The Perils of the High Five

I’ve never been good at being in society. I nearly always feel awkward, because–let’s face it–I’m a strange bird. I’m way too loud. I laugh like your drunk uncle. (You don’t have one? Sorry, I thought everyone did.) Oh, and people don’t get my sense of humor. I don’t know why.

Anyhow, one of the societal norms that causes me a great deal of discomfiture is the “high five” (and other awkward handshakes). I’m looking forward to a time when they’ll be passe. Please God, let them become passe. In case you’re wondering, here are the reasons I eagerly await the demise of the dreaded high-five and its siblings:

  • The window of opportunity is narrow. My ability to make accurate spatial judgments is limited. This means when someone (let’s call him Chip) raises his hand in the air and booms, “Awesome job! C’mon, give it to me! Right here!” sweat begins to trickle down my back. Everyone knows the resounding slap of a high-five should ring out and grab the attention of the entire room. Yet when I’m involved, approximately 2 out of 5 attempts results in my pinky and ring-finger weakly flapping against Chip’s pinky. (If Chip has wide hands, the odds are slightly improved.) Another 1 out of 5 attempts results in a complete miss. I have terrible aim, Chip.
  • Failed high-five etiquette is unclear. It’s bad enough I missed. Do I try again? Do I pretend our hands made crisp contact and move on? Do I avert my eyes, clear my throat, and make goodbye noises like at the end of a bad date? Why Chip? Why have you reduced me to this?
  • Is it really a high-five, or is it a high handshake? I was recently presented a high-five opportunity. I lifted my hand and was pleased to have made passably good contact. But then the high-five instigator grabbed my hand, instantly converting our greeting from high-five to high-handshake. Since I’d assumed we were high-fiving, I had already began to retract my hand–so this guy (let’s call him Chip) grabbed my fingers instead of my palm. I felt like screaming, “I didn’t know it was a high handshake! Did I miss the signal?! When will I learn?!” But … I think that might’ve made things worse. 
  • Failed high-handshake etiquette is unclear. My three fingers were smushed into Chip’s hand like a fistful of Kit Kats. (Separated into individual bars, of course.) I was at a loss: Was there time to play it off, or had he already noticed I’d tried to slap and go? Should I try to slide my hand back up? Should I just leave my fingers in their lumpy triad and try wrapping my thumb around his palm? I could play it off like that’s how I do the high handshake. (“Don’t you do it that way? Doesn’t everybody? Yeah, you’re socially awkward, Chip.”)
  • Any hand-greeting (other than the standard handshake) is awkward. I have another friend who greets everyone with one of those awkward handshakes that involves grips, mutual hand-wringing, and then snapping your hands crisply apart. Everytime he reaches for my hand I sweat down my back. Why does it have to be this way? Can’t we just shake hands? I’ll even settle for a high-five.

So, here’s what I’m saying. I’m just not good at it, okay? It’s nothing personal. God is at work in me, give it time.

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12 thoughts on “The Perils of the High Five

  1. Tammy Garrett says:

    I’m so glad to know I’m not the only person in the world (or our church, for that matter!) with high-five anxiety! Don’t you just love the Sundays when we’re given the opportunity to mess it up twice?!! Thanks for always making me smile! And, by the way, if I’m “Chip”… Sorry!

  2. Ram Venkatararam says:

    I honestly hope you are nothing like my drunk uncle. If you are, we will have to get the child welfare, the internal revenue and the immigration people involved. No one wants that.

    I hate high 5s and goofy handshakes. I’m happy to just avoid eye contact when I meet people. What more does society want from me?

    THanks for the post

  3. Tracie says:

    Tammy, You’re not Chip! Haha!

  4. Tracie says:

    Well Ram, it’s good to know there’s a small (3-person) society of us who feel the same way about all the hand-shaking business!

  5. JL says:

    I was laughing out loud on this…you are funny…like a fistful of kit kats…LOL!

  6. Tracie says:

    😀 Thanks John …

  7. I am terrible at the whole high five thing, too!! They do it at least three times every week at church, but I’ve officially boycotted it. When they go for the high five, I just reach in for a bear hug. 🙂

  8. Tracie says:

    Good idea Rachel! Maybe I should opt out too!

  9. Hollis says:

    UNREAL, ok, I am going to step out here and admit that I am right there with you on this Tracie. Not necessarily on the spatial piece but I sometimes I feel like “culturally” I am supposed to drop some super high five??? Some people light up when they approach you, displaying their joyous expectations of a fulfilling high five only to have that awkward disappointment when they realized you aren’t as skilled in the maneuver as they thought. I have gotten the “high five handshake” and failed at it more times than I care to remember. Or the high five turned fist bump that I believe debuted in the first season of Martin.

    Its why I personally push the hug, or the handshake hug (aka man hug). I am so totally uncomfortable with the high five thing.

    You rock for setting us free and with complete technical detail. and yes I LAUGHED OUT LOUD, REALLY LOUD!


  10. Tracie says:

    Seriously? Wow Hollis, you’re so confident! It never occurred to me you were a secret high-five hater! We should have our own t-shirt!

    (And I believe your historical assessment of the high five fist bump is accurate, though it’s entirely possible Martin just recycled it from the 70s. But then again, the handshakes of the 70s were pretty intricate and involved years of secret, kungfu-type training … )

  11. Karen M says:


    Okay, that being said….count me in the club too. I’m TOTALLY for the t-shirt. And Tracie, I do get your humor so we must be misfits together 🙂

  12. This was great. I am a hybrid of all greetings if necessary. I find that the handshake for me is more affirming, makes me feel as if the situation is more genuine.

    LOL man this was funny. Good stuff Tracie

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