The Befuddling Upside-Down Handshake

“What are you doing,” I asked in my head, “Why is this happening? How did you screw this up so badly? Now we’re here. You dragged me into this cluster of flailing limbs and personified awkwardness. This is on you. You got us into this, you need to get us out of this. Just let go. Oh no, you’re shaking our hands! Please, stop. Let go, please let go. We’re in this now. Only you can stop this. Aaaaaand RELEASE! Dammit. You’re still shaking. Is this how I die, like a half-a-ShakeWeight?”

Puppy high-five, a visualization of how vulnerable we all are when we initiate a high-five.
Puppy high-five, a visualization of how vulnerable we all are when we initiate a high-five.You can see the image source.

The previous thought process went through my head during what lasted probably 30 seconds. Think I’m insane? Count out 30 seconds. It’s interminable. Lots of thoughts can get cast and rejected in that time. All of that mental anguish was over a botched high-five.

I told our CEO about some good news and he raised his hand clearly in the high-five beckoning motion. Unless you’re a stereotype of an American Indian saying “how” or doing a strange half-Hitler impression, nobody raises their hand parallel to their face, palm out, unless they’re looking for a high-five.  He’s not a traffic cop stopping traffic, we were in his office. Not being a fan of the high-five, I hesitated and should have followed my instincts and just shook my head, “no.”
I went to give him a high-five, a simple palm slap and return my hand to awkwardly not know what it’s doing with itself, but when I went for the slap, he clutched my hand. He gripped my hand like a venus fly trap. I didn’t grab back I just sort of let it happen. He then started shaking my hand back and forth like, as I said, an upside down handshake. For. 30. Seconds. An interminably long time. I even broke eye contact to look at my hand and what was being done to it. Afterwards I washed my hand in the sink like Edward Norton in the showers in American History X. kermit_rape_shower

The high-five is fraught with potential embarrassment and error. You’d be surprised by how many ways people can screw up a high-five, and I don’t need to deal with that kind of liability. Unless I’m dealing with an established high-five veteran–generally noted by both hands being up to maximize the high-five emotional output by doubling it–I don’t want to risk a high-five failure.

When a high-five goes awry, it means all parties involved have to stew in the error and maintain a veneer of excitement as though we’re both not living a faux pas. “Yay our team won and I am continuing to smile and be excited despite the fact that we barely connected our pinkies and now you’re holding your hand up again like you want a re-do! It’s no longer about the thrill of victory and has instead turned into your need to satiate your desire to correct a past failure. Why am I forced to right your regrets?”

C’mon, you can do it. It’s this or I gingerly touch your buttocks.

There’s no way out of it either. When one of the two people involved screws up a high-five, you’re entering into a situation you willingly agreed to that then takes a twist. It was like agreeing to take the pill that frees you from the Matrix but then you get dropped into the weird dumb underground rave party. With a high-five, people act like they’re doing you a favor but they’re really just burdening you with reality of navigating their weaponized awkwardness.

The lesson here is, go with a low-five. Fist or chest bump? People goof those up all the time. No one screws up the low-five. Besides, if a girl or guy says, “my man,” it makes the low-five way more cool and fun.


Add yours →

  1. Ha! My CEO does the fist bump when he gets good news. I usually look at his fist like its a smelly shoe for a couple of seconds, then I begrudgingly fist bump. I tend to air-five with my COO, which actually works out pretty well. There’s nothing good about a messed up handshake/hug/handslap going on. Nothing good at all.


  2. When someone raises their hand to do the high-five, just flinch like an abuse victim. Then, timidly put your hand out for the low-five. When they slap it, act like it hurts. Word will spread and you won’t have to deal with that shit anymore.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Anyone who tries to touch me deserves whatever awkwardness ensues.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. You astonish me, Pickleope. I’d have bet money you’d be a butt-slapping kind of pickle. Even in the workplace, sexual harassment laws be damned!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Willy Dunne Wooters and I engage in a gentle fist bump. I used to go to a church where designated people shook hands with the congregation following the service. One guy always squeezed my hand with his sweaty paw, so I started saying “OW” very loudly and clutching my right hand with my left as I whined in despair.



  6. Being suspicious by nature, I’m really trying to understand your CEO’s true intentions. Did he sense you were reluctant to high-five him & wanted to teach you a lesson by making you feel awkward? Was it some sort of territorial marking ritual in which he established his dominance over you by refusing to let go & watching you squirm & wait until HE was good & ready? Maybe he has a crush on you. Think back! Was he blushing & hesitating to make eye contact?

    Then again it could have been a combination of all these where he has a crush on you & was a little hurt when he realized you didn’t want to make contact so he decided to use the opportunity to establish, right there & then, that you’re his… & his alone… This may end up being an issue to take to HR.


  7. My alleged human, Gary, tells me that to really cause a commotion with the CEO, demonstrate some one-hand clapping, whatever that means. I shall just paws and think about that.

    Pawsitive wishes, Penny on behalf of her ridiculous human, Gary 🙂


  8. Seriously awkward, but what are you going to do? Glare at the boss like he’s an effin’ moron? As long as your hands are up there why not dance in a little circle? Or wet your pants. Something, anything to distract him.


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