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“Latins are tenderly enthusiastic. In Brazil, they throw flowers at you. In Argentina, they throw themselves." -- Marlene Dietrich

The guy handshake: how a seemingly innocuous ritual can doom a potential friendship

Since starting my new job a few weeks ago, I’ve met some cool new people who have high potential for friendship. One guy in particular, Stormin’ Norman, was a promising friend free agent until recently, when he committed one of the most egregious social blunders in the guy code: he bungled the handshake.

Here is the chain of events that led to this awful, awkward moment:

As Norman approached me one morning, I was sitting in my cubicle chair with my left side turned to him. I reached out with my left hand to greet him, palm side facing up. This can be a tricky approach since you are hoping the guy will realize he should bring his right hand down and slap it. Unfortunately, some guys instinctively use their left hand to shake it in this type of situation. I realized this might present a problem, so I switched quickly to a fist, hoping he would see it and bump mine with his, kind of like a straight-man version of Jeter and A-Rod. Unfortunately, Norman started to bring his right hand down, and I punched the fleshy part of his palm. Stunned and suddenly frightened, I tried to correct this and opened my hand as he closed his into a fist, reversing the awkward moment we shared a split-second ago. This only exacerbated the social clumsiness. We both made an effort to get in synch, opening and closing our hands, but this degenerated into girly hand-slapping and embarrassment before Norman said, “Just forget it.”

Just forget it, indeed, I thought, as I started to mourn the loss of a potential friend. We fucked up the handshake; can’t be friends anymore. Damn that required social custom! It can be so tricky!! Luckily for Norman and me, since then we connected with a different, more important ritual of guy friendships: getting drunk at a happy hour and making our single guy friends dance with strange women.

When it comes to developing meaningful friendships, men don’t have it as easily as women. We don’t talk about our feelings or host Grey’s Anatomy parties; we don’t hug unless our arms keep our chests apart and even then, we only do the quick back slap.

But we DO have a select few yet extremely vital – rites that we must not – CANNOT – ruin lest we lose any chance at forging a strong bond.

One: The handshake

When shaking or slapping hands, two guys should clasp their hands strongly but with a minimal amount of skin-touching. This is quite the difficult feat, since the handshake intrinsically forces you to touch another man’s hand. The best way to solve this is to do the finger snap you see frat boys do. This may be a fraternity’s most important, if not only, contribution to society.

Two: The bachelor party

Don’t be that guy who gets thrown out of a strip club because you slapped a stripper’s ass while drunk in Montreal. Don’t be that guy who doesn’t want to chip in for a nice meal for the bachelor and makes your buddies pay more than their share. Don’t be that guy who won’t buy shots. And never be that guy who won’t sit down at the blackjack table and “just wants to watch.” This kind of behavior can ruin any potential for a friendship.

Three: Helping a guy move

If, as a guy, you’ve never been asked by a buddy to help you move, then let me set the record straight: you don’t have any guy friends. Helping a buddy move, like Seinfeld said, is the guy-equivalent of “going all the way.” Of course, there better be pizza and beer afterward.

Four: Ragging on a guy’s favorite sports team

If you’re going to say the Redskins suck or the Dodgers are a second-rate team, you better be able to back it up. Saying “Team X sucks, dude” is not a constructive argument to be pondered and may get you sucker-punched. If, however, you argue that the Redskins’ offensive line is too inconsistent and their secondary is hurting with Shawn Springs out of the lineup, it will earn you points for being intelligently thoughtful and may save your guy friendship.

Five: Hitting on a guy’s sister/mom/ex-girlfriend

There really is no defense for this. If you do any of the above, you better hope your friend is either dead or has joined the Peace Corps. Even then, you only have 2 years or so before he comes back and beats you to a bloody pulp.
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