When I was younger, I made fun of any of the elders in my life that would make statements of how life used to be. They might say something to the effect of “back in my day” or “when I was a kid.” However, now that I am more mature I tend to make those same comments frequently. So if you are an old person, you can laugh at this blog post, and if you are a young individual, you can roll your eyes as I did “back in my day.”
I was taught as a young boy the importance and value of a good handshake. “A man’s handshake is his word,” they said. I was taught to have a firm but not crushing grip while making direct eye contact. They told me “when shaking hands smile appropriately” reminding me that a pleasant expression comes across and means so much. The unwritten consensus seems to show that a proper handshake is at least one up and down movement of the clasped hands. Sadly, a person’s handshake does not have the same meaning of trust and honesty that it once had.
Since I have been in this wheelchair, I have seen the handshakes significance slip. I am sadly aware that its importance has been lost and the meaning has been debased and devalued. It has been reduced to only a fundamental greeting and in most cases dropped to a basic fist bump if not just a head nod. SIDE NOTE: I understand the necessity of the fist bump during cold and flu season I am not a monster.
When I meet someone for the first time, I reach out with an outstretched hand to signify this proper etiquette of a bygone era. Individuals who do not know me many times have given me the “fingertip” handshake. This practice annoyed me a little in the beginning because of my feelings towards “proper protocol procedures.” I soon realized that people who do not know me fear the unknown. These individuals do not know what it is that they do not know and in many cases, they fear a handshake with me and my wheeled brethren.
A friend recently introduced me to someone. I felt that it did not go as well as a first handshake does typically. She took my outstretched hand and rapidly did a half shake in the downward movement then let go. It felt as if it quickly turned into a cross between a half handshake and a “let go, man, I do not want to catch your cooties!” Did she honestly feel like that? I seriously doubt it, and that is why I said it felt that way.
“Your word is your bond, and the handshake seals the deal,” they told me. Now it seems that your word and handshake no longer has trust, honesty, and faith to stand behind them. The phrase “my word is my bond” is now a punchline in a joke that brings comedy not conviction. I do not feel that this is limited to wheelchair users as this etiquette of yesteryear dies a slow death.
The only constant in life is change.