Agence France-PresseJune 18, 2021 2:25:16 pm
Banished at the start of the pandemic, the handshake is making a comeback, thanks to vaccines and the lifting of social restrictions, but “pressing the meat” faces an uncertain future.
More than speeches or statements, one of the most surprising takeaways from Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden’s summit in Geneva this week was their broad handshake in front of the world’s cameras, a rare moment of human physical contact.
A few days earlier, at the G7 summit in Cornwall, Biden and his fellow leaders were still nudging, at open-air events spaced six feet apart.
Back in the United States, most of the Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted and vaccinated citizens have been told they don’t need masks, not even indoors. Social distancing is largely a thing of the past, and unlimited domestic travel is back.
But many Americans continue to be careful: Masks are still encouraged in many stores and offices, friends often greet each other with a letter, and handshakes are treated with caution.
New York phone technician Jesse Green refuses to shake hands with clients, but does so with people he knows who have been vaccinated.
“Due to the pandemic, people are more aware of the way they use their hands,” he said.
For William Martin, a 68-year-old lawyer, shaking hands with anyone, vaccinated or not, is out of the question.
It will not do so “until it is safe,” he said, adding that “a government will not determine” safe. “
Some American companies and organizations are using colored bracelets to allow employees, customers or visitors to signal their openness to contact: red, yellow or green, from the most cautious to the most comfortable.
Hugging is generally off limits, and kissing to greet someone, never common in the United States, is almost unimaginable to most.
Jack Caravanos, a professor at New York University’s School of Global Public Health, said the cautiousness of handshakes doesn’t exactly match the evidence.
Covid-19 “is poorly transmitted by surface contact and is essentially an airborne virus, (see above) the scientific basis for no skin contact is debatable,” he said.
“However, the common cold, influenza and a number of other infectious diseases are transmitted by contact, therefore eliminating the handshake will have an overall positive impact on public health.”
Taking advantage of the broader health benefits, many experts won’t mourn the death of the handshake.
“To be honest, I don’t think we should ever shake hands again,” White House pandemic adviser Anthony Fauci said last year as the virus took over the world.
Allen Furr, a sociology professor at Auburn University, said that “we’ve always had germophobes, people who don’t like to touch people because they see everything as contagion.
“We may have more of those, due to the psychological effect that safety equates with not getting close to people, which can linger on some people’s minds.”
A human ritual
Shaking hands is a ritual that adults teach children, but after 16 traumatic months it is one that could weaken if not passed on to the next generation, he said.
Other forms of greeting, such as punching the fists, a short salute, or alternatives such as an Indian-style “namaste” could become increasingly popular compared to the “manly” handshake.
But “a lot will be lost if we don’t shake hands,” laments Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick, founder of The Etiquette School of New York.
“You can tell a lot about a person by their handshake. It’s part of body language: people have lost their jobs in the past due to bad handshakes.
“When you touch someone, you are showing that you trust them, you say ‘I’m not going to hurt you.’
As with everything, today the handshake has “become political,” suggests New York paramedic Andy McCorkle, and some people shake hands in defiance of the government and Covid restrictions.
“I feel like it will solidify psychologically, to keep the distance,” he said.
The pandemic has changed many things in everyday life, and the handshake is just one of them: the test will be to see if humans need it again.
Furr, for his part, hopes the handshake will last.
“It is too important a ritual in our culture,” he said.