Sunday, November 22, 2009

An Endorsement: The Traditional Handshake

Last night, I went to a friend’s college house party in Pittsburgh with a few of my buddies from high school. Once we arrived at this party, our friend who was hosting it immediately introduced us to his five roommates. Then, throughout the rest of the night, he would periodically introduce us to more people he knew at the party that we’d never met, and we also met some people by way of our own assertion. I would say, roughly estimating, that I met about 20 new people that night. Add that to the number of people that I meet and talk to for the first time on any given night that I go to a party or a bar at my own school, or interview a stranger for my job, and I think it’s safe to say that I meet a lot of new people. I’m not saying this because I think I’m some kind of social butterfly (because a lot of nights I like to just stay home by myself and watch television (porn) or read books (Penthouse), or because I don’t like meeting new people (because I love it). The reason I’m saying this is because you probably meet a lot of people, too, or have at least gone through a phase in your life where you were often in social climates and were meeting a lot of people. I want you to think about this, and see if you feel the same way I feel about what I’m about to say: Meeting new people can be very fucking confusing. Not because people are complex (because most aren’t, myself included, and if they are you’re probably not going to know it immediately upon seeing them for the first time), but because the initial greeting can be very confusing. I mean, the whole, “Hi, nice to meet you” thing has many variations that are all socially acceptable and interchangeable, and that part doesn’t confuse most people unless they’re extremely shy and/or nervous. The part that confuses me is the physical greeting you engage in with a person you’ve just met for the first time. It’s something I think has gotten unnecessarily complex through the years, and for no real beneficial reason. It used to be a person would introduce you to another person, and you would give them a verbal greeting and a simple handshake. It was fucking easy, and didn’t ever really result in an awkward moment unless there were certain extenuating and/or unique circumstances (like you’d heard of who the person was, because you’d been boning their sister and they knew damn well you had been, or if, for some reason, you have been friends with this person on Facebook for the past three months without really knowing them, etc.). Now, though, the whole dynamic has changed.

You know what I’m talking about. You’re standing there with a friend, and they want to introduce you to some other person they know. This should be good. It’s a way of networking that doesn’t involve technology. They bring you over to said person and say something like, “Scott, this is my friend, Brandon,” and you exchange pleasantries. It used to be that you would immediately just reach out your hand and do a traditional handshake with this Brandon character, but now you could potentially get really confused. Now there are so many variations on the handshake greeting that, if you don’t put some time in to analyze this person (that you don’t even know to begin with), you could reach out and engage in this bizarre hand-to-hand collision that’s weird for everybody involved. For example, Brandon could be one of those white kids that like to wear flat-brimmed New York Yankees hats (despite being from someplace in New Hampshire), Enyce sweatshirts and pencil-thin goatees. Sometimes they also wear high-topped Air Force Ones and those really shiny jeans. You get the idea. If he is, then chances are he might come in for the “hip-hop generation” shake, explained below:

Hip-Hop Generation Shake: Like I said above, this is the kind of shake favored by the kids that really enjoy rap music and have immersed themselves in a strange urban culture that (usually) severely counters the way they were raised. (I actually have an Introduction to Creative Writing Class with a white dude that really digs rap, and fancies himself a rapper. Whenever we have to write poems for class, he always comes in with some of his own rap lyrics that he likes to read to everyone. A lot of the time it has to do with guns and projects--the ones you live in, not the ones you do for class--and stuff like that, and I don’t really buy that he was raised in that kind of environment. When he reads these rap songs, all I can think is “This guy’s a gangster? His real name’s Clarence.” Yes. That was an 8 Mile reference, and I don’t think he’d come at me with a normal handshake under any circumstances.) You’ll approach them for a handshake and they will come at you with this handshake wherein you tilt your hand upward a few degrees from the normal position and join hands with your counterpart at the space between your thumb and forefinger. (As far as I can tell this maneuver was originated by older men that listen to rock n’ roll, then these hip hop dudes just took it and ran with it, adding more and more moves to the original product, probably sometime in the 90s. It’s kind of like the abuse of marijuana or the tendency to get into a lot of fights. The two cultures are more similar than one would think, I guess.)

