They call them the millennial generation, or just millennials, those folks who became young adults around the year 2000. Like all generations they will surely leave their mark on society and, tattoo-lovers that they are, on themselves. Lost on millennials is the title of the late Irish blues guitar great Rory Gallagher, Tattoo’d Lady, and the next lyric, bearded baby. Gallagher was referring to circus freaks, not bank managers.
Although I don’t get the whole tattoo concept particularly its inherent permanent nature, as an armchair sociologist what interests me is the millennial version of the once simple handshake. Until recently shaking hands with someone was a fairly simple undertaking – firm grip, three to five pumps, release, any longer and we are holding hands. Even those who liked to slip into an arm wrestling thumb-focused grip mid-shake did not pose a real problem. Secret society handshakes are not something I need concern myself with, having never been a membership kind of guy. High fives? Never been very good at them I’m afraid. Fist bumps are great for germophobes.
What I find to be a nuisance is the millennial handshake – also known as the Bro-Hug – that evolves into a semi-hug shoulder bump pat on the back kind of thing. Right hands are gripped but instead of the traditional two or three pumps and release, the greeters use the grip to pull themselves together, meeting at the point of right shoulders. Unlike traditional handshakes there are even websites that explain how to Bro-Hug. If you have ever watched football players loosening up prior to kick-off you will be familiar with this move as players use it to ready themselves for hits during the game.
Sometimes the shoulder bump is not sufficient and it evolves into a bear hug. You once saw this exclusively at the airport as long-lost relatives greeted each other or sent loved ones off on voyages. But today when two twenty-somethings meet you would be excused for thinking they had just found each other after years of searching.
Of course they are free to do what they want, but it can cause significant awkwardness when a millennial greets an unsuspecting older person who is used to a traditional clasp and three to five pump handshake. The shoulder bump can be an awkward surprise. On more than one occasion I have thought I was being pulled out of harm’s way. The bear hug requires the release of the hand; If you are not expecting it and don’t let go this results in a left hand hug with handshake centre. Not very elegant.