You’d never know it, but I spent a good twenty minutes changing the title of this blog post. It began life as “why can’t girls high five/low-five?” But then I realised that this was sexism at its best — or worst — and would no doubt lead to me having to explain myself to numerous girls, for very good reason. I then changed it to “are girls capable of high-fiving/low-fiving as well as men?” and quickly decided against that as well, because clearly they are. After a hard week’s freelance writing about how to survive a hurricane, not to mention the best kind of thrush treatment — yes, it’s varied — did I really need a gaggle of emails arguing the case for great women high-fivers? No, I did not; but if anyone wants to put me right on great women high-fivers then please, be my guest. (And don’t read anything into my usage of gaggle. I am not saying female high-fivers resemble geese in any way.) Finally, I settled on what you see now, but even that doesn’t feel quite right; who knows, there may well be a ladies high-five/low-five club out there entirely devoted to this excellent ritual.
I’d be lying if I said I could recall when I started high and low-fiving, or how my first attempts felt. My first experience with the fives may have been at the same time as Saved By The Bell and Sweet Valley High were regular fixtures in my high-octane hormonal life, or it may have been later, when I decided on switching from mountain bikes — if you can call the poor excuse of a bike I rode a mountain bike — to BMX. A session spent riding BMX was never without a damn good high/low-five. And for good reason: we frequently got freakishly radical. To the point that sometimes, if you did a trick too well, you feared what would happen if you put your hand out and let someone slap it.
Now, let’s look at this a bit more closely: what makes up a good high-five/low-five? And what makes for a sub-standard one which should have those involved feeling utterly ashamed to have hands at all? This list is by far not definitive — I think all high-five/low-five lovers will agree that it’d take weeks to completely cover every important aspect — but I’d say it is accurate and a good generalisation nonetheless.
1) A good approach: a quality high or low-five begins well before the physical act itself. Like most things, it’s all about the preparation. Both the fives are almost always second to a good joke or laugh, and everyone knows a high or low-five only takes place when…
2) …something of significance has been achieved, or two people are greeting for the first time in a while. There is no law I am aware of over how significant the thing achieved must be, but back in my BMX days it was a trick supremely well-done or something which someone did that you didn’t expect. Equally, I’m not aware of any strict criteria regarding how long a time must exist between two people seeing one another and high or low-fiving again being OK. It’s a crazy world. I have seen two men low-five after only seeing each other the day before.
3) A good high or low-five MUST be accompanied by a loud slapping sound. In a stellar lo-five, this sound is created by the downward hand making full contact — the entire surface area of the hands meeting perfectly at the same time, kind of like a sonic-boom (note: it’s nothing to do with a sonic-boom. Without googling it, I couldn’t even tell you what one is, but I did think it sounded good).
4) As stated previously, a sub-standard high-five/low-five will almost always be the result of poor preparation. But like all things, there are many more factors which I don’t have time to go into here, such as in a low-five: a) speed of downward hand, b) lack of concentration, c) the person receiving the low-five bottling out and dropping their hand away as the other hand slaps down and d) the culmination of two people low-fiving while distracted and not putting 100% effort in. Shameful.
5) In the case of the high-five, to complete the cycle properly, once you have done someone, they must do you.
After reading all that, it might seem, now, that I consider myself the law of the urban jungle when it comes to all this. What right do I have, some might say, perhaps likening this blog post to the writings of a high-five-low-five-obsessed-dictator, to tell the entire world how it should be done? Well, the answer is I have done many, many high-fives, and a good deal of sensational low-fives too. And like anyone who has done much of something — be it parenting children, making cakes or cooking the best in crispy bacon — I feel the need to say these things, so as to try and do my bit to make the world go round a bit better. If that makes me a dangerous force in the world of high-five/low-five politics, then so be it.
And now we move onto the subject of girls and their place in all this, and why, sometimes, it just doesn’t feel right when you witness them performing these prestigious moves. Here are the conclusions I have come to, and I wish to let it be known right here and right now that I certainly don’t believe women can’t high-five well. It’s just that I have seen a few girls who have really ruined this beloved art. That’s all there is to it.
1) Girls, women, females, and some men too, the worst high-five/low-five offenders all have one specific thing in common: straight after doing a high-five which should never have been let out in the open — limp-wristed, without the merest hint of a slapping sound, and with the speed all wrong on both parts — they follow it up with a girly hug. And the horror does not end there, there is usually also giggling, too, which really tips me over the edge. To my mind, this kind of behaviour is as inappropriate as two men getting into a brutal bar fight and then telling one another “ah, but I love you really.”
2) It isn’t really the girls’ fault: in many cases they came to high-fiving much later than men did, and so it’s bound to show in their general lack of technique and less than serious attitude.
3) By its very nature, some might say — and I think I would have Nietzsche on my side here, if he’d been born later, and hadn’t succumbed to Syphilis and died well before our time — it’s a very male pursuit. The act of slapping one another’s hands is, on the surface, daft, yet I and millions more men believe that it holds a great existential significance which cannot be underestimated. The fact that we are clueless to what that is is irrelevant.
4) Girls don’t always follow up a high-five with the other person instigating a return high-five, or low-five. This is a bit like asking someone how their day has been, only for them to turn around and moon you after having not properly wiped their bottom (and they had diarrhea…). No, there are no strict rules which say a high-five must be returned, but if you don’t, as far as I’m concerned, you’re doing it all wrong.
5) Because the women in question haven’t been high-fiving as long as men, they lack the ability to know when they should high-five, which leads them to talking about it. “Should we high-five?” I have heard one particularly awful offending pair of women say. I have never seen two men ask each other if they should high-five. The men simply know through intuition that it is the right time, and with that it is done.
Ah, high-fiving: such a beautiful phenomenon. The best extreme high-fivers out there take it to the next level, combining power, sound and style with mesmerizing results. Boy or girl, man or woman, I tell you what: I do salute you.
NOTE: I seriously don’t know more than about three girls who can do a killer high/low-five. If you are one and want to speak out and put us men in our place, here is your chance!