without getting lynched by every gangsta rapper going. Also, you’ve clearly never seen someone use the back of their hand in lieu of a hanky. Still gross.

  5. Though I’m with you on handshake hygiene, I have to say I find the air kiss far more difficult to navigate. Is it one cheek or two? What about the awkward moment when the other person goes for THREE? Either I’m left with my face thrust far forward of the rest of my body or I get bashed in the beak. Do I pucker up and make a kissing sound? What if it’s too loud or the other person is a silent air kisser? Impossible. I blame the French. For everything.

  6. You’re clearly correct about the hazards of handshakes and may be onto something with the jazz hands solution. I’ll give jazz hands a trial whirl, as it were, here in the States. If you don’t hear back from me within a week or so it probably means I’ve been taken for observation “for my own good.” Wish me luck.

    (jazz hands way out of comment box)

  7. Diego Serrano

    Oh my god!
    You’re my long lost twin!
    Finally, someone with a healthy appreciation for the non-conventional greeting.
    I like the jazz hands cocnept, but am leaning toward the butt-huff should it ever become legalized in the lower 48 states. Uh..better make that 47, I think it’s alreadly legal in Arkansas.

  8. Got to say I’m in agreement with JamesW fist pounds are the way forward. After all no one wipes/holds their wee wee bits with a fist. This therefore cuts down on germ spreading. Now if we could only find a way of stopping coughing and spitting we’d be on our way to a more civilised society.

    • See above re the use of hand backs as handkerchiefs.

      With regards to spitting and coughing, these are things that should be punishable by having the person lick up their own spittle. Simple.

  9. I’m with you, I hate having to hand shake. Never really quite sure when you’re suppose to do it. Those awkward moments when you are introduced to someone. Especially for us women. I always attributed hand shakes with men.

    Only you can take a random act and make it hilarious!!

  10. John Haslett

    You get my vote for bottom sniffing.

  11. ewww about the urine!

  12. And what about those people you REALLY don’t like, or barely know, that want to HUG you (maybe this is an American thing)? eeewwwww

  13. I shook seven strangers’ hands today. Ugh. Why did I have to read this? Where is my sanitizing gel? *I* don’t even know where I’ve been.

  14. I say we all just blow our noses on each other.

  15. I don’t know if I’m willing to give up the old handshake. Granted there are times when licking monkey balls seems more enticing, but it’s all worth it for those rare sweet times the hand offered in linked to the body of a seriously attractive man.

    loved the post sweets, you’re definitly one of a kind 😉

  16. eremophila

    Surely The Royals have to take some responsibility here…..hang on, they usually have gloves on don’t they??????

    • You can’t shake a Royal any more, they’re far too fragile and don’t want to soil their white gloves. The last time someone shook the Queen’s hand, she lost two fingers. They’ve been replaced with animatronics. True story.

  17. missy amber

    The gas man went to shake my hand today after spending 2 days digging up my garden. He was a proper geezer, so I was all set to match his burly grip and was deeply disappointed when all I got was a mere pinch of his finger tips. I felt strangely unsatisfied. Not sure if he was trying to spare me from the caked-on mud and callouses, but still – poor effort. I’d have been happier with a cheeky hug, to be honest.

    On the whole, though, I’m with you. Can I save the hugs, kisses and overly familiar contact for the 2 nights a year when I let my husband within touching distance of his marital assets?

    • Ewww, finger tip pinchers freak me out. That’s the handshake of perverts.

      Two nights? Christmas and his birthday? I suppose he’s lucky he wasn’t born on the 25th December.

    • Mrs Cholmondeley Warner

      Hobnobbing with the gas man and rationing your husband! And you wonder why he’s a geek?

  18. There are more bacteria on the average hand than there are on the average penis. But we are told to wash our hands after going to the toilet. Logically we should be washing our penises!

  19. What about a nice open mouthed kiss? Too much? Not enough? A butt cup? I’m at a loss here. Fist pumps?

    I guess Jazz hands are a solid idea though.

  20. I just wave to people before they can get in a handshake. It throws them off because my hand is up so high. Seriously, it works. It also make me look slightly stupid, but it’s worth it.

    (Yes, I have now begun stalking your blog since you were Freshly Pressed.)


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