Life on Tapp: Is the friendly handshake a thing of the past?

Of all the many things that have changed over the past year and a half, it seems the thing that we, the general population, are struggling to come to terms with the most is the fact that we are permitted to touch one another again.

Saturday, 2nd October 2021, 9:00 pm
PHYSICAL GREETING: Is the ridiculous elbow tap here to stay? Photo: Getty Images
PHYSICAL GREETING: Is the ridiculous elbow tap here to stay? Photo: Getty Images

Before you start shifting uncomfortably in your chair, the sort of touching I’m referring to is all above board, or at least it was until late March 2020; handshakes, hugs, high fives, and even those ever-so-slightly-patronising pats-cum-rubs of the shoulder.

The fact that many folk now prefer a wave and a “hiya” or, if you’re over 65 and sport a pair of mutton chops, ‘how do?’, to the once traditional shaking of hands is no less sad.

I do know a significant number who, some out of sheer bloody-mindedness, still proffer their sweaty digits to every acquaintance they meet.

But what these people are unaware of is that, as soon as they are out of sight, their victim reaches for their trusty pocket-sized bottle of anti-bac gel.

Ever since restrictions were lifted in July, people have found their comfort zones. As the weeks have gone on, it’s become noticeable that fewer people are choosing to wear masks in public, probably a combination of the confidence gained from being double jabbed as well as being fed up with advice and any perceived assaults on their freedoms.

It appears that where some are drawing the line is when it comes to getting closer to other people than is absolutely necessary, although it isn’t clear whether this is down to fear of catching Covid or that they see it as a convenient moment to reclaim their personal space.

Like many, I have been easing myself back towards pre-pandemic normality and recently embarked on my first proper night out, a business event in London. It is the sort of shindig that in the past would’ve seen men and women alike throw their arms around anybody they vaguely knew. Not this time. While the hundreds of guests clearly enjoyed themselves, the lack of desire for physical contact was clear to see.

I struggled with this and shook hands with quite a few fellow guests, some I knew better than others but it was still awkward. Nobody wants to be ‘that guy’ who forces others to shake his hand so it was understandable that there was a degree of hesitation on my part. Fortunately, nobody refused but I cannot be certain that they didn’t make a beeline for the toilets and the soap dispenser the second that my back was turned.

What was also noticeable was that there was a distinct lack of hugging and even “fresh air” kissing, such was the wariness of those who had dusted off their suits and cocktail dresses for the first time after more than a year of Netflix and home deliveries.

As tactile as I am, I appreciate that there is a significant proportion of the population who aren’t and a pandemic has done nothing to alter that stance. I’m not sure what will replace the traditional physical greetings in the long term as surely the ridiculous elbow tap won’t endure? Maybe an informal salute or a little dance?

Who knows what will happen in the future but if the handshake is consigned to history then it will be greatly missed in my tiny corner of England.