I just shook the hands of a product manager (fancy name for ‘salesgirl’) from an Orthodontic supplies company. It was as awkward as a handshake can get. I don’t know who invented the handshake but he must have been a really lonely person just wanting to hold someone’s hand. “Can’t hold strangers’ hands? Let’s turn this into an etiquette-related thing!”
Initiating a handshake is the toughest part. You hold out your hand hoping that the other person will notice it in time and grab hold of it before it turns into a miserable plea. Sometimes your hand is caught, sometimes it is too late. When it is too late, you begin to simper and the other person notices it and then he holds it like one holds a runner about to faint after a sprint.
Smiling at strangers is less awkward I admit. You just stretch your lips and feign happiness. It is like everyday living. I wonder what would have been the scenario if all this etiquette was more naturally evolved. I guess, we’d have been made to raise our eyebrows and widen our pupils upon arrival of an unexpected guest as opposed to smiling. The handshake would have been replaced by a hand gesture implying appalment on his arrival. ‘How do you do?’ which is a nonsensical salutation in so many ways, would be replaced by ‘Who the F are you? Young kids would be taught to follow their natural impulse on seeing strangers. They’d have grown up into dentists who would have acted all surprised whenever someone entered their clinics without an appointment.
The friendliness etiquette is not that bad though. Of course our natural instincts need to be suppressed because we have already deleted the natural world from the recycle bin. Civilization has made many things possible and it would be unfair to even argue for the case of a more disorderly world.
If anything, we should shake more hands and smile more. It is an uphill task and requires a lot of commitment. I bet if it was left to you, you’d only make friends with people you like and weeded out the rest from your life. But, 26 years of my life have taught me that we cannot weed out people. We must shake hands.