Barn Manners: How To Shake Hands With The Chick With The Cast April 29 2010, 0 Comments


My new cast, in a lovely shade of Missy Ann blue

I’m nine days in with the new cast, which is a lovely shade of Missy Ann blue. I have been a good patient, if I do say so myself. When I visited the hand specialist last week, I was given the choice of a hard cast or a brace that could be briefly removed.

The doctor is a fellow lacrosse coach, and his son is on the team my husband coaches. Husband and Doctor Phil discussed it and decided I was not to be trusted with a removable brace. So I am in a cast. And yes, they were correct, I cannot be trusted.

I have endured showering wearing a garbage bag and only being able to shave one arm pit. I have figured out how to button my pants and which shirts fit over a cast and which don’t. None of this has come easily and everything, everything takes longer to do if it can be done at all. Yet I have remained upbeat, if not cheerful, only having a predictable but short-lived tantrum around 4 o’clock each afternoon.

It is at this point, after a day spent typing with one hand, that the frustration of not being able to write at the pace my brain wants the words to appear on the screen makes me completely lose it. I repeatedly attempt to pull the cast off my arm and grunt and harumph and curse and whine and stamp my feet. I share an office with two colleagues, and after almost two weeks of this behavior, they barely take notice.

The other major frustration I have experienced was unexpected. In the last week, I’ve been in two different situations, one business and one social (at the barn), where I was meeting new people.

This is what I learned: No one knows how to shake hands with the chick with the broken hand. I wasn’t prepared to handle this with any kind of grace. The first 10 times people tried to shake the forefinger and thumb of my casted right hand, giving me the limp fish handshake. I understand that this was an attempt to be polite and not hurt me, but it just felt WRONG. It grossed me out. A few times I tried shaking the other person’s right hand with my left hand. That felt just as strange, as if we were going to form a circle and sing Kumbaya. Which just demonstrates the perceived importance we give to the custom and impact of a well-executed introduction and handshake. For me, the lack of it was unnerving.

At Emily Post, we constantly teach the rules of proper introductions and handshakes. I could recite them in my sleep.

Briefly, they are:

  • Do it! It’s rude and weird not to introduce yourself and shake hands.
  • Stand up.
  • Look the other person in the eye and smile.
  • Shake with a firm grip.
  • Say the other person’s name out loud; it will help you remember it.

So what is the right way to shake hands with the chick with broken hand? I found out when one member of the production crew from The History Channel we were working with held out his left hand for me to shake. I almost kissed him. It was the first introduction of the day that hadn’t left me feeling out of place. His fast thinking was much appreciated. I’ve since learned that another effective technique is to hold up my bandaged arm and say, “I’m sorry, I can’t shake hands. It’s nice to meet you Jim.” For others in this situation, shaking left to right may feel just fine, and it’s also a perfectly appropriate solution.

This one-armed thing has a learning curve. Gotta go—it’s almost time for my daily tantrum.

This article was originally published on The Chronicle of the Horse website.