My problem with the lesbian handshake

I was recently greeted with a double kiss by someone in a gay club. I was simultaneously relieved that I’d avoided a handshake and convinced that her mouth-based greeting meant that she wanted to move into a semi with me and have 2.4 cats.

“How was it?” I ask.

“Fine,” my friend says.

“What’s ‘fine’? Was it firm enough?”

“It was reasonably firm.”

“You hated it.”

“No, it was fine.”

“Oh God, it was sweaty, wasn’t it?”

“Not really, no.”

“Just tell me the truth – was it limp?”

“It was fine. This ends now.”

“I’m screwed.”

From the flaccid and gluey to the zealous and bone-crushing; the act of placing your hand in someone else’s and jiggling it about is inoffensive at best, a bit like being fondled by ham at worst.What kind of schmuck invented the handshake?

More importantly though, why has it become standard lesbian etiquette? The lesbian handshake is now socially ubiquitous, and I haven’t been so concerned about whether I’m doing something “right” since the first time I went down on a girl. For a while now, nearly every time I’ve met a new lesbian we’ve shaken hands. I’ve become so certain that it’s going to happen (whether I like it or not), that I’ve even started initiating the handshake. I’ve submitted to its inevitability like a floppy, netted trout.

There’s something business-like about the lesbian handshake. We’ve ditched the kiss-greet for something devoid of frivolity. The handshake is the sensible shoes of greetings, and when I shake hands with a group of lesbians I’m meeting for the first time, it’s like being at a renewable energy conference. Perhaps the handshake is our way of saying to one another;“We are perfectly capable of being two lesbians in the same room, without ending up in bed together.” With a handshake, there’s no room for ambiguity; it’s asexual, earnest and about as flirtatious as a cheese sandwich. Our business may bedrinking G&Ts and comparing notes on the best Vietnamese restaurants, but my God do we mean it. The handshake solidifies these good, wholesome intentions.

My handshaking abilities are now more important than ever and, in trying to figure out whether I’m up to scratch, I’ve become insufferable. I obsess over firmness, clamminess and the socially acceptable number of pumps. Never knowing when my next handshake might crop up, my eyes are constantly fixed on my hands, trying to gauge the moistness level of my palms. And in spite of several practice sessions, the thought of greeting potential girlfriends with a handshake like week-old salad has exacerbated my social anxiety.

I was recently greeted with an ultra-rare double kiss by a friend of a friend in a gay club. I was simultaneously relieved that I’d avoided a handshake and convinced that her mouth-based greeting meant that she wanted to move into a mock Tudor semi with me and have 2.4 Biblically-named cats. I was so taken aback that I went straight into a semi-coherent rant about how greetings are “super-weird”. It transpired that this friend of a friend was French. She wasn’t impressed by my diatribe, and we did not move in together.

The kiss greeting has a whole bunch of its own obstacles and nuances. But with the handshake, it’s not the physical contact side of things that bothers me. In fact, I’d probably be more comfortable greeting other women with a mutual boob-honk. The handshake says, “I am a serious human being.” That’s a lot to live up to. Even a mediocre handshake suggests that you’re the sort of person who eats muesli and reads the FT at seven every morning. Atleast with the boob-honk, my starting point with strangers would be, “I am the kind of person who honks boobs.”

Hopefully, from that point onwards, I could only improve.

A good handshake is hard to find, and vice versa. Image: Getty

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.

Photo: Getty Images
Show Hide image

There are risks as well as opportunities ahead for George Osborne

The Chancellor is in a tight spot, but expect his political wiles to be on full display, says Spencer Thompson.

The most significant fiscal event of this parliament will take place in late November, when the Chancellor presents the spending review setting out his plans for funding government departments over the next four years. This week, across Whitehall and up and down the country, ministers, lobbyists, advocacy groups and town halls are busily finalising their pitches ahead of Friday’s deadline for submissions to the review

It is difficult to overstate the challenge faced by the Chancellor. Under his current spending forecast and planned protections for the NHS, schools, defence and international aid spending, other areas of government will need to be cut by 16.4 per cent in real terms between 2015/16 and 2019/20. Focusing on services spending outside of protected areas, the cumulative cut will reach 26.5 per cent. Despite this, the Chancellor nonetheless has significant room for manoeuvre.

Firstly, under plans unveiled at the budget, the government intends to expand capital investment significantly in both 2018-19 and 2019-20. Over the last parliament capital spending was cut by around a quarter, but between now and 2019-20 it will grow by almost 20 per cent. How this growth in spending should be distributed across departments and between investment projects should be at the heart of the spending review.

In a paper published on Monday, we highlighted three urgent priorities for any additional capital spending: re-balancing transport investment away from London and the greater South East towards the North of England, a £2bn per year boost in public spending on housebuilding, and £1bn of extra investment per year in energy efficiency improvements for fuel-poor households.

Secondly, despite the tough fiscal environment, the Chancellor has the scope to fund a range of areas of policy in dire need of extra resources. These include social care, where rising costs at a time of falling resources are set to generate a severe funding squeeze for local government, 16-19 education, where many 6th-form and FE colleges are at risk of great financial difficulty, and funding a guaranteed paid job for young people in long-term unemployment. Our paper suggests a range of options for how to put these and other areas of policy on a sustainable funding footing.

There is a political angle to this as well. The Conservatives are keen to be seen as a party representing all working people, as shown by the "blue-collar Conservatism" agenda. In addition, the spending review offers the Conservative party the opportunity to return to ‘Compassionate Conservatism’ as a going concern.  If they are truly serious about being seen in this light, this should be reflected in a social investment agenda pursued through the spending review that promotes employment and secures a future for public services outside the NHS and schools.

This will come at a cost, however. In our paper, we show how the Chancellor could fund our package of proposed policies without increasing the pain on other areas of government, while remaining consistent with the government’s fiscal rules that require him to reach a surplus on overall government borrowing by 2019-20. We do not agree that the Government needs to reach a surplus in that year. But given this target wont be scrapped ahead of the spending review, we suggest that he should target a slightly lower surplus in 2019/20 of £7bn, with the deficit the year before being £2bn higher. In addition, we propose several revenue-raising measures in line with recent government tax policy that together would unlock an additional £5bn of resource for government departments.

Make no mistake, this will be a tough settlement for government departments and for public services. But the Chancellor does have a range of options open as he plans the upcoming spending review. Expect his reputation as a highly political Chancellor to be on full display.

Spencer Thompson is economic analyst at IPPR