Monday, April 19, 2010


Having recently sprained the little finger on my right hand, I’ve been compelled to give a lot of thought to handshakes. Especially since some well-intentioned gentlemen have caused me some pain in the process.

Oh, not the kind of pain that makes me physically grimace and wince and squeal like a little girl (because that would not be manly), but the kind of pain that makes me mentally grimace and wince and squeal like a little girl (because in space, at least the space in my head, no one can hear you scream.)

In my life, I’ve shaken literally thousands of hands. From the dirty yet appreciative handshake of the beggar I brought to McDonald’s for a hot lunch and cold drink, to the clean and manicured handshake of a multi-millionaire who invited me into his lakeside mansion for cold-cuts and hot tea. From the weak to the strong, from the literally insane to the genius inane, from the powerless man on the streets to the most powerful man in the United States (the President), I’ve experienced dozens of different kinds of handshakes, including some that aren’t really handshakes.

I like to think that I have the best kind of handshake, an “old school” gentleman’s handshake. Neither particularly memorable nor offensive, it is a simple yet appropriately firm grasp of the hand.

But where on that handshake spectrum, do you think yours is and how many have you cringed at? Consider some of the possibilities:

The Bone Crusher. The Air Brusher. The Cold Fish. The Wet Fish. The Limp. The Bump. The Two-Finger. The Two-Hander. The Grasp-Bump-and-Pat (starts with a hand shake, then you pull each other forward and bump chests while patting each other on the back). The Come-Here-You (no handshake, just a hug – whether you want one or not). The What-Was-That. And my favorite handshake I love to hate – The WTF (where it sometimes starts with a handshake and then progresses to fist bumps and jazz fingers and air waves and arm-thingies and twists and turns and, you get it – WTF?).

And for the women who think I’m being sexist when I use the term “gentleman’s handshake.” Please. My wife and I have raised three strong, independent and successful daughters. Sometimes I call them my girls. And sometimes I call them my guys. For me it’s rather non-gender-specific. So in this instance, a “gentleman’s” handshake is not gender-specific or restrictive. I’m just not so politically correct that I find it necessary to refer to it as a “gentlewoman’s” handshake or a Ma'amShake or some other such silly reference.

Man or woman, when it comes to a handshake, all I really want to know is three things:

Do you believe in yourself?

Are you confident in your abilities?

Do you have a weapon in your hand?

If your answers are yes, yes and no, respectively, then give me a handshake that conveys that and forget all the other crap.

And if you grasp my hand and you notice a muffled scream emanating from the back of my head, don’t worry about it. That’s just my little finger being re-sprained.

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