This shake could be the most complex of any of them, because after you get your hand into position for the initial phase, this one has the potential to take all kinds of turns, none of which are predictable. You simply have to feel it out with this person, which is fucking difficult because you’ve never met them in your life. They might lean in for the one armed hug while keeping the hands clasped together. Then, after that, they might go to release the hand, but do so in a sliding motion that ends with the fingers clasping one another and then pulling away in an effort to make a dull snapping sound (and this almost never really works, at least in my experience). This phase of the shake resembles two people getting ready to engage in a thumb war. Any combination of these moves can be employed, and they’re interchangeable. So you can see how this would be fucking confusing.

There are many other newish ways to greet a person. So many, actually, that Budweiser recently came out with a commercial detailing quite a few of them ( There’s the fist bump, also known as the pound or daps, and it was made famous by Howie Mendel. You know, the completely bald guy with a soul patch that hosts Deal or No Deal, the television game show that requires absolutely no real skill whatsoever. Mendel is notorious for being a germophobe that is completely frightened of shaking other people’s hands, and so he does the fist bump instead. There are variations on this one too, that include pulling your fist back after touching your counterparts and making an exploding noise (they love to do this on the office). Also, you can bump fists, keep them together, turn them sideways and then reach your hand up your acquaintences arm (while they do the same). This is called locking it and putting the chain on it (a favorite between my 10 and 8 year old cousins and me). There’s also the high five, the point and go and the simple head nod (which comes in handy if you’d like a hip way to greet someone from across a room). It takes a certain gall and weirdness to greet a person the first time you meet them in any of these ways, but it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that it does happen and is at least partially acceptable in normal society, which baffles me.

Now, I’m not saying that for every occasion people should simply shake hands, because that would be slightly boring. I’m glad there are these other means of greeting, and as far as I’m concerned you can daps the fuck out of somebody if they score the number of the Mandarin hostess you had at P.F. Changs, and you can high five the germs right off of your friend’s hand if the Pens score a goal. Hell, make up a secret handshake with one of your best friends and do it all the time, because that impresses some people. All I’m trying to say is that somehow, someway, we need to get a hold on this first meeting greeting etiquette. Someone needs to step up, like the President or Oprah or someone else that people will blindly follow, a real trend-setter (Lady Gaga maybe, but I don’t think she’d endorse anything as normal as the handshake), and just regulate the whole thing. Someone needs to just say “Alright, no more of that flashy weird shit. Let’s revert to our old ways and just do the traditional handshake on the occasion of a first meeting. We don’t need that awkward moment where you fuck up the hip-hop handshake, or one person goes in for one thing and another is trying to do another. That kind of analysis is not necessary for that whole deal. I mean, you only get one chance for a first impression, and you don’t want to ruin it by fucking up the hand greeting, right?”

So, if you see me any time soon, and we either haven’t seen each other before or are just meeting face-to-face for the first time, let’s just go with a handshake. If things work out, and we’re at the bar watching a sporting event or something, we can go ahead and daps it out following successful happenings. Hell, if we hit it off, maybe we can even do a quick bro-hug if our team is victorious. Maybe, at some point, we can bust out the “feed the chicken” maneuver. I don’t know. Let’s just keep it simple at the starting point, though.

If you’re a female and you just read all of this, I apologize, because you probably don’t really shake hands or do pounds or any of that shit nearly as often as guys do. I think, though, that maybe we should bring back the whole “guy kisses the girl’s hand” greeting. That shit is classy, and very underused these days. Actually, I’m definitely going to start doing that.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Random Thoughts: October Part 1

--October is officially the Month of Free Thought. I’m serious. Someone, somewhere, thought it’d be a good idea to actually pick a month of the year out where people would be encouraged to think freely, because apparently you’re not supposed to for the other 11 months of the year. I only just found this information out today, and I was stunned by it. I’d already known that October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month, as well as Hispanic Heritage Month (the President actually alerted me to this piece of information once). I even knew that October was Pennsylvania Wine month, because a woman I’d interviewed for my internship had told me so. (She also told me that right around now is a great time to go on a wine trail, which is a series of wineries located in the same area that people can tour over the span of one to two days, and get fucked up. The story I was writing dealt with a new marketing campaign the PA Wine Association recently rolled out where they invite bloggers that are experts on food, drink and travel to enjoy a free stay at a participating hotel and a VIP tour of a wine trail. I haven’t received an invitation yet, and I guess that’s because I’m about to write at least 500 words on some of the weird shit the month of October is recognized for, among other reasons.) But, when I heard about the whole free thinking thing, it made me really wonder what other seriously goofy shit that October is nationally recognized for. So, I did my due diligence, and found more than 70 month-long celebrations and awareness campaigns for the 10th month of the year. Here are some of the stranger ones.

