Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Shaking Hands (Pun Intended)

A handshake is a significant social construct. Learning to shake hands as a young man was a defining process. Too limp, and you are effete, ineffectual or passive aggressive; too firm, and you are thuggish, an oaf or a bully. If your hands are clammy, you are a lost cause, doubtless cohabiting with the nameless horrors of the deep.
It is quite probable that most people have thought about this less than I did, but it's sure to have crossed everyone's young mind (and if it didn't, it should have). How you shake hands is the first tangible impression that you give, and it makes a difference. It is perhaps as important as being a good kisser.
So, it has caused me some distress that I have lost a measure of control over my hand, and consequently over my handshake.
When I was first dealing with the brain damage, I had very little strength in my right side, so I was acutely conscious that shaking my hand was like expecting a robust response from a towel; and at that stage there was nothing I could do about it.
Now, my hand and wrist are stronger, so if I haven't just been to the gym, where my grip on a dumbbell is often the limiting factor in an exercise, then I am more capable of delivering a proper shake. Except that I tend to miss.
Whether doubled or one-eyed, my vision is such that I have a hard time judging distance. Even if I make a good stab at the distance, my whole right side is bad at following instructions accurately: some of the motor control of the right side got hit. So, I'm likely to grip just fingers or end up in some weird contortion that probably signifies my intent to buy narcotics or cap someone.
You would be well within your rights to ask why I care. After all, am I not capitulating to the privileged hegemony of the able-bodied? Yes, I am. I want to make the hale people I meet comfortable with my disability and that means doing what I can to conform to the invisible, unconscious social norms that pervade the world. Like shaking hands.