There are an almost infinite number of ways to greet someone. Although we all have our little personal tweaks to this important human interplay, we can say, with reasonable surety, that there are girl styles and guy styles of greeting.
Girls are demonstrative. They extend the hand and often the arm as far as they can and wag them repeatedly, as if at the 10th uninterrupted wave, someone will hand them a $50 coupon good at the closest nail spa. The verbal portion is sing-songy, as in “How are YOU-ooh?”, the last word starting high and ending a half-octave lower. Sometimes they grab each others’ upper arms and jump up and down while rotating around an imaginary May pole. Squeals seem to help at times. The first comment is always about how incredible the other looks.
Guys? A totally different story. Cool rules. That’s why we use The Nod. The Nod does it all for us. You’re shaking your head in agreement if you’ve ever seen a Clint Eastwood movie. There are basically two kinds of nods: (1) a single upward nod of about 1 ½ “, where the chin ends up pointing at the other guy, the head thrown back slightly, and (2) a single downward nod of exactly the same distance, with the chin tucked toward our forebear’s apple. In both cases, the eyes never wander from their direct lock on those of the other dude. And never, never do you nod more than once. Nod twice, and you appear unsure of yourself. Nod three times, and you look like you’re in agreement with something the other guy hasn’t even said yet.
The Nod strikes that perfect balance between acknowledgement (I see you. You know I do.), respect (You’re a man. I’m a man.), and warning (I’m bad. You bad?). The verbal part is short, preferably mumbled as a single, multi-syllable word, as in “Howyadoin?”, or “Wazhapnin?”, or “Whadayano?”. The Nod is most naturally executed in the middle of this word. And don’t even think of touching me unless we’re long time pals who’ve agreed to let our guard down, ministers, or in the Christian publishing or music business.
If, and I mean IF, we use the hands (other than to shake firmly), it’s one hand barely lifted, palm toward the other man. The Indians started this and it still works. Except we don’t completely flatten the palm. We sort of let the 4thand 5th digits curl disrespectfully downward to retain some modicum of control. And, if we’re driving, we raise one finger off the wheel as we pass the other sky-pointer.
Harley riders have the best wave. The left hand drops down and away from the handlebar, facing the oncoming rider, the thumb, 1st and 2nd fingers extended, with a little curl still remaining. The head does not move toward the other HOG man.
We begin to learn this in our unsure, respect-hungry teens. It serves us well in the military, and then as we build our careers among other men. It reaches its refined, customized, most awe-inspiring zenith around our 50’s or early 60’s. After that, not only does it begin to seem not quite as important, but perhaps even a sign that, despite all the bravado it attempts to portray, maybe we didn’t reach that place where it was no longer needed, where nothing else needed to be proved.
At any rate, these days, being retired and past that zenith, I’m finding that nodding seems more useful ‘long about mid-afternoon, in an easy chair, feet up on an ottoman, with hands folded atop the newspaper spread across my lap, and no one else in the room. Ah, yes….
But, still, it would be nice, I admit, to one day pass a stranger and his young son, exchange The Nod, and hear a small, receding voice exclaim, “Dad! Was that Clint Eastwood?”