National Roller Skating Month: I actually saw a few people roller skating this month--skating and not blading, there is a difference--and I’ve been told that it’s making some kind of comeback. Personally, I don’t understand it, and I definitely can’t comprehend why you would have a national month dedicated to roller skating. It’s like people think that others will see that it’s national roller skating month, then rush out and buy a pair of skates so they can fuck around with them until maybe halfway through November, when it starts to snow and it becomes extremely hazardous to coast around on wheels attached to the bottom of a fucking shoe. If you’re going to have a month dedicated to roller skating, make it May or June, so then people can enjoy getting in their cardiovascular workout on tiny plastic wheels for the next six months straight without any real hindrance besides the occasional rainfall. If you have it in October, people are going to put them in the closet and forget about them, because let’s face it: roller skates are pretty easily forgettable. Just ask anyone who used to mess with them in the nineties. They might not even remember doing it.

***On a sidenote, I’d like to point out that maybe the roller skating comeback has been spurred on by a movie that came out in October titled Whip It. This movie stars Ellen Paige, the goofy pregnant chick in Juno, which is cool. But it also stars (and was directed by) Drew Barrymore. And it is about women participating in roller derbys. I don’t know how this could really spur a comeback to roller skating, unless someone just wants to try skating and add it to the list of things that normal, non-famous people are better at than Drew Barrymore, which would just make them even more bitter (which I admittedly am) that she is famous.

With that being said, I’m not really sure if this is a good movie or not (though I hypothesize it’s not). I didn’t go to see it, probably because I’d rather lay naked in a patch of poison ivy, oak or sumac for 48 straight hours.

Sausage Month: I think every month should be a celebration of sausage. And bacon. Fuck, every month should be dedicated to pigs, because pork in most forms is, to me, very delectable. October is also Go Hog Wild, Eat Country Ham month. If I would’ve known this, I definitely would’ve thrown a sausage party, and not like one of the ones I attend every weekend that consists of a guest list of at least 96% guys, 2% women and 2% toss-ups that you’d never be able to guess unless you got some kind of peek, but an actual party during which people would consume massive amounts of various types of sausage. God, that would be the bee’s knees.

National Family Sexuality Education Month--Let’s Talk!: I’m not lying. That’s really what it’s called, and apparently my family kind of likes to celebrate it, even if unintentionally. I’ll explain. A couple weeks ago I traveled home for the weekend. Upon arriving at my family’s house, I walked into my bedroom and looked at my bed, as is customary because my mom puts all of my mail and magazines and other things that come for me while I’m gone in a pile on top of it. In this pile was a strip of seven condoms. I immediately yelled out into the hall to my Mom, asking what those were doing on my bed. “You know I don’t use those!” I said. She basically sprinted down the hall and into my room where she closed the door. She started talking to me about how my little brother had just begun hanging out with a girl. Apparently, she suspected that this would lead rather quickly to sex, and wanted me to show my little brother how to use a condom, because apparently her and my Dad wanted no parts of that jazz. I thought this would coincide nicely with Eat Better, Eat Together Month, which happens, of course, to be October. So, later that night when we sat down to eat dinner, I brought a condom to the table with me, blew it up like a balloon and started hitting it around the room, trying to get my family to keep it afloat. I told my brother this would come in handy if he ever took this girl to a sporting event or a rock concert.

I found out later you can also use them for intercourse, and so I told my Dad to put bananas on the grocery list for the next time I come home, because it’s going to be brother on brother man talk time.

Halloween Safety Month: Well, I guess this one makes perfect sense.

That was only the tip of the iceberg. If you’d like to check out some of the other ridiculous October month things, you can visit this site:

--Spencer--my friend and roommate--and I like to talk about extremely deep and philosophical things quite often. One example of this is a dispute we’ve been having for just about a year concerning whether or not quasi-R&B singer and reality TV star (and man that filmed himself boning a chick with an ass so big it’s more than intimidating) Ray-J could afford a Ferrari while still living within his means. I maintain that he easily could, based exclusively on the revenue he probably made from the song “Sexy, Can I?” but Spence doesn’t feel the same.

