Can We Retire the Handshake?


What do Donald Trump and I have in common? Obviously not our tresses. Nor our real estate.

We both dread shaking hands, avoiding the custom if at all possible.

“I think that the only thing better than a good handshake is no handshake at all,” affirms The Donald. And I couldn’t agree more.

With flu and cold season right around the corner, can’t we retire this archaic Western world habit? Hands are dirty – they’re literally a cornucopia of nasty germs, picked up from door handles, computer keyboards, covering our mouth when we cough or our nose when we sneeze, rubbing our eyes or whatever. Plus those who should know better put aside common sense in favor of the outstretched hand.

Visit a doctor who sees sick patients throughout the day and the initial greeting is almost guaranteed to be a handshake. And look at how many times a day we handle money – cab fares, cash stations, fast food, parking meters…all of which are breeding grounds for germs.

In business, a handshake is SOP – standard operating procedure. To avoid an outstretched hand in corporate America is so not politically correct. Yet research shows that a good percentage of men (supposedly one in three in Chicago) don’t wash their hands after a visit to the men’s room urinal. They shake themselves, then shake us. I don’t want to!

But I also know I have to and there’s no plausible excuse. Weak ones – and I’ve used them all – include “I just put hand cream on.” “I’m getting over a cold.” “Just caught a fly with my hand.” “Nail polish is still drying.” One subtle attempt to avoid a shake usually does work, but only in our offices – water glass in one hand, pen/paper in the other.

Bottom line: I’m not some germaphobic, but there’s probably a reason I haven’t had a cold within the last five years.


About Sherren Leigh

Sherren Leigh is president and founder of Today's Chicago Woman and Today's Chicago Woman Foundation. She muses about life - the good, the bad, the ugly - and anything else that's on her mind in “Girl Talk.” Sometimes funny, other times serious, she's always thought-provoking and often controversial.