the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Handshakes and Hugs

For years, I have been worrying about the appropriate greeting when meeting a female for the first time. Do I hug her? Kiss her? Fake kiss her? Shake her hand? Just when I was getting secure in my social etiquette with women, a new problem has arisen — how to greet MEN. It used to be simple. You would meet a guy and you would shake his hand. This technique was passed down from generation to generation, father to son.

Last week, I went to a Hollywood party. There was one film producer that I was hoping to talk with, despite the event being held in the noisiest, most crowded bar imaginable. Why do people meet in loud bars where you can’t hear anyone talking? After finishing my twelve dollar mojito, I saw Mr. Big.

“Hello,” I said.

“Hey, Neil!” the producer replied, and stretched out his hand for what I thought was going to be a traditional handshake.

But rather than his arm facing towards me, it shot up at 45% angle. I was confused at the gesture, and what was expected from me in return. Sweat formed on my forehead. I didn’t want to blow this opportunity for male bonding. Was I supposed to give this important man a “high five?” It seemed too informal, as if we were playing on the basketball court. I rose up my hand, hoping to improv the whole handshake, and he gripped it in an unusual manner. Our thumbs intertwined, but the hold was less “a soul shake” from a blaxploitation film of the 1970’s, but a “pinkie squared” with the thumbs. The producer moved his other hand around my body and onto the small of my back, and gently pushing me forward until our right shoulders bumped. This move was reminiscent of the hug that President-Elect Obama gave President Bush on Obama’s first visit to the White House. News commentators made note that it was Obama who gave the gentle push forward to Bush, telling the world that the power structure had changed, and Obama was now the alpha male.

Clearly the producer was being friendly, even more intimate than I expected, but at the same time showing me who was boss. I dare not put my hand on HIS BACK and push him into the shoulder bump, or attempt to change things up and bump him on the left side. No, it was I who was being bumped, like the weak, submissive one. And that is the Hollywood game.

I expect BlogHer to be very stressful. I will have to hug many women. During those brief moments of introduction, I will need to walk the fine line between “I am a fellow blogger” and “my room number is #2103.”

Meeting the men will even be more stressful, now that male dominance has taken over the friendly handshake. Who is going to be the guy that initiates the shoulder bump — the one with the more comments on their blog posts?


  1. headbang8


    The correct way for a writer to greet a producer is with a blowjob. Didn’t you know?



    ahh, we all know this dilemma too well. a gloved handshake remains my preference.

  3. amy

    Are you still worrying about me kissing you dear? 🙂

  4. teahouseblossom

    How very odd! Is this a change of behavior in response to the swine flu epidemic?

    It reminds me of last week at mass when the priest indicated that it was time for the “Peace Be With You” but then mentioned that we didn’t have to shake hands. Most of us looked at each other, perplexed as to what was appropriate in view of the changed circumstances.

  5. Finn

    Yet another instance in which I’m glad to be a woman.

    Women don’t shake hands with each other, have noticed that? Except in business situations. We usually just wave at new people from a short distance.

  6. maggie, dammit

    Fair warning: I’m hugging you. I don’t plan for it to be in the room #235 way, but I’ve heard we Wisconsinites are friendlier than we realize.

  7. Karen Sugarpants

    I can’t wait to hug you!
    Relax about BlogHer – most people are really nice and friendly. And all the people I know really like you.

  8. Twenty Four At Heart

    “I will have to hug many women.” Jeez Neil, you expect us to believe that’s a chore rather than a pleasure? And in this post are you the one offering up your BlogHer room number or are you expecting many women to be offering their room numbers to you? I rarely have clothes on, I think we should just wave to each other at BlogHer. (That’s how we California types are!) : )

  9. Megan {Velveteen Mind}

    The problem I have is with the proper placement of your face during a hug with a stranger. Do you do the face-to-face in the same direction or cheek to cheek like you are slow dancing at the prom?

    Watching me fail at that split second choice is priceless entertainment.

  10. Lala

    I wish I were going to BlogHer so I could think up mindscrewing ways to greet you. You think MaggieDammnit is friendly? Canadians have THAT in the bag!

  11. Memarie Lane

    I’m glad you brought this up, Neil. The male / female greeting is definitely awkward. Nothing seems right. Hugs are too intimate, handshakes too masculine. Personally I prefer no physical contact, just a nod of respect and acknowledgment.

  12. Elisa

    As I recently found out at a blogging events, hugs between bloggers who have never met before but have possibly tweeted or commented on each other’s blots etc is entirely appropriate and more often than not, expected.

    Feel free to hug me if we meet at BlogHer 🙂

  13. Diana

    In my experience the appropriate greeting at BlogHer is the squeee-dance-hug. Allow me to demonstrate. First both parties let out a loud, high pitched “Squeeeeeeee!” This should be pronounced like squid crossed with “weee”. The appropriate distance for the squee does vary, from greeting to greeting but 15 feet seems to be a good rule of thumb. In the case, of greeting a blogger you have previously bonded with it is acceptable to follow the squeee with any of the following:

    “OH. My. Gosh” (do not follow this with “Becky, look at her butt…” you will get bitch slapped)


    Their name, drawn out – e.g. “Neeeeiiiiillllllllllllllll!!!” (some people like to follow this up with the above “Girl!!!!” – “Neiiiiillllllll, Girl!” – I may go with this when meeting you, if you don’t mind of course)

    Please make note that the squee and following exclamations should be made while ‘on the move’. Don’t stop walking to squee.

