It’s a funny thing about people. We all have our ways of greeting one another and there are those people in the world — aggressive greeters, we’ll call them — that don’t seem to care if their way isn’t amenable to the person they are greeting. Therefore, we often find ourselves in what I’ll uncreatively deem an awkward-greeting-scenario, or AGS.
The first example that came to my mind and prompted me to pen this blog is something I’ve been pondering for a few months. Specifically, DD’s family and my family greet one another very differently. His family: Big Polish/Italian/who knows what. They greet and bid you adieu with an embracing hug. His sister’s mother-in-law adds in a cheek kiss for good measure.
[side note] This kiss is the most awkward kiss I have ever experienced. Worse than the time I almost fell out of a car to avoid a first kiss on a date. Worse than the time I knocked my head with someone else while going in for the end of date kiss. This is because I don’t know what to do with this form of greeting. For me, it’s just too unfamilar. How hard do you kiss back? Is this a brush of the lips or a full-on friendly peck? [end side note]
I won’t lie, even the hugs threw me off at first. I mean, the first time I met his immediate family, they hugged me good bye. The last time I saw his cousin, she got up off the couch and hugged me goodbye. What’s that about?
See, my family doesn’t hug strangers. We’re the true American, ethnic nothing, quiet and prim, family. We hug one another, sure. We may even hug a friend in need. But a random hug goodbye? Hell, no. And a random hug (or kiss! ooo that kiss is weird…) goodbye upon first meeting someone? Double hell no. That’s just how we roll. And it’s because of that upbringing that I now secretly balk at cheek kisses and full-body-contact farewells. It’s also because of that upbringing that I feel bad DD’s family has hugged me countless times, yet my parents have yet to embrace him. I don’t even think my dad has shaken his hand.
I noticed it especially this past Easter. We did lunch with his family, where hugs and kisses prevailed. Next up was my family, for a little March Madness watching. DD got up to leave, and I naturally walked him to the door and my mom followed. They made small talk, the door was reached, and everyone stood there. My mom didn’t go in for the hug. DD didn’t attempt to bring his family traditions to my household. It was just plain awkward. Of course, it didn’t help that I wanted to kiss DD good-bye but my mom decided to just stand there and it’s weird to kiss him (or any man) in front of her. This goes back to the prim and quiet trait I alluded to earlier.
Taking this out of the relationship realm and into the corporate realm, I had another AGS recently. I went to a meeting where my former co-workers work. One immediately embraced me, because that’s just how she rolls, and my nature is to just comply until it becomes natural for me too. The other co-worker, who also happened to be the person I was meeting with, just said “hello”. No hug. No handshake. It was funny, because I could tell we both were waiting for the other to make a move. In any other situation like this, I would automatically reach my hand out. But she felt to intimate of a connection to simply shake hands with. Yet, neither of us moved in for the hug, which also isn’t unusual given our friendly, but distant, relationship. We were in this weird alternate universe that left us greeting-less…and in this particular setting, I felt I should have done something more. But like I said, I comply. I follow, not lead, when it comes to greetings.
The good thing is that if I do encounter an aggressive-greeter, I usually get used to the greeting over time and it becomes second nature for me — with that person. Introduce a new aggressive-greeter and the process starts over.
If only aggressive-greeters could pick out us passive-greeters and maybe not go in for the full effect on first sight. Maybe do a little coaching or mentoring before going full speed ahead. I mean geez, the first time you sleep with someone you don’t pull out all your crazy tricks. You take a moment. Assess the situation. You’d think the same rules would apply to greetings.