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Replacing Handshakes

Replacing Handshakes

A fan wrote to warn me that future editions of my Monster Etiquette book will need to be updated to accommodate the global pandemic. Item 2: Grasp appendages firmly (see image above), is clearly inappropriate advice for the new reality of social distancing and no touching.

It’s not clear to me yet what convention will replace the handshake. Here are four ideas I’m watching.


1. The Wave—Easy to learn. Works at long distance. Can be modified to allow personal expression from dignified to exuberant.


2. The Curtsy—A classic that could make a comeback. Graceful. In this era of gender bending, there’s no reason guys can’t master the curtsy.


3. Long Hand—Permits greetings similar to a traditional handshake but executed at a safe distance.



4. Emoji Hat—Applies technology to the problem. Makes it possible to add nuance to a greeting by fine tuning the display. May require batteries.

If you have a favorite or believe some other gesture is better suited for post-pandemic life, let me know.

While the handshake principle may be a little outdated due to current events, we think the rest of Don's little illustrated book is still spot on. If you find yourself surrounded by rude, loud, smelly, selfish creatures who don’t know how to behave, this book may be the perfect cure. (Now, go wash your hands.)

Don—Pittsburgh, May 10, 2020

Comments on this post (27)

  • Jun 05, 2020

    Hand (or fist) on heart, then cast a peace sign. Love & Peace!

    — “Dyno” Don Jackson

  • May 20, 2020

    I love number 2, but I believe the initiator/initiatrix should curtsy, and the recipient should bow, regardless of gender. Thank you for your awesome thoughts and consideration this strange time – weirdness reigns!

    — Gail Feliciant

  • May 17, 2020

    Gimme five…air five. Might be interpreted as “hallelujah” or “praise the Lord” but I’m OK with that, too.

    — Beth

  • May 15, 2020

    Long Tom’s suggestion of the Lakota upraised palm is 100% cultural appropriation unless and until the Lakota, Dakota, and Sioux people and leadership freely offer this gesture to non-tribe people, it is inappropriate for us to use the gesture.

    — Steve

  • May 15, 2020


    — iEgg Prxx

  • May 15, 2020

    How about smoke signals

    — Cindy

  • May 15, 2020

    Indians have been greeting each other with Namaste 🙏 for thousands of years. It’s become weirdly appropriated for just yoga in the US but it’s actually a casual yet respectful everyday greeting.

    — Deepa

  • May 15, 2020

    For the past few months, as a formal greeting I’ve been reviving what my peeps used to call “temena”: something between a shallow bow and a head nod, with the right hand rising to tap the air just over the heart and then the forehead (don’t touch yer face!) as you straighten back up. Very dignified…but for close friends, we’ve been turning back to back and bumping butts — all the close contact you could ask for, with any contagion blowing in opposite directions!

    — S. Akhrei

  • May 15, 2020

    Love your little pandemic character with the filter mask! Please make more of him. This all cheers me so much. I fell out of the chair laughing when I opened my e-mail and your graphic of human hand shaking tentacle appeared. More, more, more, Don!

    — Linda Hawks Oistad

  • May 15, 2020

    The Japanese bow was polite and easily adapted while living there many years ago. Gets my vote. On the other hand, for very close and special friends I suggest the Donald Duck In-Your-Face Rumba Butt Tail Waggle. The meaning is much more celebratory.

    — Linda Gottschall

  • May 15, 2020

    How about the “hi sign”, a la Spanky in The Little Rascals?

    — Kathy Weiss

  • May 15, 2020

    How about replacing the soggy palm or dead fish handshake with uncomfortably intense eye contact?
    I mean why get rid of all the fun?

    — Sherry

  • May 15, 2020

    These are all great alternatives! I can see from the comments that all of these and more will become the norm with the handshake being viewed as “I’m attempting to harm you,” a generally taboo move. I really like the jazz hands comment, too. When I get to this page in the Monster Etiquette book when reading to my grandson we will have a fun discussion on what he’d like to do! Thanks Don.

    — Lisa Hunerlach

  • May 15, 2020

    I have been opposed to the shaking of hands (an ancient warrior greeting showing that you are not holding a sword) all my life. One wonders how many millions of lives have been snuffed out via this diabolical disease transmission method.
    I suggest the Lakota greeting of an upraised palm held level with the shoulder and facing the person and saying “Hau, Cola!” This is accepted to mean “I greet you, friend” and has nothing to do with “how is your soft drink ?” Does one risk being accused of cultural misappropriation or insensitivity?
    Alternatively, some cultures use some version of “I see you (insert name).” If, like me, you have a congenital inability to remember names, this is a non starter.
    I also like the tee shirt saying “Keep Calm and Stand Back!”
    Shaking hands is DEAD. So is “stay safe.” Safety is a delusion akin to belief in unicorns. There is no safe place on Earth. We can try to behave safely but being safe is impossible. Behave sensibly! Long Tom

    — Long Tom

  • May 15, 2020

    Emoji hat, for sure.

    — Holly Mitchell

  • May 15, 2020

    The Japanese formal bow, with your curtsy as a permitted secondary reply in lieu of a bow, is my suggestion. Then bows and curtsies could develop their own nuances of meaning. I.E. praying hands with a bow means you favor a Buddhist tinge either/or Hollywood glamour….

    — Ellen G Graham

  • May 15, 2020

    Voice controlled Imoji Hat

    — Stephen

  • May 15, 2020

    My Mom and I have been using the salute method when I drop off her groceries.

    — Nancy

  • May 15, 2020

    I like the emoji hat idea, maybe with a short text ability.

    — Patricia

  • May 15, 2020

    Jazz hands

    — Doris

  • May 15, 2020

    I’m adding all of these ideas to our Home Schooling curriculum – especially the curtsy. Awesome blog – thank you. And a belated HB to you and K.

    — Susan Bohill

  • May 15, 2020

    All of these are excellent…I plan to implement them immediately 👹!

    — Joby McAdams

  • May 15, 2020

    I plan on adopting several variations of the wave – after years of motorcycle riding, VW ownership, & rural small town living, I already have done that!

    — DB McNicol

  • May 15, 2020

    That was Star Trek’s Spock – not ye olde Dr. Spock of pediatrics! Too quick typing.

    — Jane Gross

  • May 15, 2020

    I’m going with Dr. Spock’s ‘Live Long & Prosper’ gesture.

    — Jane Gross

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