    Once close enough to join hands you should then take the other bloggers hands in yours and shift your weight back and forth – left, right, left, right, left… center. If this is a particularly well-known blogger or someone you’ve met before be sure to do so with PIZZAZ! Hop from foot to foot.

    And last but not least throw your arms around the other blogger in carefree fashion. Embrace heartily.

    And last but not least, if you decide to take my advice please allow us the courtesy of a forewarning. You know, so we can gather around and catch it on video. 😉

  14. Annie

    Neil,I think you worry too much :-). Every situation is different, go with what you feel in the moment. And so you know ahead of time, if you ever meet me, a hug, not too tight, is fine, no kisses until I know you better :-).

  15. V-Grrrl

    Headbang8 has me laughing…

    I’m surprised men don’t size each other up by extending their hands and grabbing the other guys scrotum, smiling, nodding, or maybe even rolling the eyes…

  16. Y

    You don’t HAVE to hug me when we meet at BlogHer. We can FistBump or high five each other. Or we can do a chest bump, but that could be dangerous as far as your safety is concerned, so maybe not.

    In any case. If you WANT to hug, we can, but you totally don’t HAVE to.

  17. badassdad05

    The circles I travel in are not hip enough to have transcended the handshake, though there is the occasional manhug.

    The larger problem I find, though, is what do you talk about with another man (or a Canadian) when you have absolutely no interest in professional sports? Any input would be appreciated.

  18. Stacey

    I always feel weird about greeting people that are friends of the Captain. I’ve known them for years but does that make them my friends? These tend to be the people who go in for a hug. I’m apparently really awkward with my hugs.

  19. Miss Grace

    Just stick your face in everyone’s boobs and start motorboatin those sons of bitches.

    You’ll do fine.

    Swear to Jesus.

  20. Caron

    Perhaps you should wear a crown for blogher. Crowns encourage curtsies. No touching, and, cleavage.

  21. movindowntheroad

    most men I know who are of normal descent, reach out to take my hand and then they kiss me on the cheek, one cheek. Unless there is a creep factor, I do a little wave to be sure a) they don’t shake my hand and b) they don’t kiss me. If you are meeting someone you are in close contact via blogging and feel a kinship/like you are friends with, that is totally appropriate. If you meet someone for the first time and you dont really know them, shake their hand. You can kiss their cheek and hug the next day if you want to (get them in your room). Have a good time. I’ll be macking out with my man here at home.

  22. SciFi Dad

    For men, it’s simple: whichever one would be the top in a prison sex situation initiates.

  23. kelly

    I was planning on using the wedgie as my hello. Watch ya back-Neil.

  24. churchpunkmom

    Don’t worry Neil.. I’m sure that Aman will regale you with one of those awkward handshake hug hi5 kind of things.. no, just a handshake.

    If you’re brave enough, you can hug me in front of him. 😉

  25. sizzle

    I will need to walk the fine line between “I am a fellow blogger” and “my room number is #2103.” Heh!

    I fully expect you to pinch my ass again.

  26. Deidre

    The real tricky one is the two handed hand shake…what’s that about?

    Also, there’s a seinfeld episode about this (like there is for any potentially socially awkward moment).

  27. LiteralDan

    Oh great, now there’s something new for me to panic about when faced with greeting a stranger.

    I don’t know whether to hate you for bringing this on, or thank you for the heads up.

  28. Jane

    Isn’t most of it just intuitive? I hug some people, I don’t hug others. Sometimes I extend a hand, sometimes I just nod and smile. For me there’s just a sense that comes with meeting someone — a feeling of how comfortable they are, and I am, about physical contact.

    I know there are people who don’t “get it” even when body language is clear, but in my experience they’re in the minority.

    Just pay attention, and you’ll do fine at your women’s group. 🙂

  29. better safe than sorry

    the first thing i thought when i read this was that you met mr. big from sex and the city, but i guess not. i’d go with headbangs approach, you’re sure to be remembered.

  30. AnnieH(the other annie)

    Just trying to think outside the box for you…

  31. Denise

    I think you have to feel out someone’s energy. Everyone has a different comfort zone. After I visited NYC in the fall, I came home and wrote a post about the straight to the mouth kiss, which is how all my old friends greeted me. And I loved it. Haven’t seen that much action in a long time!

  32. schmutzie

    Not to worry. You can just give me a straight up hug when me meet. See? Stress over!

  33. anymommy

    No, it’s the one with the most red feathers in his hat, of course.

    I’ll eliminate more stress for you – I hug.

  34. Whit

    We’ve already met, so at BlogHer I expect a reach-around.

  35. Poppy

    A handshake is appropriate. If you’re already online friends then a handshake-lean-in-for-a-hug-and/or-kiss-on-the-cheek is appropriate, based on your physical feeling of the situation. 🙂 Helpful, eh?

    The first time I saw Dawg in person I hugged him. Still not helpful, is it?

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