This purpose of this post is to publicly announce that I’m finished with shaking hands as a cultural device. I’ve given it up for the fist bump.

No, I’m not doing it because of President Obama. Well, I mean yes, his popular use of the technique helps make it a little less awkward, but I’m not doing it because of him. I’m doing it because as a species we’re fallible, and shaking hands only expedites this fallibility. Our hands are our gold, man. We use them for everything. And I mean everything. When we shake hands, we press the palms together, grip with our fingers, and hold it there like a hand french kiss. Some people do the soul handshake – but the palms still kiss. And when you shake hands with an older person at church, you might grip and pump the hands up and down a few times. But I’m done with the practice altogether. And I’m not doing it to draw attention to myself; if I wanted to do that I’d get a face tattoo or walk around with the back pockets of my jeans ripped off.

I’m also not trying to be Howie Mandel. I don’t know whether he bumps, or just avoids touching altogether. And I don’t really care. I do know that he doesn’t shake hands, though. And here’s the thing – I’m not afraid to touch. I’ll hug you in a second. But there’s something about shaking hands that is more intimate. When we shake hands, we’re sharing everything. And there are just too many of us on the planet to safely do that. No offense, but I can’t assume you are as committed to curbing the spread of disease and germs as I am. You may have just inadvertently covered your mouth for a cough right before we shook. Or maybe you picked your nose. Or worse.

I’ve had a thing about clean hands for a while, but until recently I wasn’t obsessed with it. Then I heard that on average most people touch about 15 penises a day – primarily from shaking hands. And so that was that. I don’t even know whether this statement is true, but now I’m done with it.

This does not mean that I’m against penises (I once wrote a blog post about quality men’s underwear.) I’m not gay or anti-gay. Though personally, I’m not attracted to them. Despite this, every man I know has a penis, and we all touch them multiple times a day. And not everyone washes. So, yeah.

If we ever meet and I don’t shake your hand, please don’t take offense. I mean no disrespect. I’ll kindly give you my knuckles instead. Or a hug.

president and ssgt


Jim Mitchem

My 2013 Fantasy Baseball Team
Dear Parents, Do Better

Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.