The Ministry of Lisa Copen

Lisa Copen, Founder of Rest Ministries which serves the chronically ill, shares about mothering, illness, ministry and more.

No Squeezing Today on National Handshake Day

handshakeMany of you may look at that title, and think… “Uh, what is the big deal?” But if you live with any kind of painful condition where your hands are easily hurt, or you have a chronic illness and germs spreading to you can be a concern, the simple handshake can turn into a big deal.

I’ve lived with rheumatoid arthritis for sixteen years. Before that, I prided my 24-year-old self on how to give a good firm (I-am-woman-hear-me-roar) handshake.

But as the arthritis worsened, I didn’t squeeze back I just put my hand out and cringed that people may think I was a wimpy girl that didn’t know how to properly shake hands.

And then… it started feeling like people were crushing my hands. I would walk away with tears on the rims of my eyes. The handshakes were often from men who really had no reason to squeeze any woman’s hand that hard. It seemed like some odd way to show off their strength, but it left me thinking less of them for practically bending my (wedding) ring.

How important is it to shake hands? According to CNN Employers are more likely to overlook body piercings than a bad handshake!

But how many of us really want to say, “I don’t shake hands. I have _____,” and go into an in depth explanation of our chronic illness or pain when people really don’t care?  I’d love to hear your solutions!

My temporary solution turned into one of over ten years. I offer my left hand, palm side down. It’s still a kind gesture. Though the CNN article does call a left-handed handshake “The “southpaw.” But they says it “happens when the person uses the left hand to shake because the right hand has food or a drink.”

When I reach out and grab the other person’s right hand, no one in American tends to even think I am waiting for a kiss on the top of my hand.

When they stretch their hand out, I smile and keep talking and extend my hand to theirs, curling my fingers over the top of their fingers just slightly and then taking my hand back.

To be honest, it throws them so off, they forget to squeeze it! Yet, I don’t have to give an explanation, nor do I appear rude. A little odd maybe, but that’s okay with me!

Those of us with illness who would just perfer to not be exposed to any more germs than necessary can also find ways to kindly avoid the handshake. In fact, with the N1H1 Swine Flu virus, even the healthies of people were avoiding contact. Fox News wrote, “With Swine Flu on the Rise, Should We Stop Shaking Hands?

Their verdict?

Dr. Michael Anderson, interim chief medical officer of University Medical Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, said whether people are worried about swine flu or the common cold, they need to use basic common sense — and that doesn’t include stopping the handshake.

“There are other ways to protect yourself, like using an alcohol-based sanitizer, which I use two or three times an hour,” Anderson said. “I’ve probably shaken the hands of 10 colleagues today. I think it’s a wonderful social greeting.”

My 2-cents? It all depends on the situation.  Sometimes I have my hands full and it’s an easy way to avoid contact. Other times you can blame your own health and say, “You know, I’m getting over a bug so I’m not shaking hands this week.”

Sometimes I go for the left hand. I may even shake left-handed and then smile and say, “I shake with my left hand; it’s not as painful with my arthritis.” (My hands aren’t any different, but their ability to squeeze is.)

And there are times I just risk it and throw my hand out there.  Among us women friends, sometimes we don’t even go for the hand, we brush right past it for the hug.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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