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Handshake Fri, Feb 23, 2007
The handshake is a peculiar institution.  Whether used as a first-time introduction or an every-time greeting, the handshake is essentially a quick hand-strength comparison disguised as a social formality.  When I was in 6th grade, all the students were rehearsing the graduation ceremony where we had to walk across the stage, receive a certificate, and shake some guy's hand.  After the rehearsal, the hand-shaking guy stood up and said to the entire class, "Where's [some kid; not me]?  Please stand up.  This kid was the only kid who gave me a firm handshake.  Let's all marvel at his greatness and bow down in the presence of his wonderment."  It might not have gone quite like that, but it served as my first lesson that the handshake is a serious matter of business. 

In the handshake process, a small mental battle ensues.  Each handshaker must squeeze with the proper amount of force, but not so much that it's obvious one person is trying to overpower the other.  Each person thinks, "I hope my hand isn't wet or slimy" (Or for me, "I hope my hand isn't dry and sandpapery").  The handshake must last no more than 5 seconds, after which point "things get weird".  When shaking the hand of a person of younger or weaker background, special care must be taken not to crush or maim.  When shaking the hand of a taller and/or stronger person, one must give a stronger, heartier handshake.  The biggest fear of any handshaker is to have one's hand grasped in an abnormal way, such that it would make one appear to have "tiny girl hands" and a weak grip.  Constant attention must be payed to the other person's hand motions in the event that the handshake turns into a Soul Brother Handshake (I'm not making this up). 

What's weird is that I think we (or maybe just me) tend to assess people based on their handshake.  A weak grip implies either weakness (obviously) or a foreign person (some foreign people tend to not understand the handshake custom; nothing wrong with that).  A small hand implies weakness and girl-like features.  An overly firm handshake implies compensation for shortcomings.  A wet hand implies nervousness and deceitfulness.  A bear paw handshake that comes close to breaking your bones implies impressive strength and power.  A dry, rough hand implies strength and ruggedness (I said implies). #psychology


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