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I Really Don’t Want To Shake Your Hand

November 12, 2009

I’ve never been a big fan of the handshake.  It’s probably one of the few things Donald Trump and I have in common.   I don’t even know why people shake hands.  Some say that it originated in olden Roman times where an extended right hand was meant to show the absence of a weapon.  The whole left-handed people argument aside, do we really need to be worried about getting shanked in a job interview these days?  In my opinion, shaking hands is like many antiquated customs that may have served a purpose at one time yet is now a useless formality.

It’s not that I’m a freaky germaphobe that needs to obsessively wash my hands 50 times a day (I’m down to a very reasonable 20).   There are enough germs on things I actually have to touch like doorknobs, light switches, and remote controls that I don’t exactly need the germs from people who sneeze and cough into their hands.  Especially now, in this season of H1N1, it shocks me that people still expect a handshake.  Yet how do you politely refuse?

I have a friend who tells people that she is fighting off a cold and she doesn’t want to spread her germs.  That works for a while but I can’t see getting by with that all winter.  Or all year.  Instead I grimace and give in, embracing the offending hand with the least amount of pressure possible.  Then I bide my time until I can discreetly make it to the nearest restroom to give my hands a good scrubbing.

I’m working on coming up with a workable refusal to the handshake.  It needs to be polite, yet truthful and sustainable.  Maybe I can just cough into my own hand then wipe it on my shirt before extending it and they won’t want to shake?  Or I could wear casts on both hands.  Perhaps I could simply say, “I’m sorry and please don’t take offense, but I am eschewing any handshaking until the flu season passes.”  That would get me through the next few months at least.  And if people think I am a freak, so be it.  At least I’ll be the freak who isn’t suffering from a fever and diarrhea.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 13, 2009 4:31 am

    When I was at my old job I had to travel France to visit one of our factories.

    The machinists and technicians out on the factory floor (i.e. people with exceptionally dirty hands) would turn their hand over and offer you their wrist to shake that you wouldn’t get your hands dirty but still be able to go through the motions.

    I thought it was odd at first, but then realized how very very practical it was.

    • mjjaaska permalink*
      November 13, 2009 2:45 pm

      That is really interesting, Elliott! At least they weren’t trying to kiss you on both cheeks. I still don’t understand the need to “press the flesh” in any regard, hand-to-hand or hand-to-wrist. I am fine with patting someone on their arm and even hugging, but keep those greasy, germy hands away!

  2. November 13, 2009 4:57 am

    Like you’re friend, I too tell people I’m sick. I’m shocked when people say “that’s ok, so am I” and extend their hand!!!!! I absolutely agree with you that hand shaking has got to go.

    • mjjaaska permalink*
      November 13, 2009 2:41 pm

      You and my friend have so many things in common, G! I’m thinking your response should be, “Well, I bet you don’t have MRSA AND ebola!”

  3. November 16, 2009 6:37 pm

    If we ever meet, I won’t shake your hand. We’ll just do a chest bump.

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