An Essential Life Skill: Shake Like a Man

From small starts grow large trees with deep roots.


A Pineywoods Manifesto: Thoughts on the Full Life

I’m writing an e-book for my four grandsons.

It’s also for young men who have no male role model to teach them these simple but essential life skills.

Today’s chapter is entitled “Shake Like a Man.”

Shake like a Man

When I was a young teenager, Tubby and Agnes King moved to Dry Creek and joined our church. I soon learned a valuable lesson about Tubby.*  He had a vise-grip handshake and would hurt your hand if you didn’t get a good grip.

I’d been taught how to shake hands like a man earlier in life. It’s a proactive slightly aggressive move where you ensure you get the webbed area between your thumb and forefinger right against the same part of the shakee, or fellow shaker’s. If you do this, you’ll get a firm grip and guys like Tubby can’t squeeze your fingers like wringing a wet dishrag.

I don’t think Tubby King meant to hurt other men with his handshake. He was a fine man who would always give a tearful testimony of how good God had been to him during any share time at church, but his handshake brought tears to a generation of Dry Creek men and boys.

His handshake was hurtful only if you didn’t know how to shake like a man.

It’s a learned habit.

Extend your right hand in a friendly forceful manner and give a firm handshake. It’s not a contest of the tightest grip, but men in the Louisiana Pineywoods (and much of the world) are judged by their handshake.

There’s no place for a dead fish handshake in our culture. Just as a firm shake gives an impressive impression, a limp handshake gives the opposite impression.  There’s no room in the Christian Kingdom of Men for wimpy handshakes.

In my world travels on missions, I was introduced to several variations. On the African Continent, it’s common to place your left hand on your right forearm during the handshake. It shows that the shaker isn’t holding a weapon behind his back with the free hand.  As we’d say, “Etu Brute’.”

I  learned another handshake variation in Indonesia in the aftermath of the terrible 2004 Tsunami.  I led a Louisiana medical team that ministered to the refugees from this century’s worst natural disaster. The Indonesian Sumatrans would shake my hand while patting their heart with their left hand, saying, “Thank you for coming in our time of need.”  The hand to the chest was explained as their way of adding, “I am connected to your heart.”  Coming from the deeply Muslim people of Aceh, I always took this symbolic gesture literally to heart.

Worldwide, the handshake is a symbolic feature of introduction and connection.

So shake like a man.  You don’t have to be a bodybuilder to have a firm handshake. It’s just a matter of practice and technique.

It’s part of a good first impression. It can open doors to strong friendships, jobs, open doors, opportunities of a lifetime.

So shake like a man.

*Tubby’s real name was Lester King and he had a twin brother named Chester. I’ve always wondered if brother Chester had the same handshake.

There’s another part of the handshake that has nothing to do with your right hand. Tomorrow, we’ll add it to your toolbox.

No matter where I’m at, I always remember this.


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