Anyway, we were sitting in my bedroom last week watching TV and flipping through the newest issue of GQ Magazine, since we’re tasteful men and all, when we came across our newest topic: Would we rather be able to have sex with January Jones (the sexy woman who plays Betty on Mad Men and just did a decently provocative photo shoot for the magazine), or own a brand new silver Lamborghini for ten years?

Startlingly, we both immediately agreed. We came to the conclusion that, if you had a Lambo, you could get laid a lot more than once, and probably by a number of different women (because let’s face it, some women are entirely shallow, and you can just shut the hell up if you want to argue about that, because I could name five girls right now that would bone a dude for having a car with doors that open upward instead of outward), whereas if you got to couple with January Jones one time, she’s of the caliber where it would take roughly 3.5 seconds to finish after disrobing. We basically came to the conclusion of quantity over quality, and would ultimately choose the flashy ride.

I actually Tweeted this question earlier today (I’m still trying to figure out this whole Twitter craze), and Spencer texted me a response that basically says the way I feel about it better than I could ever articulate: “If you own a Lambo, you get to say ‘I’m lambo’n like in that rap song (”This is the Way I live“), but if I get to keep pictures of January, then it’s a done deal.”

I guess the fact that we’d only go with Ms. Jones if we could get footage we could use to reflect back on just goes to show that sometimes the best thing about achieving something is the memory of actually having done it, and not the specific act.

--I get on Facebook almost constantly. Pretty much every time I sit down at the computer. In fact, I’m on it right now, and it really destroys my level of productivity. It also pisses me off from time to time, and this is one of them. I’m one of those people who is generally pretty satisfied with the original way that Facebook does things, and I get into a mode where I enjoy knowing just what to expect whenever I get on. Every now and then, though they change things around that completely throw me off of my Facebook game (which basically consists of endless creeping, and not much of any value at all). Very often they’re little things, but things that make no fucking sense to me whatsoever. Take, for instance, this new thing they’ve recently decided to do. You all know about the little suggestions box they’ve had for a while in the upper right hand corner of the screen. It used to suggest people that you might want to friend request, based on mutual friends and shit like that (but for some reason, women that seem to be amateur porn stars that I have no friends in common with always show up on mine, along with random celebrities). One day, however, I signed on, and that suggestion box was really, really trying to tell me what the fuck to do, and I didn’t like it. First, it was suggesting that I write on people’s walls that I hadn’t spoken to on Facebook for a long time (which, I mean, there is a reason for...I only talk to the people I want to talk to). It wanted me to “reconnect” with some dude I severely disliked when I was in high school, and probably still would now if I was forced to ever be around him. I shook this off, and tried not to get too worked up over it. But then, the next day I got on, and it suggested that I poke two people. Firstly, the poke is a very, very fucking strange and extremely creepy entity (though it has been known to work on at least one occasion that I can attest to...yeah, I’m not making that up) that probably shouldn’t exist. Secondly, the two people Facebook wanted me to poke were a broad that recently got married, and some other dude that I went so high school with.

Seriously, what the fuck? Who ever thought that doing this whole suggestion thing was a good idea at all? It was like when Coke tried to change its recipe in the ‘80s, or when somebody thought it’d be a good idea to let Joel Osteen right books or be on television.

Also concerning Facebook. Does it bother anybody else that college kids seem to be more passionate about the prospect of adding a “dislike” button to a social networking site than they are about a fucking state election, a flu pandemic or the upcoming release of the second Boondock Saints movie? If you don’t like something that someone puts up in their status, either post a reason for why you don’t like it, or just let it go. It makes me wonder what the social life for the people that actually make groups and petitions lobbying for a dislike button consist of. (Not unlike how many of you must wonder what the social life of a kid who sits at a computer and blogs about his gripes with Facebook consists of. And I’ll tell you: it’s only slightly better than that of a Call of Duty addict.)

