Handshake? Or, no…

| Staff Columnist

Last Friday, I found myself entangled in a rousing game of Taboo, lightning-round, tiebreaker style. My team was up and my friend jokingly gave the clue to me, “It’s like our fist pound, but what white people do!” I said a handshake, but no. It turns out it was a high five, but my team still wound up winning, which was accompanied by several confusing instances of fist-pound-high-five-bro-hug-secret-handshake ambivalence.

I realized in that moment that I am an extremely awkward person.

Granted, it’s not always easy to interpret the signs given by your friends/bros/what have you, even among the best of friends. But there’s still something to be said about my complete inability to know what kind of shake to do when. If I had more experience, I would probably compile a list of certain instances when whichever salutation/congratulation is available, but judging from my situation on Friday, I obviously do not have that kind of knowledge or experience, which is quite a shame, really.

I know I’ve mastered a couple, though, even if it’s only with a small group of people. For example, when I greet my friends at church, it is always with our secret handshake that they taught me a couple months ago (I felt so cool learning it). Yes, it’s very dorky and very “Boy Meets World,” but I know for a fact that it is how we greet each other, which makes me feel slightly less awkward.

But my inexperience continues to show itself in many greetings. While I have realized that in most business or introduction situations, the general manner of greeting is a handshake, I have found that that is not always the case, so I wind up going in for one when this new person wants, hey, a hug!

I have nothing against the introductory hug, but I find that I usually only go in for one when one is not solicited and wait too long to go in for one when it is warranted. This whole greeting thing just goes to exaggerate my awkwardness, which can also be found in my inability to engage in small talk, my frequent tripping when there is nothing on the ground, and my tendency to, at times, only wear one sock around my dorm room. And, furthermore, how awkward is it to write an entire column about a person’s awkwardness?

What I really want to say in this, though, is not that I absolutely fail at knowing which kind of handshake to do when, but rather that I am an awkward person at a school filled with awkward people, and it is amazing. In my short amount of time here, I have encountered so many wonderfully hilarious incidents and people, which leads me to believe that everyone is a bit awkward. I mean, really, because at how many other places around the country do all the students, even the ones who party on the weekends until they pass out, hole themselves up in their rooms and do homework all night the night before studying for orgo? We have such a hilarious system filled with nerds who are cool but aren’t but are, in spite of their awkwardness.

This wonderfully mundane revelation makes me too happy because I know that even though I do have a copy of “Pokémon Blue” sitting in my desk here and a mild fear of ovens, I am not alone. I know that when I have some intention of greeting someone with whatever derivative of a handshake that I choose, they do not always pick up on my signals, and that’s OK. Because none of us really knows what we’re doing, but we’ll find out after a couple of tries and some not necessarily desired hugs.

Gabe is a freshman in Arts & Sciences. He can be reached via e-mail at gcralley@wustl.edu.