Art by the author
Once upon a time, we shook hands like we were running for office. See a familiar face at the coffee shop? Shake. Introduced to a new person, freshly come to town? Shake. Make a deal? Shake on it. The simple joy of human touch through fingers and palms firmly linked was ours to savor. Remember those days?
Now, of course, we know we’ll never again clasp extremities so freely. Our introductions will assume a more formal convention, and we’ll never know for sure upon meeting someone that they’re not holding a dagger, ready to strike. While it is lamentable that this venerated form of greeting joins the payphone and the compact disc in complete irrelevance, we must recognize the benefits of maintaining manual distancing.
Most relevantly, the risk of viral infection will be minimized. Hands are notoriously filthy. You wipe your ass with those fingers! Don’t worry, you know I do too. However, there are benefits beyond simple hygiene that will be reaped from elimination of the handshake.
Douchebags won’t get the chance to surreptitiously squeeze your hand in an attempt to demonstrate their superior strength. We’ve all had to deal with That Guy, the one who is so blisteringly insecure that he has to satisfy his need to be the alpha male in the room by crushing the hand of anyone he finds potentially threatening. Now he’ll have to rely upon his wit and charm to show his primacy, and since he commands neither, can be dismissed by the rest of us out of — well, out of hand.
Of course it’s a shame that the good, firm handshake that once felt so affirming between two respectful people must go extinct as well, but so must the flaccid “limp fish” handshake that was typically a red flag for general creeps and child predators.
And you could usually tell if someone was a good person by whether or not they looked you in the eye while shaking. A stranger with nothing to hide made eye contact when pumping hands; sour misanthropes looked askance when they deigned to shake the hand of a perceived lesser. We will just have to compulsively judge a person’s character by other, more creative means from now on.
And lo! how we will mourn the loss of the laboriously fancy handshakes — the ritualized hand jive of the intimately friendly; the practiced routine of the dap and finger snap; the humble high five, in all its iterations. Goodbye fair salutations, goodbye!
Elbow bumps will never replace the glory of the handclasp. Perhaps one day a new fist-bump will evolve to take its place, but don’t count on it. Some institutions were never meant to last forever, and this old habit now falls on the infectious sword of modernity.
Alas, fair handshake, begone! We will miss you sorely. I once loved gripping another’s grip in my grip, but I’m not willing to die for it.
And don’t even speak to me about hugs.