Let's Shake Hands

I was at a party recently and met someone of the opposite sex. When we shook hands, the guy kind of grabbed my fingers and crunched them together before I had a chance to clasp his palm. I said, “Whoa! Let’s try that again.” This time I made sure I positioned my palm against his before squeezing his hand with a good firm shake.

The nice gentlemen explained that when he moved to the South, his dad told him this was how men shook hands with ladies down here. I told him in so many words that women should be treated equally and that includes the way we shake hands. He tried to argue that he was concerned some women would be offended if he shook their hands with all his might. I’m like, “Buddy, this is not a testosterone-fueled competition here. Let’s just shake hands firmly, OK?”

“Why do you care so much?” he asked. And I told him, “It’s simple. I just want to be treated equally.” Plus that half-ass handshake just feels plain wrong.

It’s even worse when a woman shakes my hand like that. It’s as if they are in a hurry to get the handshake over with and they quickly crunch my fingers (“Ouch!”) instead of really making firm palm-to-palm contact. At the party I went around shaking hands like I was running for office or something—just checking how people do it. Of course, some guests reminded me that these days “fist bumps” or whatever they’re called are more hygienic, but honestly, I don’t feel I’ve really connected with a person unless we shake hands, look each other in the eyes, and smile.

This whole idea of women being fragile rubs me the wrong way. My belief is we all have our strengths and weaknesses. Let’s own up to our potential instead of falling back on stereotypical ideas of what men and women can and can’t do. That doesn’t mean I want to change the oil in my car or fix a broken lawnmower. Those are not my strengths, but if I wanted to, I’m darn sure I could do those things.

I’m thrilled that today’s girls are breaking free of stereotypes and entering fields of study that have been traditionally male dominated. Likewise, I applaud young men who choose to become nurses and teachers. I get mad when I hear about glass ceilings and see how women are left out of boardrooms and other positions of power. 

Which brings me back to the simple act of shaking hands. Ladies, the next time a gentleman tries to squish your fingers awkwardly instead of letting you shake hands like a normal person, ask him to let you do it again. Teach your sons and daughters and husbands to shake hands with women the same way men shake hands with each other. It’s a small gesture perhaps, but it’s one that makes women feel separate, different, fragile, perhaps. It acts as a barrier, I think, to prevent women from breaking through those glass ceilings. 

I look forward to shaking hands with you one day!

Love,  Peggy

Peggy Sijswerda

Tidewater Women Magazine, Editor & Co-Publisher.

Website: www.peggysijswerda.com
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