Thursday, January 25, 2007

Man Touching

Ha! Provocative title, yes? As I do most mornings I was skimming the newspaper and came across a story about the delicate ritual of Man Touching. Not in a porno kind of way, no - in a "how a guy greets another guy" kind of way. Apparently this is a well-honed ritual with many layers of complexity. Who knew?

It seems that the manner in which men greet each other speaks volumes. Take note of this, ladies, the next time you are with a guy and run into someone he knows. At the outset there is the head-nod. Whether the guy nods in an upward motion means something different than if they nod downward. Something about familiarity and sending a guy-signal of potentially being open to a conversation. A down nod is just a mere acknowledgement whereas an up nod is more of an unspoken greeting.

When things move on to the touching part, there are several different styles of handshakes. There is the traditional Ward Cleaver Shake, which is formal and professional, and can be used with people you don't know. The firmer the better (this goes for ladies, too. I can't STAND shaking a woman's hand and having her handshake be all weak and soft. Not a shake at all, more like grasping a limp noodle. And who likes that?)

Another alternative is the Fist Bump.
This is an informal greeting which can also be used with people you don't know too well or if you're rushed for time. Think Howie Mandel.

The 70's Soul Shake is trickier. The author of the article points out that white guys aren't really allowed to do it. This shake is apparently restricted to black guys who are friends. Now you know.

The Fist Pound is a derivative of the High Five, only with vertical fists. This greeting, it seems, is used between guys who know each other a bit better than Fist Bumpers. But it's fraught with danger because there can be some confusion in the early execution of this shake. The other guys fist comes out and you're left to wonder, momentarily, whether it's the Pound or the Bump. And then you wonder whose fist goes up first and all the Male Dominance implications therein. Tricky.

Beyond handshakes you begin to dip your toe into full-on Man Touching: hugs. There are two, as described in this article: the Pull Half-Hug is seen frequently amng men who are pretty close friends. The guy will pull his counterpart in for a half-hug shoulder bump with the option of the two-pat on your friend's back, only to retreat quickly before things get out of hand. Apparently, two firm pats are required to convey that aren't attracted to your counterpart. Watch guys do this- they all seem to know about the two-pat rule. It's spooky.

The Full Man Hug is reserved for only the closest of friends and relatives. Guys are instructed to make their intentions known early by spreading their arms wide so you're not left hanging. Also? Guys are implored to make it obvious as to which side their head is going toward or tragic things may happen, like face touching.

This article was humorous and light and informative. But it got me thinking about the different ways people communicate, especially men and women. We all know women are more expressive, blah blah blah. But think for a moment about how you greet or say good-bye to your friends. Your family. People you just met. Are you a hugger? Do you touch in any way? Do you shake hands? What forms of Touching are you most comfortable with?

I find that I'm not a hugger by default. I don't hug everyone (I think my aunts scarred me by hugging me whenever they saw me, which wasn't often, and it just felt very strange and uncomfortable to be expected to hug and kiss someone I barely knew). It's sort of reserved for my inner circle, and can depend a lot on the circumstances. But I also find that I appreciate it when someone initiates a hug with me. And, I'm more likely to hug in a good-bye situation than a greeting. For example, if a bunch of my friends are getting together, I usually don't hug because then I'd feel like I should hug everyone present - to be fair, I guess. But if I'm just getting together with one friend, then I'm more likely to hug them. Is that strange? I hug in a greeting if I'm reconnecting with someone I don't often see - like a friend who lives in another state and seeing each other is intentional and a big deal. Then I hug. It must have something to do with travelling a distance, because I don't routinely hug my sisters when I see them, but I find I DO hug my one sister who lives in another state. I don't see her as often so therefore I feel it appropriate to hug her. This doesn't seem to be making much logical sense....

And just like with a handshake (make it FIRM, for the love of all that is holy!), a wussy hug can feel very forced and faked whereas a tighter hug feels more genuine. Also, do you hug with one arm or two? With friends, I'm more of a one-arm hugger. It's more casual. You can still front-hug someone with one arm - it's not necessarily a side hug, although it could be. But to make the hug more serious, I use two arms. Like when I hug Mr. Chick good-bye in the mornings. I wrap both arms around him and give him a squeeze.

So how do YOU touch? (platonically people, please!) Are you a hugger? Are you a shaker? Do you abhor social touching of any kind? Do you greet with kisses? Have you noticed the men in your life demonstrate any of the Man Touching options discussed above? Do women have the same sort of social code when it comes to social touching? I might need some education - enlighten me.

I am not a hugger persay. Living in the South, one has to adopt the culture and that WAS hugging. I got over it and used to it.

I HATE the limpy handshakes that many women do too! It irks me to a new level.

Here in NY, I may hug a CLOSE friend and usually shake hands with people I am meeting for the first time. Head nod? Not me. My husband? I think so! I will have to watch. :)
There is nothing worse than a man with a limp handshake. Always makes me wonder what else is limp.

In general, I'm a hugger with people I know, although I'm uncomfortable with kissing.
NO doubt re the kissers.The people who kiss you full on the lips when they are nothing more than cocktail party aquaintences? So gross. and incredibly uncomfortable. There is this one husband of a friend who does it to all of us. Not cool...
And limp handshakes, worse. Makes me want to shake THEM.
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