--I was hanging out with a few of my friends last night, and we were discussing words that we really disliked. One of these words, and pretty much the only one that everyone agreed on hating, was the word “moist.” I’m not really sure why this is, but it makes me wonder who makes up these words. Was there ever a time where somebody was trying to make a word for something that is kind of wet, but not completely saturated, and then was like, “Oh, yeah, we’ll call that kind of thing ‘moist.’ People will fucking love that.”

--My friends and I watch a lot of football on the weekends, and we always complain about the commentators, saying that they don’t know shit and that they constantly state the obvious. (I think this is because, if you’re sitting there for four hours trying to talk about college kids, you kind of lose shit to discuss.) So, I came up with an idea the other day: why not let two women--preferably housewives with no real experience watching, playing or slightly caring about sports--commentate a college and/or professional football game in its entirety. Fuck, lets get a bunch of real-life desperate housewives to get on TV and do some commentating. How fucking awesome would that be?

“Well, Becky, it looks like that man named Brett with the salt n’ pepper crewcut hairdo has his hands in that man’s undercarriage! What is he doing?”
“Well, I’ll be darned, Ruthie. A brown thing just came out of there, and it looks like he just threw it to a colored man, who is running away with it really fast-like. I wonder who it belongs to!”
“Oh well, boys will be boys...holy cow that man that ran away with that brown thing is doing some kind of dance in that painted part of the field!”
“Yes, by golly, yes he is! I think I saw something a lot like that in the movie ”Hook“ with Robin Williams! I made the kids turn it off because it was too violent.”
“That Robin Williams sure is hairy, Becky.”
“Yes he is. Oh my God! Those boys are hitting one another really, really hard!”
“I think it’s time we get on down there and provide them with a timeout, so they can think about what they’ve been doin’ to one another.”

...You know, shit like that.

--Penn State (my alleged area of higher learning) is a pretty wild place. Basically, there’s not a lot going on around here except for college-aged kids getting obscenely drunk and getting really, really extremely excited about football games played by their peers. This kind of combined last year to a little riot situation. Penn State beat Ohio State, which was cool and pretty exciting. Afterwards, many of the students of Penn State decided to go to the downtown area, and basically fuck shit up. It was, without question, a riot. People were knocking over light poles and doing all kinds of obscene shit.

I guess my question is, why?

It makes absolutely no sense, no matter how you look at it, for people to start a riot and mess things up in the town that they live in and pay to maintain. If you’re that dead set on starting a fucking riot, go to the Columbus (or whatever place is guilty of losing to your fucking college football team) and mess their shit up. I like to walk to class with nice landscaping to look at, not shrubs thrown all over the damn road.

With that said, I admit that I was down there for the riots last year. I was a passionate observer. And, if something like that happened again, I’d probably go and check it out again. I just don’t understand people’s infatuation with destroying things after a big victory.

--In just a few short hours, I’ll be turning 22 years old, and I’m not even remotely excited about this. I’ve never really been huge on birthdays, except for my 21st, because that was the day that I was deemed legally allowed to beat my liver into submission by buying my own alcohol and drinking it whenever the fuck I chose to (except while driving a car). The reason I usually don’t get too excited about birthdays is because I’m not really the biggest fan of being celebrated for something that I really have no right to take credit for at all. The real person who should be celebrated on a kid’s birthday--and I’m hesitant to say this, because I have rules against giving women credit for just about anything--is the person’s mother. Basically, all I did the day I was born was, well, come out of my Mom, for lack of a more tasteful way of putting it. Besides that, all I did was breathe and cry, which is exactly the same thing I do on days that I lay in bed and watch Armageddon. I didn’t contribute anything to society on that day, and it can be argued that I still really haven’t. So why do people celebrate the day that I was born, and give me shit simply for existing? I’m not saying that I’m ungrateful for the gifts (and drinks) that people have sent my way over the past 22 years, and I won’t hesitate to accept a shot if you give me one tonight. I just think that society as a whole should reconsider the importance that people place on their birthdays. Instead of wearing a tiara or a sash that proclaims that you’ve been on this earth for 21 or 22 or however many years (like billions upon billions of other people), give your mom a call at the exact time you were born, and thank her for boning your dad, not smoking or drinking for nine months and, most importantly, pushing hard.

I was born at 4:27 a.m. I think my Mom will really, really appreciate the call she’s going to get tonight.