DEAR MISS MANNERS: Experts have recommended that during the coronavirus outbreak, we keep 6 feet of distance from others and refrain from shaking hands. I am all for that, as I have never been a big fan of shaking hands.
I am sure when the pandemic subsides, hand-shaking will bounce back. I work in a profession where I frequently meet people, and shaking hands is common.
Is there a polite way to avoid this? Why can’t a smile and simple “hello” work as a way of greeting?
GENTLE READER: They could, but we have developed so many other greeting gestures -- kisses, fist bumps, hand slaps -- that it will be a wonder if anyone remembers how to hold still and smile at the same time.
With any luck, people will be used to greeting without grabbing. But Miss Manners acknowledges that habits hang on, and dealing with an outstretched hand may be necessary, as refusing to shake it has always been considered an insult. People with severe arthritis or other good reasons to forgo the gesture have long had this problem.
Key is an apologetic expression: Bring the eyebrows together while making a pathetic little smile. You could also shrug, with your palms open (See? No weapons!) while saying “Sorry, I can’t shake” -- and then hurrying on to say how glad you are to see that person with no time to explain why. “I’m afraid you might make me sick” is not a charming statement.