In an average week, I'd wager that I shake about 40 hands. 40 different people, 40 unique handshakes. Everyone has a different grip, different pressure, single pump or double pump... In general, the handshake is pretty straightforward: Extend hand, meet other hand, grip, pump. I still meet plenty of people that don't know how to shake a hand properly (and this annoys me) - but 99 times out of 100 you can pull off a handshake without any problems.
But on the east coast I've recently become cognizant of a different greeting - popular in more social environments: the cheek kiss. Specifically, this seems to be the popular 'hello' and 'goodbye' for any female outside of the professional business world. If you're not from the east coast or Europe, you've probably seen this most often on tv....when Posh Spice kisses Donatella Versace goodbye on some red carpet. It's not really cheek kissing in the Michael Corleone/Fredo sense of the word - more like cheek nuzzling while making a kissing noise. I think...
Now, this cheek kiss looks all well and good on tv, but when it is suddenly thrust upon you in the first person, as it was to me recently, I was terrified. Let me explain...
Tuesday night I was at a swank little watering hole with a few people, and a buddy introduced me to a young lady friend of his. A hot Asian by the way. But I digress. Anyway, we chatted for about a half hour, and then when she got up to leave - she came at me with the cheek kiss. I had an immediate momentary panic - is she going for the left side or the right side? Is it a single cheek or double cheek? Do I actually kiss the cheek, or just make the kissing noise in the air? And where do you put your hands during this whole affair? Do I do the ass-out, A-frame position?
To the best of my beer-fogged recollection, I think she really did most of the work. I pretty much just froze up, didn't move, and it was over before I knew what hit me - literally.
This greeting is clearly not something we practice in the Midwest, and the social norms of this greeting have never been bestowed upon me. Though, I guess this gesture makes sense in some regards - I've never really felt comfortable shaking hands with women friends/colleagues. Too formal; feels like we should be negotiating a contract and then signing some paperwork. But the standard 'hug' is a bit too cozy for most situations....and I'm not much of a hugging person anyway.
So, as they say - "When in Rome". I guess it's time to get on board and get used to this cheek kissing thing. There's really no other option here - because when the chick comes at you with the kissing thing - what can you do, thrust your hand out quickly and intercept her with a handshake? If I do that, I'm going to end up jabbing a whole generation of women in the gut, and I'm not sure that's the image I want to be putting out there.
Note: Man on Man cheek kissing is not allowed. Stubble burn from another man is not going to sit well with me.