Saturday, September 3, 2011
I can always tell how comfortable I am with a person based on how non-awkward our greetings are. It's not just the way it looks to witnesses, but also how it feels internally as you see the person, anticipate the greeting, and then go in for it. This mainly goes for friends, peer co-workers, and the first generation Chinese relatives who aren't touchy-feely, but want to show their love to their ABC nephew and give extra-super awkward one-handed side hugs that are the lovechild of the dead fish handshake and the hover hand.
There are few things in life more awkward than a missed greeting.
For example, with best friends, not only is the greeting smooth and majestic such that it sometimes even sparks a tad bit of envy in any witnesses, but because I know the greeting is going to be super comfortable, it makes me that much more excited to greet the person. Incidentally, it also creates potential new awkward greeting situations like during the Mass at the Sign of Peace when said witnesses also then assume they'll get the same bro greeting of peace awesomeness, but I unconsciously (consciously) don't reciprocate.
However, when I see someone that to me is more than an acquaintance, but seems a stretch to call a friend, I start to over-think the situation due to my introverted, don't-rock-the-social-situation-Chinese-influenced self. It's like, you probably like the person enough to not want to pretend like you didn't see them (especially if it would be even more awkward <pause> BUT IT'S EASIER.....RUN!!), but you don't know if you should go in for a professional handshake (too stiff/serious and if he doesn't expect it, we might accidentally interlock fingers <shudder>), some kind of jive handshake variation (are we that close?), or a fist bump (but I'll need to be very clear lest it becomes this). It doesn't even really help to have a go-to game plan. Sure, sometimes you avoid some of the awkwardness if your non-verbal communication is clear, but you also risk alienating the person if it's awkwardly professional or looking like a total dork when they don't respond with the same enthusiasm. Or this happens. I usually settle for a head nod and hope we move past the feeling of lack of physical contact quickly.
So it's usually pretty great to have a set greeting with people that you know to enact. For this person, it's a one hand over the shoulder, one hand under the arm hug. For that person, it's the SoCal slap and bump. For my black friend, it starts with a jive shake pulled into a one-armed hug and bending the fingers (monkey or thumb-war grip) upon release. For my nerdy Asian friend, a regular one or two shake handshake. For my trying-a-bit-too-hard friend, an exploding dap. And for my obscenely tall white friend, a hug with my arms around his waist and my head resting on his chest. Just kidding! But seriously, what are you supposed to do when homie is 6'6?
Sometimes I wish that we could just settle on something like the standard European greeting.