How to meet and greet when not at work? What to do? What to say? How to be? I’m going to tell you what I do and you can tell me if you think I am weird (I am weird by the way. You probably are too). When I am introduced to a complete stranger I stick out my hand, look them in the eye and say, “How do you do?”
Recently this has earned me two different reactions:
1. The stranger has given me a look best described as pity blended with amusement and turned the handshake into a kiss. Or two.
2. The stranger or an observer has commented, saying something along the lines of, “Look at you, being all formal.”
But the thing is, it doesn’t feel formal to me, it feels normal. Life is crowded; we are herded on to tubes, packed into lifts, crammed into small houses (because £ per sq ft) and stuffed – at airports – into extremely sinister waiting pens. We are bustled in shops, frotted on buses and slammed into on the street. Fine. Modern life. Whatever. But rather than desensitise me to my own personal space it has, rather, made we want to protect it when I can.
Why kiss a stranger? It’s always a bit awkward, a bit forced and a bit icky. Why invite an alien into your arms, into your face? Isn’t ‘kissing’ something you do to someone you like or – for reasons beyond your control – someone you have to pretend to like?
All this newcomer kissing feels like an affectation and I’d like to say, “No thank you, I’d rather you didn’t” and go for a good old fashioned handshake. But you can’t, can you? Lest people think you are weird.