I’m not sure who sat back one day and said to him or herself “Say, I know what a great way of greeting people would be…I’ll take their hand in mine and move it up and down firmly when we first meet!” but it certainly did the trick (and I for one am glad that they weren’t inebriated or high at the time, otherwise we might have been doing things like politely cupping each others testicles for the rest of all-time – not something you’d ever want to do. Especially if you’re meeting someone who’s just run The London Marathon…anyway, let us swiftly move on). Ever since that fateful day in whenever-the-hell-it-was, arms and hands have been moving up and down across the world, and people have felt a particular satisfaction with meeting one another, which surely must have made greeting dastardly mother-in-laws much easier than it otherwise might have been. It may be one of the less interesting greeting gestures around – I think you’ll agree it’s not a patch on the dramatic greetings of the Wolof, from the Gambia Senegal, who love nothing more than to spit in each others faces with sheer exquisite glee – but it’s definitely a lot safer than catching AIDS. And that’s not a joke. Thanks to many lesser-known ethnic groups both greeting with spitting and also rubbing saliva into manky old wounds, AIDS has been known — according to my limited research — to spread like wild-fire, along with a number of other nasty diseases such as Tonsilitis, Swine Flu and many more than I have time to name-check here. Again, that’s not a vicious rumour, or me singling anyone out for the sake of it — the sad fact is that ancient customs have been known to kill people.
(Note: Those who are feeling even more adventurous may wish to hire an elderly woman to spit in the face of an infant once it is born, as is also a particularly loved past-time for the Wolof of West Africa. But Cpink wouldn’t advise it, and if you do decide to hire her, make sure that that she’s fit enough she can run away at speed. Preferably without shattering her hip.)
And shaking hands really isn’t hard. In the western world, and providing you don’t wander into some odd part of say, Hull or Bedford, you meet someone, put your hand out, and instinct and natural conditioning takes care of the rest (hopefully without one of you being either limp-wristed or overly aggressive). It’s simple, no fuss, easy-to-do greeting stuff which even the thickest of people have managed to learn to perfection. You’d really think It can’t go wrong.
But then again, don’t forget this is human beings we are talking about…we’re ingenious at taking something brilliant like the world and completely screwing it up.
Why, then, do some people deliberately, or so it would seem, opt out of what is really a non-opt-outable part of every-day culture? And nobody email me to say that not shaking hands is the right of an individual. If you feel like that, why don’t you dig a hole in the ground or start wearing a sign on your chest which says I DON’T AGREE WITH SHAKING HANDS, SORRY? That would at least make it fair, so that everyone knows where they stand.
There are exceptions, of course. Some of which are as follows:
1) You have just done a massive great slimy poo. Oh, it’s hideous. It’s come out of some slippery sixth dimension and is not fit for this world. And you have not washed your hands, you filthy muck-hound you! Whether that’s because the taps weren’t working or you did such a big poo that it quite literally made you forget your good senses, it’s irrelevant: shaking someone’s hand in this scenario is not a good idea, and if you do it you should be ashamed! The only problem with that being that muck-hounds aren’t generally ashamed. Really, they ought to be locked up.
2) For whatever reason, you really hate the person you are meeting (they had an affair with your girlfriend or they once broke your pelvis in five places when they drove a shopping trolley into you at the supermarket, the worst part being that it wasn’t even half full, for example). What better way to demonstrate this hatred with perfect clarity than to make them feel exceedingly awkward by not shaking hands? Excellent.
3) You don’t own a right hand, or right arm. As in they are not attached to your body, rather than you forgot to buy one last time you went to The Arm & Hand Shop. In this case, only the cruellest other person would put their right hand out and you would be absolutely within your rights to punch them in the face if they did so.
Otherwise, shake the damn hand, please. It’s really not that hard. Let’s try and keep it simple!