Social nuances move quickly with the times, dictating who is fashionable and polite and who is not. It is necessary to adjust the acceptable greeting or conversation topic, just to ensure the utmost confusion and continue the rat race to the next big thing.
I, I am afraid, lack the rodent-like capability that the rest of humanity prides itself on. Instead of dashing onward with the next app, gizmo or in this case greeting, I lag along behind trying to say hello without offending anyone.
This is quite a hindrance, as I was again reminded today.
A very nice woman, the mother of a good friend of mine, happened to be in the same place I was. Wanting to fall within the social graces of someone I looked up to, I gave a casual wave and simply said, “Hello.”
She, obviously not noticing me, walked past me to another woman who was speaking to her in rapid-fire slang about something or other.
“Ah,” I thought. “So the thing to do is start right in on a conversation, no greeting needed.” That was just as well for me, it was less to embarrass myself with.
So, much later in the evening, when I saw her again, I simply waited for her to catch my eye before diving into a conversation. “Hey there! So what brings you here?”
“Oh hello,” she said.
“Shoot,” I thought.
“Hi,” I replied. “So what brings you…”
“Oh John. I’m just his ride.”
“Mmm.” I thought. “So, customary greeting out of the way, but still diving into a conversation? Alright, might as well continue.”
She reached her arm out over the chairs, her body slanted away from mine, suggesting aversion, but hand still extended friendly-like.
I faltered. What was this? A handshake? Some sort of code? Perhaps a slap. I couldn’t have offended her already…
I decided to remain neutral to any sort of code, touch, or blow, by keeping my hands in my lap. Still her hand reached towards me. It almost looked as if she were going for my elbow. I tentatively hovered my hand upward, unsure of what her intentions were.
Her hand began retreating.
I decided to just pick one of my guesses for her appendage offerance, and positioned my hand to shake hers. Too late. I had missed the nuance, and her hand was already abandoning the cause to make contact. Not wanting to think I had an aversion to touching her or anything, I extended my wrist, fingers and palm ready for connection. Her hand, already past the barrier of the chairs, had already retracted. Suddenly realizing I was reaching for her, she unfurled her fingers towards mine. Thinking my cause was lost, I put my hand down. Recoiling when I put my hand out, she too thought that the chance was over. I, thinking that perhaps this was an invitation, hesitatingly lifted my hand. Her palm remained hidden beneath her curled fingers.
Finally, sick of the whole thing, thrust my arm out.
Take my hand. Do with it what you will.
She took my fingers, clutching them kindly while she spoke to me.
Do people even do that?
Like really, who just holds fingers while talking.
So now I am determined to just say hello, and forget any sort of subtlety perhaps created by any social niceties.