Thursday, October 09, 2008


Today I noticed someone walking up the stairs at work trailing their hand along the handrail. I realized it was the same person who had once refused to shake my hand before an interview. This got me to thinking, "What's the difference? A lot of hands have touched that rail." It wasn't that she wouldn't shake anyone's hand. She shook the hand of the female co-interviewer on the way out. So it was more of a "don't shake hands with guys thing." But given who many hands had touched the rail, it had to be more of a "don't shake hands with guys in public" issue, not a concern about boy cooties. Which is fine. I don't have to agree with your religious practice to respect it, and in the end, I don't even care if it is a religious practice - I'm not going to force or pressure you, beyond the initial thrusting of the digits, to shake my hand.

But I was still interested in the whys and wherefores, so I went in search of someone on the web who could speak to why it was taboo. Which led me here. Which only led to more questions if, as this comment suggests, there are Muslim options around handshaking, which I think I was experiencing (and not just a physical revulsion in response to me personally).

1.) It's an option to not make physical contact, and it's a choice issue. Then why is it acceptable to shake a woman's hand, and not a man's hand? If it's seen as improper because of sexuality issues, then how do you function in a society where an encounterable percentage of the women you meet are gay? I'm not saying they have any interest in you, but neither do all the men you meet. The context seems to be the same.
2.) It doesn't have to be a religious reason. Sure. It could be that you're scared people don't wash appropriately. Perhaps you know Mean Mr. Mustard and that he shakes hands and who he shakes hands with. Therefore you don't want to shake hands with anyone he knows. But in that case, once again, why avoid shaking men's hands only. Sometimes women shake Mean Mr. Mustard's hand, even though they shouldn't.
3.) It's a relative/non-relative issue. Once again - then why not shake a man's hand, but shake a woman's hand if both are equally unrelated?
4.) The primary poster writes that in the story in question, the difference is professional vs. personnel. That also doesn't hold in the case I'm referring to, as it was professional from front to back.
5.) The poster's metaphor that it's like "a full face snog with your boss" is way off. I can empathize. I've seen almost the equivalent of a full face snog between a boss and an employee - at the very least, I know they were considering it. But in that context, once again, are you having a full face snog with your female coworkers when you shake their hands?
6.) And here we see the sexes reversed, and a discussion about whether it's acceptable with a glove, which also doesn't seem to get universal agreement if you read the answers until you get to the item about haraam.

So if the issue is opposite sex, skin touching, I'm going to go out on a limb here and offer my take and see if someone disagrees. Wouldn't it just be easier to claim skin contact is not allowed and not shake anyone's hand? Or would that be seen as an unacceptable compromise?


Anonymous said...

I think you're analyzing the handshake thing too much eh. Maybe she just thought you might be one of those people who does that creepy/pervy handshake where you tickle the palm of the recipient's hand with your middle finger while shaking their hand...

Anonymous said...

...I guess that's why I've always shied away from shaking your hand ;)

Besides that's what "peace out" is for - no potentially awkward personal space invasion there. Not really sure how you could work that into an interview introduction though.

Scooter said...

I do do that. Ask Eryn - I pretend to be a hook handed man while holding hands.

If there's no personal space invasion from "peace out", then why does it always feel like Celine Dion walked up and slapped me when she does it?

Anonymous said...

Maybe you just subconsciously wish that Celine was slapping you in the face, and you choose to associate it with her peace out gesture?

If one qualifies her peace out gesture as a true affront to their senses however, I'd say most of what she does would fall into the "slap in the face" category.