When I was younger, I made fun of the elders who made statements of how life used to be. They might say something to the effect of “when I was your age” or “back in my day” or even “when I was a kid.” Now I am more mature and find myself making those same comments quite frequently. So if you are an older person, you can laugh at this essay, and if you are a younger individual, you can roll your eyes just as I did back in my day.
I was taught as a young boy the importance and value of a good handshake. A handshake holds significance because it is a person’s word, they said. My instructors told me to have a firm but not crushing grasp while making direct eye contact and smiling appropriately. These mentors reminded me how a pleasant expression and smile comes across and translates into integrity. The unwritten consensus told me a proper handshake is at least one up and down movement of the clasped hands. Sadly, an individual’s handshake does not have the same meaning of trust and honesty it once had.
As I have become older, I have seen the handshake significance seriously slip in society. I am disappointingly aware its importance has been lost, and the meaning has been debased and devalued. In most cases, a simple fist bump or even a basic head nod has disturbingly replaced the handshake. NOTE: I understand the necessity of the fist bump during cold and flu season. I am not a insensitive.
When I meet someone the first time, I reach out with an outstretched hand to signify the proper etiquette of a bygone era. Individuals who do not know me many times have given me the fingertip handshake. This practice annoyed me a little in the beginning because of my feelings towards proper protocol procedures. I soon realized people who do not know me fear the unknown and think I might share my illness like passing poison ivy. These individuals do not know what they do not know, and it feels like they fear a handshake with my wheeled brethren and me.
A friend recently introduced me to someone, and I felt it did not go as a first handshake should go. She took my outstretched hand quickly did a half shake in the downward motion, eagerly wanting to let it go. It felt as if it turned into a cross between a half handshake and a let go, man, I do not want to catch your cooties! Did she honestly feel that way? Probably not, and now you know why I said it felt like it.
Your word is your bond, and the handshake seals the deal, I was told so many years ago. Now it seems your word and handshake no longer have trust, honesty, and faith to stand behind them. The phrase my handshake is my bond is now the punchline of a joke bringing comedy, not conviction. I do not feel this loss is limited to wheelchair users as this etiquette of yesteryear dies a slow death.
RIP: Handshake. You stood strong for so long.