Sunday, May 8, 2011

Shaking hands

for years, infrequently emerging from the back of my mind but rarely remaining long enough to act on it, a poem about hand-shaking waits to be written.  i have a good idea of what i want to write, and even a version of a last line, but somehow the poem refuses to get itself written.  but now it occurs to me that, with a blog, i can satisfy the urge in prose.

so here it is.

i have always been saddened by the fact that we so seldom shake hand anymore.  one meeting--and then only when it's in a fairly formal context, like a job interview--seems to suffice, and after that you're on hugging terms.  i've developed into quite a hugger myself over the years, but i still try to reserve it for people of whom i'm really fond.  there's more handshaking in the netherlands, or maybe it's just that i meet people for the first time more often when i'm there.  but here's the thing:

a hug says 'i love you,' or at least 'i feel warmly toward you.'  a handshake says, either 'it's nice to meet you [or to see you again]' or, to someone you're already acquainted with, 'i like you.'  there's amiability in a handshake, but not sentiment.  i love its history--'here is my hand, in which as you see i hold no weapon. i'm willing to deal with you on the assumption that we're not planning to kill each other.'  it's a statement of amiability, which has the potential of friendship on a level that may or may not grow into affection. the gesture is magnificent: you touch each other, grasp each other's hands, but from two arms worth of distance.  that might escalate to huggingness--or maybe not.  as a girl-child, i liked the no-nonsense masculinity of a handshake; it seemed very adult somehow.

anyway that's it. the poem that refused to be.  now i can let it go intelligently--like the release of ending a handshake and getting on with business.

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