Saturday, November 18, 2017
The allegations and admissions that have come to light since the public downfall of Harvey Weinstein have been shocking, appalling and profoundly disappointing – particularly the unexpected ones like comedian Louis CK and Pixar/Disney creative head John Lasseter. Like many men, I’ve pondered, reflected, and questioned my own past actions and observations. It’s deeply complex. There are many issues at play.
But one of the things I keep coming back to is the idea of men who hug just a little too much; the ones who shake hands, hug, kiss, and get all grabby as their hands roam about. I just don’t get it. Yes, I get why it is unwelcome – I’ve just never understood how a handshake suddenly becomes a hug and then a kiss and then multiple kisses on the cheek and then the hands start grabbing. I understand it as something I’ve learned from Western culture, and it’s something many Western women do as well; but it’s not something I’ve ever embraced wholeheartedly.
I guess what I’m suggesting is, where this kind of behaviour is concerned, this could be a distinctly Western problem.
In Chinese and Japanese society, for instance, when you meet each other, you simply bow. It need not be anything dramatic – usually it’s subtle, like a nod, or even a simple direct look. You’d be surprised how much meaning you can get out of a mere nod. This isn’t to say handshakes don’t occur – of course they occur – but handshakes are considered a very overtly friendly and familiar gesture, mostly done for show.
Hugging? Only for family and maybe close friends. For anyone else that’s just waaaay too intimate and unsanitary. I mean, when I shake hands with someone, I can tell a lot about their demeanour and intention. A hug tells me their health, any physical ailments, the last time they bathed, their general fitness, what kind of diet they have, their stress levels, whether they moisturise enough, what’s in their hair… I’m already uncomfortable knowing all that about my dear old aunt – I don’t want to know that about people who are frankly less than that.
And kissing? Forget it. That’s for my wife and kids.
To be perfectly frank, every time I’m obliged by Western custom to shake hands, hug or kiss the cheek of (and be kissed by) someone at work, I’m unsure of whether I’m disgusted to my core or ambivalent due to years of exposure and being numb to it. I have Asian work colleagues with whom I carry out the custom, and we’re awkward/fine with it.
But I just can’t help but wonder how much of this other stuff, all the harassment and abuse and whatnot that’s being discussed, could have been avoided if people just bowed.