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Dr. Fauci Says No More Handshakes. Some Never Liked Them To Begin With


The handshake is dead.


Well, that's according to Dr. Anthony Fauci. Last week, he said he wants two things to continue, even after the pandemic. One is handwashing.


ANTHONY FAUCI: The other one is you don't ever shake anybody's hands. (Laughter) That's clear.

CHANG: Ever. Thankfully there is still the oh-so popular elbow bump, right?

SHAPIRO: Not so fast, says Dr. Andrew Mehle. He's a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Wisconsin.

ANDREW MEHLE: If you're close enough to elbow bump, you're close enough to transmit.

CHANG: So where does that leave us? We've been pumping hands our whole lives. Some historians say ancient Greeks introduced the handshake. Others point to medieval times. Either way, from its earliest days, the handshake was a symbol of peace.

ELANA RABINOWITZ: When two people would meet each other for the first time, they would shake hands to make sure they weren't concealing any weapons.

SHAPIRO: Brooklyn writer and teacher Elana Rabinowitz admits this peaceful gesture seems like - more like a suspicious gesture to her.

RABINOWITZ: Which is kind of ironic, (laughter) right?

SHAPIRO: Rabinowitz wrote this week in Yes! Magazine that she is relieved it may be time to retire the traditional greeting.

RABINOWITZ: I know that various people, especially men, I think, are quite comfortable with the handshake. And it has embedded in it this background of professionalism and an introduction. But for me, it's at least an awkward way to greet someone. I have those clammy hands that I always have to apologize for.

SHAPIRO: And, she says, it's kind of an awkward way to meet.

RABINOWITZ: It seems to me like a power struggle. I have - I'm a strong woman, but I have weak hands. So that comes out, and I don't want that in my introduction to someone. I want something else as a way to initially meet someone.

SHAPIRO: Well, keep in mind the handshake wasn't always common protocol in the U.S. Writer and editor Ed Simon points to the earliest days in American history.

ED SIMON: In the colonial era, handshakes were not necessarily the de facto way of greeting somebody. George Washington preferred bowing. In the 18th and into the 19th century, handshakes were popularized by Quakers.

CHANG: That's because Quakers believe people should meet on equal footing. So an alternative that promotes equality but keeps germs at bay? Well, here's what Professor Tulasi Srinivas advises.

TULASI SRINIVAS: Placing the two palms of the hands together and placing it near your heart and bowing the head slightly.

CHANG: By the way, she's the author of "The Cow In The Elevator: An Anthropology Of Wonder." And she favors the namaste greeting, which, she says, has an added benefit these days.

SRINIVAS: The fact that you can do the gesture without even saying the word is useful if you're wearing a mask or if you fear that your breath might carry contagion.

SHAPIRO: Too egalitarian? Well, you could always try out your best Queen of England reviewing a parade gesture and give a greeting with a wavy, circular wave.

CHANG: Yes, and be sure to do it from the wrist, and preferably from a balcony or a horse-drawn carriage. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.