Monday, April 9, 2012

Etiguette 101

How to greet a new adult member of the family for the first time

Several months ago, my daughter, who lives in Massachusetts, announced her plans to marry the love of her life.  I couldn't be happier for her.
Unlike most fathers, however, I have not been pondering those big parental questions.  Will he treat her right?  What are their plans for feeding and housing themselves?  How many children do they plan on having and where will these grandchildren go to college? 
No, I trust them completely to handle those things themselves.  Probably by learning on the job, as I did, through a long series of idiotic mistakes. 
Instead, I have been worrying about how I should greet him when I first meet him in person?   
There are just so many possibilities to consider:

·         The basic handshake -- always safe, but a bit stuffy under the circumstances.

·         The warm embrace -- risky, excessively intimate for a first greeting, and possibly setting off subconscious homophobic alarms.

·         The standard, very brief man hug with minimal body contact and optional back patting -- a relatively safe strategy.

·         The "Combo Option Play" (Basic handshake followed , depending on reaction of the defense, with optional man hug. 

·         The slight nod of acknowledgement -- only appropriate for passing strangers you will never see again, usually when both are driving cars.

·         The military salute -- a powerful expression of honor and respect but when used on a new son-in-law might result in his turning and running back to the plane.

·         The sportive fist bump -- risks knuckle bruises, too contrived when used by someone over 50.

·         The tip of the hat -- requires a hat, too contrived when used by someone under 80.

·         The running, jumping chest bump -- Physically dangerous to those not in top physical shape and, since I weigh 245 pounds, includes the danger of knocking the poor man over.

·         The European kiss on both cheeks -- culturally limited, might have an interesting surprise effect but hard to carry off with the uninitiated.

·         The formal Asian bow -- culturally limited, might also have a unique and surprising effect although, as a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, I would have to remember not to follow it with a roundhouse kick to the larynx.

·         Circling while sniffing at posterior anatomy -- species limited

·         Street greetings --  Highly choreographed series of fist thumps, wrist grasps, high and low fives, culturally limited to ethnic groups, street gangs, and members of Elks Clubs, Moose Lodges, etc. 

And finally, under the heading of grossly exotic, I was reading a book in college by an anthropologist who had discovered a small tribe in Borneo or New Guinea, who had never experienced any contact with the outside world.  Although, I suppose, from their point of view, the anthropologist was the one with no contact with their world. 
Anyhow, the men of this tribe would greet each other with various ritualistic manipulations of genitals.  I returned the book without finishing it.  Your Federal grant dollars at work.

I think I'll go with the Combo Option Play.
After I finish warmly embracing my daughter.


  1. Hmm... I am trying to see this from the newcomer's point of view. If I were him, I would not expect anything more intimate than a firm (but not too firm) handshake from my future father in law, accompanied by an honest, warm smile (you know, the kind that lights up the eyes and is not just a baring of teeth and pulling up of mouth corners).

  2. Thanks for the laugh of the day (rather the week)!

    I wonder if your daughter's friend is making up a similar list? You may be in for a surprise! Maybe some need of improvising!

  3. Great post, sir. Made my day. Just a suggestion, but I would'nt recommend the next to last one.

  4. When I met my youngest's intended he embraced me in an excessively intimate hug, with much rubbing of my back and called me "Mom". I couldn't print my thoughts but they started with "Back off..." Just be prepared, the other party might take the inititiave! And good luck!

  5. Yep I agree with Pauline just let it happen naturally. Your daughter is probably already told him how you will respond. You think she knows you well enough? LOL I think.