When high fives go awry: A meditation
For my column this week I was inspired by Jordan's story on National High Five Day.
Unbeknownst to many, it was recently National High Five Day. It was a quiet holiday that slipped beneath the radar of most news people, but I know a hot story when I see one.
As it explains on nationalhighfiveday.com, the third Thursday of April is a holiday reserved for liberal high-fiving between strangers.
This means your favourite jolly bus driver who announces the stops every day with admirable enthusiasm can suddenly be high-fived without ridicule or embarrassment. Clearly, it's an awesome holiday.
You'd think such a joyous opportunity for human fellowship would go off without a hitch, but you'd be wrong. The Chicago Tribune recently reported that Benny the Bull, the Chicago Bulls' mascot, is being sued for a high five that went horribly wrong.
An Illinois oral surgeon was none too pleased when he allegedly had his arm hyper-extended and his bicep muscle ruptured by an overzealous high five from Benny.
The article makes no mention of National High Five Day, but it's easy to connect the dots. An entire day of vigorous open-fisted salutation clearly had trained Benny's high-fiving arm beyond the strength of normal usage. The oral surgeon was the unwitting victim.
The lesson to be learned here, of course, is moderation. Even the seemingly innocuous high five has its risks. It is this threat of danger that makes me wary of high-fiving on an everyday basis. It's not my go-to greeting.
I'm more a fan of the no-touch wave from afar. It's non-invasive, friendly, and can be quite warm when coupled with a winning smile. Plus it avoids unnecessary touching, which can be important in situations where the greeted is of questionable hygiene.
I've never liked the manly handshake. It just feels weird to me, especially among young people my age. The truly masculine don't need to advertise virility with a bone-shattering grip. People know one way or the other, guys, don't worry.
Where greetings become most tricky, I think, is when they cross gender lines. Some women expect hugs, others think you're a weirdo for even thinking about it. The safest bet is to go in with arms slightly open and a keen eye for body language.
It's essentially the triple-threat position of welcoming--and can be turned into a hug, handshake, or chest bump, whichever the situation calls for.
In Quebec, they have it really tough -- add cheek kissing into the mix and you're screwed. I don't even want to think about it.
Perhaps the most meaningful gesture, for a guy anyway, is the inter-male embrace. I'm talking the heartfelt kind, not the make a fist and tap the guy's back variety. It takes a lot of awkward male heart-to-hearts to get to that stage, but it's worth it. The male hug is when you know you've truly made it as a friendship. Just be careful not to crack any backs.