Being Modern: Male greetings

Click to follow
The Independent Online

If you were an English gentleman living 100 years ago, there was only one way to greet a male friend in public: with a commanding stare and a firm handshake. But these days, when it comes to male-on-male bonding, times – and greetings – have changed.

There are myriad reasons – not least among them the fact that men are now getting married at, on average, 32 years of age, begetting a culture that encourages a period of prolonged adolescence, and the subsequent blossoming of close male friendships.

But it's the greeting part of these bromances with which we've yet to come to terms. On meeting up with one of my more rugged, alpha-male mates, for example, a vertical handclasp is followed by a body swing in, culminating in a two-tap slap of the far shoulder. That's a lot of work just to say hello – and, having dispensed with that, the problem then reappears when it's time to say goodbye: do we keep it more casual?

Some of my hombres go for a warm bear hug at the start and a simple fist bump at the end of a meet. A Canadian friend prefers a fist bump at either side, while a more traditional pal resolutely sticks with the firm handshake option. And finally, there's a kiss on both cheeks from my "meeja" friends.

Perhaps this proliferation of greetings shows that modern men are still exploring how best to express their feelings – attempting to display warmth while still feeling reticent about going over the top with a Public Display of Affection.

But decoding which greeting on which occasion is appropriate is bewildering, and in some instances it has left me dreading the hello part of a bromance meet-up: I go for the cheek kiss, they recoil in surprise; I go for the hand clasp, they lean in for the hug. Or worst of all, they stick with the head nod while I lunge straight in with a great big bear hug.

Frankly, it's become overwhelming. Maybe it's time, after all, to return to the days when a firm handshake was all you needed.