Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Not Shaking Hands----A Musician's Quest to Avoid Stress

     There are so many social norms that make our lives pleasant and courteous.  Holding the door for someone right behind us, slowing down to let another driver enter the lane, murmuring a "bless you" when someone sneezes, and any number of other acts of kindness and compassion.

     But I shrink from the custom of hand-shaking.  I have become a "non-shaker".  Is it just me?.  When did we (at least in the "western world") all come to buy into the automatic clasping, grasping, clamping, thrusting, squeezing ritual of hand-shaking as a requisite act of politeness?  And why?

      I'm considering evasive techniques to get beyond this custom and, hopefully, to practice other ways to greet each other. . The challenge is to deflect the offered hand with gentle, even apologetic directness:  "I have a tender hand" (holding my right hand protectively away), "I just put on lotion",  "Oh, let's just hug!"   So far, none of these work.  Responses have been "Well, let's shake the Other hand!"; "That's ok!"; and "Oh!  OK!! (hug)"  The majority of us seems to have become so ingrained with the expectation of this social hand-shake requirement, and adamant to complete it, that those of us who balk risk coming across as downright rude.  But with good reason!

     Consider the obvious concern about hygiene. For instance, recently a respected colleague I met  automatically put her hand out, and we shook---and then she told me how sick she was and probably shouldn't have come in to work.   Really?  Eeep.

     But what does this have to do with the music world-----my theme for this blog?  Well, in addition to making reasonable attempts to keep my own hands clean and to stay healthy, there's the interesting phenomenon of "giving a good, firm handshake" which some people---who are otherwise kind and perfectly wonderful----take very seriously.  Have you ever had your hand squeezed too hard?  Painfully? Throbbing long after the "friendly shake"?  I have. Many times.  And I know that for some, this is a matter of pride, a mark of authority and power, a game they play.  No thanks;  for me, it's a matter of avoiding pain, and to not risk being hurt by shaking hands.

     I choose to play instruments, to use my hands for making music and for the countless ways hands express kindness and beauty.  The images below show other ways, respectful and lovely ways, to greet each other:                                                                                       
Please let me know what you think?  How you avoid getting a hurt hand?  Any insights or suggestions?


  1. This could be a Seinfeld episode. "She doesn't shake. She's a non-shaker, Jerry!"

    1. So true! And I can so relate!! Thanks for the comment :D

  2. Reach past their hand and rest your hand on their forearm, gently gripping it for a moment. Preface it with, "As a musician, I shake hands this way! Wonderful to meet you!" They'll probably reciprocate.

    1. I have tried this version of the "shake", but I will try adding the "As a musician....." comment along with it. Thanks!