- Politics and Social Issues
The Art of the Gentleman's Handshake
Did you have a father? Did he teach you the art and science of the Gentleman's Handshake?
Yep, that's right, I'm going to tackle a subject near and dear to many an old schooler. I was raised by a tough old schooler and though he died when i was only thirteen I remember many of the seemingly inane things he taught me. I admit there were some things i didn't want to hear. This is one thing i have learned that he was very right about but in another way he was very wrong. I will explain.
One thing my Dad always explained to me was that it was important when meeting another man, another gentleman most pointedly for I was always supposed to act like a gentleman, that I meet him eye to eye and shake his hand firmly. Firmly, did you hear that? Firmly.
In the past, not too distant in the past I should mention, it was a way for one man to measure another. One would shake the hand of a competitor to get a better feeling about him. The results of that handshake would often decide each man's inner feeling about what sort of man he was dealing with. From what I have gathered by poking around a bit the handshake started to lose its importance with the advent of hippies and the like of the lackadaisical. I chuckle at this honestly but as far as I can tell the hippies aren't really around anymore but the handshake still has its place in society.
Now, it is important that I disclose my personal experiences in dealing with this social practice. First let me say I do not have the biggest of hands. Not the smallest but somewhere around the middle, and my father's hands were meaty and thick but he had short fingers. Once his grip closed around something it was like stone! I have never seen another pair of hands like his, although from a child's aspect everything is amplified.
Taking with me this vital knowledge I brought my handshake forth and even practiced it with a friend. I wanted to get it right when I got that important first interview. My first job at sixteen years old was at an Acme market and I met the employer eye to eye and shook their hand. I looked a bit like a rabble rouser but the handshake had worked!
There were occasions then when i would shake someone's hand and feel this limp, sweaty palm I immediately regretted shaking. In fact, more fingers than palm. The dude's just poke their fingers in there and hope to get out alive! I had a hard time with that. Knowing however some of these individuals had lacked true guidance throughout their lives i would say something. On one occasion I even went this far, "My man, hold on a second. Listen to me, alright? When you shake hands with somebody dude, you gotta pull your balls out! Look me in the face and," At this point I am grabbing the kids wrist and forcing his hand into mine. He is struggling between angrily resisting me, knowing he will likely lose any contest of strength, and complacently humoring my uncharacteristic forwardness. It is frigging funny as hell now that I think of it. Kind of my bully moment really. What a prick!
But the point is I taught that kid how to relax and shake a man's hand. He took it well and went on living his life but with a little more social awareness! However I would like to represent this fact for those men who have grown up without manly influence in their lives. Perhaps none of mom's boyfriends stayed after breakfast long enough to bother. Who can say? In this day and age single parent homes are all too common, we all know that well enough. Therefore I would submit that in this day and age the old measures of the Gentleman's Handshake are probably a bit too harsh. With so many young kids with no masculine influence it is no wonder the art has fallen by the wayside.
At the same time I have come across some overaggressive hand-shakers with big old hands and overeager grips. These guys just plain old don't know their own strength, or size for that matter. My old boss comes to mind. He would reach out and grab my fingers and knuckles before i could get a chance to get my hand in there! He used to piss me off a little bit with that because as i have stated I understood the importance of the handshake. One day I reached out and grabbed his wrist and said, "Boss! You keep grabbing my fingers and grinding my knuckles because you don't let me get my hand in there!" I placed my hand in his and finally matched my grip against his! He was stronger. He had a grip like my father and he wasn't all that much older than myself. He had my respect but because i had explained to him what had been happening there he actually felt better about me. he explained that someone else thanked him later for allowing him to properly shake his hand! Apparently I wasn't the only one he was robbing of a good shake.
Now I know there are some of you jack-knife's out there laughing at the absurdity of this, the ladies may even do so now that i think about it, but believe me ladies the handshake is vital to the social abilities of a boy who must one day become a man. There was one occasion that I met one of these handshake blockers during an interview. He took another look at my ponytail and did not hire me. I was only twenty three or so but i was in great shape, sharp as a tack and ready to work my A off but the handshake did not work out so well.
Now that I am forty one I find myself still disappointed by the dead fish in my hand from someone I truly want to like and respect. The soft hand makes me leery, I can't even explain why. Between friends I am familiar with it is always a firm grip with smile of respect. With some I even have a certain sort of handshake that is mostly between us for some reason. We've all seen the fancy handshakes people have invented, I don't really know too many of those but i do know the Gentleman's Handshake. So should your sons and so should theirs. Don't let this art die out.
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